Lunchtime Remix

School has been in session for a couple months by now and, no doubt, at least some of you have gotten into a lunch-rut.  Ideas that were new and fun in September have become commonplace, and the old standbys just won’t cut it forever.  I have some fun ideas to make lunchtime interesting again.  Who knows, maybe you’ll be inspired to pack your own lunch, too.

Make your own lunch kits.

There’s no question that Lunchables are quick and easy.  And, let’s face it, kids (and certain adults . . . ahem) love to play with their food — which is the main appeal of lunch kits, like Lunchables.  Instead of going with the overly processed pre-made lunch kit, however, try your hand at making your own.  That way, you can control the quality of the ingredients and your kiddo can still have the fun of assembling his or her own lunch.

Need some inspiration?  Choose one or two items from each of the following columns to make an interactive lunch that anyone will love.

Starch Protein Fruit Vegetable Condiment
Whole-Grain Bagel Sliced Chicken Mixed Berries Carrot Sticks Mustard
Wrap Sliced Turkey Apple Celery Sticks Ketchup
Whole-Grain Crackers Roast Beef Pear Cucumber Slices Mayonnaise
Sweet Potato Cheese Mandarin Oranges Broccoli Flowerettes Salad Dressing
Rice Nut or Sunflower Seed Butter Sliced Peaches Cauliflower Guacamole
Quinoa Hummus Pineapple Grape Tomatoes Salsa
Pita Pockets Black Beans Fruit Salad Lettuce Plain Greek Yogurt
Pita Chips Nuts Grapes Baby Spinach
Pretzels Yogurt (Regular or Greek) Bell Peppers
Dinner Rolls Ground Beef, Turkey, Chicken, etc.

This way, you can give your kids a healthy lunch that won’t turn soggy before lunchtime, but they get to have the fun of assembling their own meal.  After all, what kid doesn’t want an excuse to play with their food?

Make a juice slushy.

I am a huge fan of freezing juice for packing in lunch boxes.  You get a drink and an ice pack in one, which saves room and keeps your food safe.  I’m not such a huge fan of freezing juice boxes, though.  I’ve found that, no matter how long the gap is between pulling the juice out of the freezer and drinking it at lunchtime, the juice never fully defrosts.  Because of this, juice boxes are nothing but frustrating.  The straw either won’t go into the box at all, or if it does, there’s usually a huge chunk of ice that stays frozen, which means the juice that isn’t frozen is too sweet, and there’s about half of the juice box that can’t be consumed — which is a waste of money.  To remedy this situation, I make juice slushes.  Just buy your child’s favorite flavor of juice and freeze it in 8 oz containers (I like jam jars for this).  Toss it in the lunch box with a spoon before sending your kiddo off to school and they’ll have an ice pack, drink, and dessert all in one.

As a note, while any juice works great here, fresh apple cider is particularly delicious.

Presentation is everything.

Even a relatively ordinary lunch can be made more appealing by fun packaging.  Now, I don’t mean that you have to cut your child’s fruit into funny shapes or that you need to make their sandwich into a smiley face.  If you have the time and desire, go for it, but I’m pretty sure they’ll eat cubes of pineapple and a regular, bread-shaped sandwich without complaint.  That doesn’t mean those pineapple cubes and plain-old sandwich can’t be dressed up a bit, though.

Give your little one a clean place to set their food and utensils by packing a cloth napkin or bandana.  It doesn’t have to be fancy, but if it can be fun, so much the better.  A checked bandana, a thin dish towel with a fun design, or an inexpensive cloth napkin not only provides a clean cover for the cafeteria table, but it also makes lunchtime feel like a picnic, which is always fun.

Another way to make lunchtime more fun is to use fun utensils.  Remember those cereal spoons we all had when we were kids that changed color where you held them?  Didn’t they make breakfast so much fun?  Find your child’s equivalent of that color-changing spoon and put it in their lunchbox.

Finally, try getting creative with the containers you use.  While plastic baggies work just fine, it’s more fun to have special containers.  4 – and 8 – oz mason jars make fun packages for dips and juices.  Wax paper works well as a sandwich wrapping (and if you wrap the bandana around that wax paper, it makes the sandwich even more fun).  Little 1 – or 2 – oz containers with snap-on lids make great containers for dressings and other condiments, plus they keep those wet ingredients from getting all over everything else and making a soggy mess out of your carefully constructed lunch

Need more lunchtime inspiration?  Check out these great websites for more tips, tricks, and ideas.


Catherine Hall

About Catherine Hall

Catherine lives in Bangor, Maine with her family. She gained her appreciation for food and cooking from her grandmother and learned most of her technical knowledge from watching the Food Network. When not in the kitchen, Catherine can be found outdoors attempting to grow vegetables (not always successfully), practicing yoga, and taking Capoeira classes in downtown Bangor. Catherine can also be found walking around town with her Guiding Eyes guide dog, Caleb.