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Volume II
September 3, 2010

Sack Lunch Survival
By Camille Rhoades

It is 6:00 a.m. and you have an empty lunch bag (or several) on the kitchen counter just waiting for you to fill it with something that is both healthy and sure to impress your child. The first few times I had to pack a lunch for my son I was very frustrated by the challenges of packing something that met all the criteria important to me.

I wanted a healthy lunch that my picky little eater would actually eat and I wanted to be able to keep it safe from the time I packed it until he got to eat it around noon. The old PB&J rut is easy to fall in to, but with a close friend with a peanut allergy that wasnít always an option for my little guy. Not to mention that anyone in their right mind would tire of PB&J and chips every day! So, I went searching for ideas and I will share what I found!

Sandwiches are the backbone of box lunches. They are easy and quick to prepare in the morning, or can be prepared and packaged the night before. Variety abounds, making monotony something only to be endured by choice. The following sandwich fillings include proven favorites and new adventures.

  • Tuna Salad with Celery
  • Egg Salad with Pickles
  • Chicken Salad with Raisins
  • Turkey Salad with Curry Powder
  • Baloney & Cheese & Mustard & Mayo
  • Turkey and Cranberry sauce
  • Fried Spam & Cheese
  • Fried Canned Corned Beef & Sauerkraut
  • Meatballs in a hotdog bun with tomato sauce
  • Meat Loaf with Tomato Slices
  • Bacon, Lettuce & Tomato
  • Bacon and Fried Eggs
  • Fried Baloney or Spam & Fried Eggs
  • Sloppy Joes
  • Turkey & Bacon and bean sprouts
  • Sliced Cucumbers & Butter
  • Sliced Cucumbers & Cream Cheese
  • Cream Cheese & Jelly
  • Peanut Butter & Jelly
  • Peanut Butter and Marshmallow Fluff
  • Peanut Butter & Raisins
  • Sausage & Egg Biscuit
  • Egg & Cheese Sandwich
  • Pork Roast & BBQ Sauce & coleslaw
  • Sliced Beef Roast & horseradish
  • Sliced Beef and Swiss Cheese
  • Sliced Beef & Cream Cheese
  • Sliced Beef & fried onions or mushrooms
  • Loose fried hamburger & onions & cheese
  • Burritos with beef or beans & cheese
  • Tacos
  • Quesadilla (fried cheese tortillas)
  • Baloney, mayonnaise & Pineapple Rings
  • Cream Cheese & minced peppers
  • Baked beans with pickle relish
  • Hamburgers with fixings
  • Corn Dogs
  • Hot Dogs with Chili
  • Hot Dogs with Cheese
  • Hot Dogs with Coleslaw
  • Chopped Chicken & BBQ Sauce
  • Ham Salad with Pickles
  • Fajitas with Beef or Chicken
  • Baloney, Mustard & Sprouts, wrapped in a tortilla

    While sandwiches are the mainstay of packed lunches, there are lots of other options! If you have a thermos at your disposal, there is no end to the variety you can send along. Many casseroles, soups and skillet meals pack nicely, making a very interesting lunch for the lucky eater. Give a few of the following a whirl when sandwiches seem boring or old. Remember to pre-heat the thermos with hot tap water. Also make certain the food is well heated before spooning it into the thermos. Be sure to get everything very hot before packing it.

  • Baked Beans & Sliced Hotdogs
  • 1/2 cup Hot Rice with 1/2 cup Beef & Broccoli overtop
  • Mashed potatoes with creamed chicken or turkey & gravy
  • Tuna Casserole
  • Chicken & Rice Casserole
  • Beef & Tomato Casserole
  • Canned Soups
  • Chowders
  • Creamed Soups
  • Hot Pinto Beans & Salt Pork or Bacon
  • Chili with beans
  • Spaghetti and Sauce
  • Chopped up Lasagna
  • Scalloped Potatoes or Potatoes Au Gratin
  • Macaroni & Cheese
  • Lentils & Rice
  • Beef Stew
  • Hamburger Gravy to spoon over bread
  • Sausage Gravy to spoon over biscuits
  • Creamed Ham to spoon over biscuits
  • Mashed Potatoes with Cheese
  • Ramen Noodles & Veggies

    If you have a cold-pack thermos that holds 1/2-cup or 4 ounces or so, then even more options open up for you. If you donít have a cold-pack thermos, then you can pack a blue freezer-pack along with the lunch, and rest assured that everything will remain cold until lunch time. You can use small 4oz and 8oz resealable containers put out by Glad and Zip-Lock. Rubbermaid also makes some nice ones. They are just the right size to hold a serving of pudding or yogurt or fruit. They come home every day to be washed. Try filling them with the following:

