So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Galatians 6:9

Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished! Luke 1:45

Monday, August 25, 2008

Monday's Meal

There is a short super easy yummy cookie recipe at the end today but first, I thought, with the beginning of school, I might mention some lunch box tips I've found helpful. If any of you have others, I would love to hear them too. Most of these ideas either came from or were inspired by reading the Tightwad Gazette or Hillbilly Housewife's lunch box ideas. And by the way, some of these are good for adult lunch boxes too.

I always begin lunches the night before. It is part of my routine before bed. That way when my I.Q. is substantially lower (in the morning after I wake up), I am able to follow the clues I left myself the night before (like a spoon in there means something that needs a spoon to eat it).

Lunch boxes don't seem to come with a real thermos anymore. Instead it looks more like a water bottle kind of thing and isn't usually insulated at all. The last few I bought didn't have a drink container at all -- not just thrift store ones but also new ones from retail stores. I guess they assume everyone will have a juice box. Once in a great big blue moon, I will buy some small disposable type drinks in bottles if they are on sale and I can get them at slightly less than dirt cheap. When I do, I look for plastic bottles with screw on lids. Instead of throwing those away after drinking the juice, my children are trained to put them in the sink or dishwasher. I then wash them and we reuse them until they are misshapen such that I can't get the lid on or they are broken. They usually hold roughly 8 ounces which is one serving size. There are two advantages to using these. They are the right size, both in serving and for the lunch box and they are disposable (so I don't end up with a second mortgage or an ulcer if one gets accidentally thrown away). You could also use a purchased drink bottle. I have several of those as well. I just like not worrying about the loss of one of the others, especially when my children were younger and still learning to be responsible.

Whatever drink bottle you use, on the night before, put about an inch (depending on the size of the bottle) of the liquid you'll be sending in it and place it in the freezer. In the morning, you fill it the rest of the way. That little inch will keep the drink cold until lunch time. This works for picnics or day trips too by the way. In an insulated thermos, an inch would make my daughter's drink slushy at lunch time so I had to put a little less -- although she kind of liked some of them to be slushy. This works wonderfully with milk too. I used to hate getting milk in my lunch because it would be warm and gross. As my children have gotten older, they have needed a little more than this to drink. If their school didn't request that they have a water bottle for recess and class, I would probably include another drink bottle of water in their lunches. As it is, they can drink from their water bottle if they are still thirsty.

As to food, here are some things my children like getting. If you have other ideas, please share them. I've heard of some people who make a weekly menu and allow their children to circle a number of things they would like that week. Having a say in the contents can mean that picky eaters are more likely to eat rather than toss it into the garbage. And I've been in the cafeteria on a few occasions only to be astonished at what is thrown out. My brain, however, barely functions in the morning (I'm a lot like one of those "Resident Evil" zombies) and following a menu wouldn't work for me. If you try it, I'd like to know how it goes over though.

Apple quarters (occasionally with a snack bowl of peanut butter or caramel for dipping but not always)
Bananas, raisins, grapes, and other fruit - usually cut up and prepared depending on the child, you could send yogurt to dip them in if you like
Crackers with a quartered cheese slice or string cheese
(sometimes I include quartered ham, bologna, or pepperoni)
Chili (with crackers in a snack bowl or bag and shredded cheese in a snack bowl or bag)
Mini home made pizzas (this is usually highly bartered for and they both often share a slice - click to get instructions for making)
Hot dog in a bun
Hamburger in a bun
(if we grilled the weekend before)
Cheese crackers
(for example, Cheese Nips, Cheez-Its, Goldfish, etc. ) bought on sale of course.
Soup and crackers
Your basic sandwich (peanut butter, lunch meat, pepperoni, etc.)
Leftover casserole, mac and cheese, chicken, etc.
A wrap sandwich
Cookies or other baked goods - home made or store bought (check this week's recipe)
Granola bars - home made or store bought
Yogurt - home made or store bought (I plan to talk about yogurt in an upcoming Monday meal)
Pudding - home made or store bought
Chips - this is super rare in our home but my son in particular loves tortilla chips and cheese dip if I have it. You could also send a mexican layered type dip or just refried beans as dip. Or no dip.
Tuna sandwich on toasted bread
Tuna and crackers
Finger vegetables like carrots, broccoli, etc. (my children don't like ranch dressing but, if yours do, you could send some to dip them in.)
A Small Salad
A Baked Potato
(with or without fixins)

