Today we have Claire Gallant from Bite-Sized Kitchen back to share her philosophy and tips for packing school lunches. For those of you in the Halifax area, Claire offers age appropriate cooking classes for your kids. Her blog is also a great resource for everything relating to kids and food, whether you live close or far!
Packing a school lunch: if you have school-aged kids, you're doing it, day after day, all year. I am passionate about packing school lunch, and since this year I’m doing it for both of my small children, I find that my principles of whole ingredients and waste-free lunches are more useful than ever. Read on for tips!
I have a few main principles: foods my kids like, foods my kids will eat (this involves good gear that’s easy to use and makes lunch look great), and foods that are nutritionally dense.
I aim for a good balance of whole grains, fruit and veggies, and protein. I use a mix of fresh produce (raw or cooked), leftovers, and baked goods or savoury dishes I make on the weekend specifically for the week of lunches ahead.
I put in lots of variety, but there's consistency too, which is what makes this 7:00 am task possible. I use lots of fresh fruit: plums, cantaloupe, watermelon, and blueberries in the warmer months; clementines, bosc pears, kiwi, and apple in the colder months. Veggies: french beans, edamame, carrots, cucumber, sweet pepper. Sometimes for snacks I'll make homemade crackers (with lots of seeds!), fruit leather (apple and cherry were big hits), or popcorn with butter.
Another way I try to make lunch waste-free is to use lots of leftovers (no wasted food!). Homemade macaroni and cheese (warm in thermos) is always a favourite, but I've done other pasta dishes, as well as fishcakes, whole-grain pancakes and french toast (plain or made into sandwiches). On the weekend, I often batch-cook a few items to last the week: whole-grain muffins (blueberry, lemon-honey, or green smoothie ), energy bites, baked tofu or sticky rice for quick avocado rolls. Protein is so important for growing bodies: cheese, chickpeas, edamame, fishcakes (tuna and quinoa), sunflower seed butter as a dip, ham wraps, boiled egg, and our go-to quick choice: an omelette, which my kids like having cold. It's the easiest lunch in the world.
I avoid anything too dessert-y in a lunchbox. (I sometimes put chocolate chips in energy bites or granola bars, which is about as close as I get.) In our family if we're going to have a sweet treat on a weekday, I'll try to time it for after-school snack (hot chocolate, or a cookie). In the lunchbox, sweet items like fruit, muffins and energy bites satisfy small tummies and give kids long-lasting energy, too.
It’s very important to present food so it looks appealing in the lunchbox. You're setting yourself off on a good foot: the kid is much more likely to try it. Also significant is to make sure you have containers that your child can easily open and close, and foods that can be easily eaten with fingers or provided utensils. Essentially, I work to make the (nutritious) lunch as beautiful and easy-to-eat as possible. If you invest in an excellent supply of portable, reusable lunch containers, the transfer from homemade meal to waste-free packed lunch becomes that much simpler. The wonderful Halifax shop, Nurtured, sells a great variety of containers: all practical, long-lasting and gorgeous. I use a mix of different styles and brands, including this stainless steel set made by Ukonserve, this kids’ bento box from Bentgo and this bento box from YumBox. They're sturdy, light, and fun to use, and make packing lots of variety a simple task.
Happy lunch making!
Cash and Polly's School Omelette
1 Tb butter
parmesan cheese, about 2 Tb
Heat a cast-iron or nonstick pan over medium-high, and put the butter in the pan. Scramble two eggs in a bowl. When the butter has melted, swirl it around the pan and pour the eggs on. Let the eggs cook on the pan until they are mostly set, about 4 minutes. Shave about 2 Tb of parmesan cheese over the omelette, and then use a flat spatula to fold the omelette in three, as a letter, right on the pan. Remove omelette from pan to let cool. Cut in half lengthwise and place in lunch container.