Thursday, October 13, 2011

Packing a Lunch for School

Just stop buying school lunches. Really, think about this. You could wait in line to shell out 3 bucks for a strange looking piece of meat drowned in gravy with a pile of mushy vegetables and a carton of milk. Would you like some yogurt? Oh, that's $1.25, and warm. Seriously, you could just take 10 or 15 minutes at night or after dinner to pack up some food, stick it in the fridge, and add an ice pack in the morning. You can have anything you want for lunch, so why would you pay the lunch ladies to scoop the daily special onto a styrofoam tray for you? Many people don't think they have the time to make a lunch every day.  Others don't want to put in the effort. But honestly, it's fast, easy, and worth it. We've shared this link before, but fANNEtastic food's packable lunch series is fantastic. Here's some ideas, and the gear you'll need. Referring to our nutrition article should provide any nutritional info you'll need.

What Goes in A Lunch?

  1. A sandwich, a bag of chips, a cookie, and a drink. Anything you want, as long as the lunch is sufficiently filling and nutritious.
  2. Protein, Produce, Grain, and Dairy.
    • Protein: Lunch meat. Nuts. Seeds. Leftover chicken. Soup with meat in it. Tofu. A protein shake or bar. Beans. Fish. Hard Boiled Eggs. (please refer to our cafeteria ettiquette suggestions for these last two options)
    • Produce: Baby Carrots. Celery. Cherry tomatoes. Cucumbers. An apple, banana, or orange. Berries. A kumquat. Vegetable soup. Try to include two servings.
    • Grain: Bread. Cereal. Rice. Pasta. Tip: If you are bringing soup, bring a roll! It's delicious dipped into soup and it gets the grain serving down your throat, no trouble.
    • Dairy: Buy a carton of milk to pour on your cereal. Yogurt. Cheese.
  3.  Plastic containers, Ice packs, and Utensils (if needed). Maybe a napkin.

How to Create and Pack a Lunch
  1. Start the night before. Get out your lunch bag (or a brown bag, but we prefer an insulated bag. The insulated bags are more often that not reusable, and thats definitely more eco-friendly.)
  2. Decide what the main part of your meal will be. Take out what you need to prepare it. Determine what's in it, nutritionally. Let's use Chicken Noodle Soup as our example. It has protein from the chicken. It has some vegetables, but we may want to add a little more produce to our lunch. It has pasta, but maybe we could have it with some crackers. Hmm... no dairy. Let's add cheese or yogurt.
  3. Now we have a basic plan- see how easy that was? When you pack food in a thermal food container, such as a Thermos, you must prepare it the morning of, not the night before. See directions further on in this article on how to pack hot foods. But, making the lunch, you would simply set out the materials needed to put this together in the morning.
  4. Get the components together. We needed some more produce, so pick out a piece of fruit or get a bag full of carrots. You have other options, too- this is just an example. Now we need some grains and dairy- so why not some deli cheese and crackers? Pack a bag of crackers, and tear a couple slices of cheese into squares. Pack those separately.
  5. In the morning, prepare your thermos, pack it up with an ice pack for the other stuff, and go to school!
Using Thermal Food Jars
It's pretty simple, but there are a couple things to know about using these. Basically, fill them with very hot water and seal them for a few minutes while you heat your food. Then, dump out the hot water, put in the hot food, seal, and pack. These can be found around the house, at yard sales, online, or in stores. They are simple to use, and one thing we like to do is place the food and the water in separate microwavable containers in the microwave, and heat them together for about 3 minutes. Pour the water into the container, seal, and let that rest as you heat the food for 2-3 more minutes. Then, replace the water with food. One important key is to overheat the food (just don't burn!), because the temperature will drop between the morning and lunchtime.

Helpful Gear
These are a few things we suggest using to make good lunches- ice packs to keep stuff cold, a thermal food jar to keep stuff hot, and a lunch bag so your food doesn't get banged up and does stay the right temperature.

Built Gourmet Getaway

Non Toxic Reusable Ice Pack
Thermos 10oz Insulated Food Jar

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