  • Deviled Eggs
  • Custard style Yogurt
  • Vanilla Yogurt
  • Yogurt with fruit
  • Yogurt with Jam
  • Cottage Cheese & cut up or Canned Fruit
  • Cottage Cheese & minced veggies
  • Plain Cottage Cheese
  • Instant Pudding
  • Homemade Pudding
  • Rice Pudding
  • Bread Pudding
  • Fruit Flavored Gelatin
  • Gelatin with Fruit
  • Gelatin with Veggies
  • Carrot Raisin Salad
  • Macaroni Salad
  • Coleslaw
  • Potato Salad
  • Waldorf Salad
  • Dip or Dressing for
  • Vegetable Sticks
  • Fruit Cobbler or Crisps
  • Fruit or Cream Pies
  • Pea & Cheese Salad
  • Canned Pineapple
  • Canned Peaches
  • Canned Pears
  • Canned Fruit Cocktail
  • Applesauce
  • Prunes cooked in Orange Juice
  • Green Salad, with dressing in a separate small container
  • Frozen Strawberries

    Other items can be packaged in flip top baggies and sent along for crunching. Children usually like a variety of extra nibbles throughout the week. If you send fresh fruit, it will more likely be eaten if it is cut into easy to eat wedges, than if it is left whole. Also, small fruit like bananas or apples will result in fewer leftovers than large fruit. If I only have large fruit, I will give each child half of it, which is more in keeping with their appetite.

  • Apple Wedges
  • Orange Smiles
  • Cluster of Grapes
  • Small Banana
  • Carrot Sticks
  • Celery Sticks
  • Broccoli Trees
  • Turnip Sticks
  • Radishes
  • Boiled Eggs
  • Green Pepper Strips
  • Cucumber Slices
  • Cheese Cubes
  • Peanut Butter Crackers
  • Crackers & Baloney Triangles
  • Crackers & Cheese Slices
  • Crackers & Cream Cheese
  • Pretzels
  • Popcorn
  • Caramel Corn
  • Raisins
  • Dry Apricots
  • Prunes
  • Banana Chips
  • Peanuts
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Cheese Crackers
  • Celery stuffed with Peanut Butter
  • Celery stuffed with Cream Cheese
  • Granola
  • Gorp
  • Homemade Cereal Snack Mix (like chex mix)

    Next in line is something sweet to nibble on when the rest of the food is eaten. At my house this usually means baked goods. All of the following items can be made at home the day before. They pack easily in flip-top or zipper baggies and provide the extra nourishment that makes sure everyone gets enough to eat.

  • Oatmeal Cookies
  • Peanut Butter Cookies
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Snickerdoodles
  • Brownies
  • Chocolate Cake
  • Vanilla Cake
  • Spice Cake
  • Gingerbread
  • Banana Cake
  • Oatmeal Cake
  • Blondies
  • Granola Bars
  • Blueberry Muffins
  • Banana Muffins
  • Oatmeal Muffins
  • Cheese Muffins
  • Corn Muffins
  • Whole Wheat Muffins
  • Bran Muffins
  • Zucchini Bread
  • Banana Bread
  • Peanut Butter Bread
  • Raisin Bread
  • Orange Juice Muffins
  • Coffee Cake
  • Cinnamon Raisin Biscuit
  • Cinnamon Toast

    We end this litany of choices with beverages. A thermos will make toting these items easy and healthful. If you donít have a thermos, then be sure to pack a blue freezer-pack along with the lunch, to keep everything cold and bacteria-free. If this isnít an option then choose Kool-Aid, Tea, Water or Lemonade, because these items can withstand temperature change the easiest

  • Reconstituted Milk
  • Chocolate Milk
  • Hot Chocolate
  • Hot Coffee or Tea
  • Kool-Aid
  • Iced Tea
  • Ice Water
  • Fruit Smoothies
  • Orange Juice
  • Apple Juice
  • Grape Juice
  • Lemonade

    Letís not forget the food safety issue! Variety is important, but be sure you are being careful to keep it safe. These tips will help make sure you and yours are safe and well fed this school year!


    Foods such as hard-cooked eggs, meat, milk and milk products, and salads containing them should be refrigerated until just before leaving home. It's important to keep cold foods cold; that is, at refrigerator temperature.

    Use any of these suggestions to help keep your brown bag lunch cold until lunchtime.

  • Use a vacuum bottle for foods that need to be kept cold, milk and yogurt, for example. Chill vacuum bottle in refrigerator before adding cold foods.
  • Carry already chilled foods in an insulated lunch box or bag. An insulated lunch box will keep foods cold much longer than a paper bag. Include an ice pack or gel freezer pack.
  • Use chilled ingredients for making sandwiches.
  • If possible, put your lunch in a refrigerator until lunchtime. Some sandwich fillings made with meat, poultry, fish, or egg can spoil if kept at room temperature for more than two hours. Be aware that the cold refrigerator air doesn't reach foods in an insulated lunch box or bag, so foods need to be removed or the box or bag opened.


    Remember to practice food safety when using a vacuum bottle. KEEP HOT FOODS ABOVE 140į F (At 140į F, food is hot to the touch.)

  • Use a stainless steel or glass-lined vacuum bottle rather than a plastic-lined one for hotter and safer food at lunchtime.
  • Follow vacuum bottle instructions for appropriate temperatures of foods going into the vacuum bottle.
  • Preheat a vacuum bottle, fill with clean hot water and let stand a minute or two. Empty and fill promptly with hot food.

    If you have any additional tips that you'd like to add, please post them on the Cook'n Club Forum (if you're a Cook'n Club Member)...or e-mail them to

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