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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Lunch box essentials

The first day of school is right around the corner, less than a month here in WV.  Since Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution hasn't found it's way to my kid's school it looks like I'll be packing lunches again for my girls.  If you watched Jamie's show last Spring (which did take place in WV but about 3 hours from us) you saw that the majority of food served at our schools is pre-processed food.  I love the cooks at my girls school, they are sweet ladies that truly care about the kids, however, they are limited in what they can serve.  Hopefully one day the USDA will take a look at the school lunch guidelines and realize that we aren't doing our kids any favors with the food we are feeding them. 

Ok, my rant is over, thanks for hanging in there with me. When I am packing a lunch for my munchkins my criteria is : #1. Healthy and  #2. Cheap! Bonus if when my girls take inventory of their goods they think, "Wow! my mom rocks!" A mom can dream! At our girls school lunch will set you back $1.40, $1.40 x 2 kids a day = $2.80 x 20 days a month = $56. I am certain I pack it way cheaper than that!  On Monday I posted how you could score a cheap or free lunch box for your kids.  Keeping with the back to school theme and since my baby (ok, she is 4) is headin' off to preschool this year and I have been buying her lunch supplies I thought I'd share what I consider to be the essentials!

 
The first in my arsenal are the Funtainer Food Jar and Funtainer Bottle both by Thermos.  The Food Jar is great for keeping foods hot until lunch rolls around.  We love to put soup, chicken tenders, macaroni or leftovers in it.  As long as everything is warm when it goes in it will stay warm all day. The Bottle has a flip top with a removable straw and does an excellent job at keeping drinks really cold.  The only issue we have ever had was when I put flavored water (which was carbonated) in it, that didn't work out well!

The stainless steal is super easy to clean and doesn't retain odors like my kids beloved Broccoli & Cheese soup. Both BPA free too so no worries about leeching!  There are several colors and even characters to choose from, they come in at around $15 each, however we are heading into year 3 with our older daughter's and it is still good as new! You can find them at Wal-MartTarget, or a great selection at Amazon
Next up,  a sandwich container, This one is common sense and not exactly rocket science.  It basically keeps a PB&J  from getting smushed. These are super easy to find, usually for $1 or less. 

 


I love these little Ziplock containers! They are durable, reusable (we have used the same pack for 2 years of packed lunches everyday and they are still in great shape), and inexpensive so if your kiddo accidentally throws one away it isn't a big deal.  I save lots of moollah by not buying single serving yogurts, applesauce, fruit...ect.  Instead, I buy yogurt in tub, and put it in one of these, if you throw it in the freezer the night before or add frozen fruit it keeps it super cold! I also use them for fresh fruit, canned fruit, ranch dip for veggies or ketchup.  You can find them just about any store for just a few bucks. 


When lunch includes something that requires a fork or spoon I throw in one of these Zoo Pals Cutlery pieces (my kids are only 4 and almost 7 so I know that this won't be an option for older kids but I'm sure you can find something similar). These, like the Ziplocks,  are affordable and durable, much more durable than a regular plastic fork or spoon.  We wash them and use them over and over again and at less than $3 a pack they aren't a budget buster. 

 

If you are trying to save money, brown bagging your own lunch one or two days a week can add some serious coin to the piggy bank!.  Any of the items above could easily be used to pack a healthy lunch for the office.  I will be subbing and volunteering at my girls school a lot this year so I just bought myself a new lunch bag from Thirty-one. They have really cute and durable lunch totes that are insulated, you can even get them embroidered for a small fee. A friend of mine is a Thirty-one consultant if anyone is interested. 

After all this food and lunch talk I am hungry!  Do you have a lunch packing item that rocks? If so, let's here about it! Happy packing!

*NOTE: These are my opinions as a mom whose has found these products to be useful. I am not receiving any compensation or products from any of the brands or products I mentioned.  I will be shelling out for them just like everyone else.



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