Lasting Through Lunch

What’s In My…Lunchbox for the “Resident Four Year Old”

Now that school is starting back for the year and the reality of actually having to wake up at a certain time and get dressed, get my “resident four year old” dressed, make sack lunches every single day, and so forth is starting its cycle all over again…I thought that I would do a series of posts on “What’s In My”…

This series of posts will highlight the things that are in certain places that I have tried or am trying to organize at this stage of my quest for minimalism and organization.

My last post covered what is in the backpack of our “resident four year old”…So I thought that a good post to follow that would be a “What In My…Lunchbodx of Our Resident Four Year Old,”…or at least should be…

 

My goal this year is to pack lunches that are…

  • Inexpensive
  • Neat and appetizing
  • Quick and easy to prepare
  • Reasonably healthy and nutritionally balanced
  • Tasty

 

So let’s start with the actual lunchbox itself.

Your lunchbox should match not only your needs, but also your personality.

Things to consider when choosing a new lunch box include it being easy to clean, material, microwavablity, number of containers, price, and size.

A few great options for lunchboxes would include…..

1.  Bentgo All-in-One Stackable Lunch/Bento Box, Green

  • Contribution…5% of the sales price of this lunchbox will be donated to Feed the Children
  • Easy to clean…dishwasher safe
  • Material…BPA-free plastic
  • Microwavable…yes
  • Number of compartments…two
  • Price…$14.99
  • Size…
  • Top Container…6.8″ x 4.3″ x 1.7″ (2 sections with divider, each section 3.4″ x 4.3″ x 1.7″)
  • Bottom Container…7″ x 4.5″ x 2.5
  • Review…The Kitchn

2.  EasyLunchboxes 3-Compartment Bento Lunch Box Containers

  • Easy to clean…safe for dishwasher
  • Material…FDA-approved, high-quality polypropylene #5 plastic; No BPA, PVC, or phthalates
  • Microwavable…safe for microwave
  • Number of compartments…three
  • Price… $13.95
  • Size…9.4″ x 6.1″ x 2″
  • Review…A Merry Life

3.  Happy Lunchboxes 4-compartment Bento Lunch Box Containers

  • Easy to clean…safe for dishwasher
  • Material…FDA-approved, BPA-free high-quality polypropylene
  • Microwavable…safe for microwave
  • Number of compartments…one large and three small sections
  • Price… $13.95
  • Size…8.5″ x 2″ x 8.5″
  • Review…Wendolonia

4.  YUMBOX TAPAS Larger Size (Antibes Blue) 4 compartment Leakproof Bento lunch box for Pre-teens, Teens & Adults

  • Easy to clean…safe for dishwasher, top rack only…hand washing the outer shell and/or removing it before the heat dry cycle is highly recommend to preserve the seal.
  • Material…All food-safe materials, BPA-free and phthalates-free. Sturdy ABS (outer box), Tritan(tray) and Silicone (seal).
  • Microwavable…safe for microwave
  • Number of compartments…four
  • Price…$28.00
  • Size… 9.5 x 6.9 x 1.8
  • Review…Kidgredients

 

 

Now for the best way to keep the daily nuisance of making lunches less of dreadful —plan and prepare…

Have a general idea or an actual specific meal plan as you think about your meals for the upcoming week.

Planning ahead always helps save time and money, regardless what you are doing…and packing school/work lunches is no different. Your lunch plan should be based on…

  • what ingredients you will need from grocery stores…
  • what meals you will be cooking throughout the week
  • what you already have in the refrigerator

 

You should plan your lunch around four different components…

  • 1. The Carbohydrates…Half of the lunch should consist of carbs….such as bread, brown or white rice mixed with frozen peas and a splash of soy sauce, couscous mixed with olive oil and Parmesan, pasta with pesto or peanut sauce, roasted or boiled baby potatoes tossed with olive oil and herbs, sandwiches, and wraps.
  • The Proteins…Then half as much space as the carb, should consist of a protein…such as boiled eggs, cottage cheese, edamame, tuna salad, beef, chicken, pork, tofu, and beans.
  • The Vegetable…Then the remaining half of the lunch should consist of an equal amount of vegetables and fruits. A few good options as far as vegetables would include  cooked and cooled vegetables, or raw vegetables that won’t wilt—such as salad greens, lettuce, steamed asparagus, cherry tomatoes, and carrot sticks.
  • The Fruit...As far as fruit, fruits with bold colors that provide visual impact will probably mean that they are actually eaten. A few good options would include apples, grapes, strawberries, plum, raspberries, nectarines, oranges, lemons, bananas, and kiwi.

 

Next figure out how much time you are willing to put into prepping your foods on your lunch plan and what needs to be done based on the plan that you have come up with. Come up with a timeline that will allow you to get these things done as fast as possible.

I have found that the best thing since sliced bread…which we’ll all see more that we would all want to during the course of a school year…has been Instacart. Instacart saves me the interesting, but often frustrating, weekly trip to the grocery store with a “resident four year old”…allows me to spend the time that he is at school however I want and doing whatever I need…and keeps me from grabbing impulse items, or beer and wine)…or having to dash through the busy -as -heck grocery store after school or work because I have forgotten something that I’ll need.

Using Instacart keeps me more organized because I can have two windows open—one with the recipes on my meal plan and another with my Instacart account, and simply transfer from one list to the other.

By the way, no, that was not a paid endorsement for Instacart…just a praise for a service that has actually changed my total existence.

Another great app that I have been using for years is emeals. Emeals is a paid subscription that provides weekly meal plans along with the grocery lists. This saves me so much time trying to figure out what to cook. All of the recipes, or at least most of them, have been relatively easy to prepare and delicious. They not only offer dinner plans, but also breakfast, lunch, and special occasions. And finally, probably most important to me right now, they plan meals according to various diet requirements—vegan, paleo, and diabetic. This diabetic plan has become one of my best friends ever since my husband was diagnosed as having type 2 diabetes.

 

 

Finally, after having put this much effort into choosing your lunchbox, making your plan for what foods to put in that lunch box, buying the groceries that you need to prep these foods, and actually preparing as much as possible in advance…you obviously do not want to blow all this time and effort by packing your food so that come lunchtime, everything is one great big inedible mess.

So it’s important that you pack the foods tightly so that the food doesn’t shift around.

Your best plan of attack as far as packing your lunch neatly into a container is to think of packing your lunch as a three-step process…

  • 1.  First pack pre-shaped or bulky food.
  • 2.  Next, pack more flexible-shape food.
  • 3. Finally pack the smallest foods so that you fill in any gaps and help keep the food from shifting.

 

A few tools that might help you as you pack your lunches would include…

  • Reusable silicone cups to keep wet things away from dry things and hold loose items like blueberries in one place.
  • Reusable silicone or paper dividers to separate one food from the other, without mixing up the flavors. Lettuce leaves and other produce can also be an option.
  • Picks to help keep small foods, such as meatballs and berries, together.
  • Sauce Containers to store sauces separately so that food stays dry until lunch time.

A few great online sources for learning more about packing lunches and buying fun and interesting things that will make making your lunches less dreadful include…

  • Just Bento
  • Bento USA
  • BentoLand
  • Little Bento World
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