Soft tacos
Home made trail mix - make it to their taste or, better yet, let them make it. Use granola and add chocolate chips, raisins, nuts, dried fruit, even M&Ms if you like.

That's all that springs to mind right now but let me say that the home made stuff is usually better -- even if home made only means you put store bought ingredients together to make something a little more unique. Completely pre-packaged foods usually have more sugar, sodium, preservatives and artificial things that aren't as healthy in addition to being more expensive and having a lot more packaging to throw away into a landfill.

One thing I've found with my children's lunches is that the more pre-packaged stuff it has in it, the more boring it is. When I put a little more effort into their lunch, they not only seem to enjoy it quite a bit more but they often comment that their friends asked for tastes as well. And I've even had a few recipe requests.

Now, you put in your time so here's a recipe to reward you for listening to me drivel on. This is quite possibly the easiest cookie recipe I have ever heard of and they are very good. My husband introduced me to them. So here goes:

Cake Mix Cookies

1 boxed cake mix
2 eggs
2/3 cup oil
1 cup additions (chocolate chips, nuts, raisins, etc.)

Preheat oven to 350. Mix ingredients together. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto baking sheet. Bake about 8 minutes or until done.

Our favorite variety is Chocolate Chocolate Chip (I know, big surprise right?) - use a chocolate cake mix and chocolate chips for the addition.
You can play around with the flavors you might like and try different ones.


bekster said...

Great tip about freezing just a little of the drink. Sounds great for keeping stuff cold. However, what do you do for the hot stuff? You mentioned pizza, burritos, etc. Do the kids have access to a microwave, or are you able actually to keep the stuff hot?

BTW, have you started the homeschooling stuff yet? How is that going?

Born Blonde said...

They do have a microwave available but if they didn't I would probably use the method that Hillbilly Housewife talks about on her site. It involves heating a thermos with very hot water, drying it, and then putting the warm food in immediately and closing it up. She apparently sends hot things with her children that way quite a bit.

I have started home schooling but her online school doesn't begin until September so I have been giving her stuff to do until then. So far so good.

randi said...

Thanks for all of these great ideas! Lunch is one of those times that I lack in the imagination department and your list will keep me going for a while! Thanks!

Yarni Gras! said...

thanks for the ideas. I did write a listing ds eats EVERYTHING so his meals are always fun and a snap to make. My dd? Salad. yes, salad. That is great but so hard to get some protein into it.
I give her boiled eggs. I use those little bento egg molds to make them cute.
Do your kids get to reheat stuff like burgers and hot dogs or do they just eat them cool? My dd won't eat cold meat.....getting her to eat ANY meat is somewhat of a chore and she gets tired of wraps all the time. *sigh*
Thank you again for sharing your insights with other moms!

Born Blonde said...

Thanks for the comment. I've never heard of bento egg molds. I'll have to look them up. They sound pretty cool. My children's school does have a couple of microwaves available but my son usually just eats them cold. Pizza too. I'm with your daughter. I really don't care for cold meat much, but I guess if they like it, I'm not going to complain. When you said protein on her salad, I thought cut-up chicken but I guess if she doesn't like cold meat, that wouldn't work. Have you tried something like bacon bits or chopped ham? Might not have the same ickiness factor that other meats do.
I'm glad you got some ideas though. I never thought that blogging would be so much fun. And I'd get to meet so many new friends. Thanks for visiting. Hope you can come back again.