Skip the drive-through and store-bought meals this year with these top tips:
Save a few dollars by skipping brown bags and purchase reusable lunch containers instead. Mini-coolers, insulated lunch bags and plastic lunch boxes work well, too. Reusable sandwich bags are new to the market and another way to save money and go green. Be sure to wash them out thoroughly in-between each use.
Buy portable containers in various sizes, ensuring you'll have just the right package for any food item. Extra small containers work great for transporting dressings and condiments, plus they’re perfect for creating bento-style lunches for kids.
To make your morning go more smoothly, try to do as much as possible the night before. Chop up veggies and place them in a sealed baggie, mix up the ingredients for a tossed salad or chicken salad sandwich and set up lunch containers so you can just drop items into them in the morning. If you’re making sandwiches the night before, put veggie toppers like lettuce and tomato in a separate container to keep bread from getting soggy and the vegetables from wilting.
If you need to prepare lunches for kids and adults, keep it simple by making the same thing for everyone (if food preferences and allergies allow). To satisfy grown-up tastes, make a few small changes:
o Add interesting condiments like Dijon mustard, cranberry relish or a flavorful chutney to give sandwiches adult-appeal.
o Use a variety of breads such as pitas, whole wheat rolls, bagels, croissants or pumpernickel.
o Jazz up chicken or tuna salad by tossing in chopped nuts, apples, grapes or dried fruits of all varieties
Make lunches a little more fun for anyone by packing a cheerful note or interesting newspaper clipping. Write a secret message on a banana peel using a toothpick; at first it will be hard to see, but by lunchtime the note will be darkened and easy to read. Also, consider cutting a sandwich with a cookie cutter or using fun-shaped pasta in pasta salads and soups.
A wide-mouth thermos is great for storing hot soup, chili, stew and chowder. Make the cozy dish the night before, then just bring it to a boil the next morning before pouring it into your thermos. Pack a roll or a handful of crackers to round out the meal. Just as a thermos can keep food hot, it does just as well at keeping them cool. Fill a thermos with juice or milk, JELLO or pudding, coleslaw or potato salad—the possibilities are endless!
Pick up a few small-sized freezer packs to help keep things cold and to avoid any food spoilage issues. If you're worried about condensation, drop the freezer packs into plastic bags or wrap them in aluminum foil. Pop the bags in the freezer before bed and they'll be ready to go by morning!
If possible, plan lunches when you plan your dinner menu. Consider making extra servings at dinner so you have leftovers for lunch.
Make your life simple by focusing on some of the easy after-school snack ideas: Nutella and banana graham cracker sandwiches; popcorn, dried cherries and yogurt covered raisins; an ice cream cone filled with fruit and a dollop of yogurt; fruit skewers served with yogurt for dipping and more!