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
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
Quesadilla (fried cheese tortillas)
Baloney, mayonnaise & Pineapple Rings
Cream Cheese & minced peppers
Baked beans with pickle relish
Hamburgers with fixings
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
Chicken & Rice Casserole
Beef & Tomato Casserole
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
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:
Custard style Yogurt
Yogurt with fruit
Yogurt with Jam
Cottage Cheese & cut up or Canned Fruit
Cottage Cheese & minced veggies
Plain Cottage Cheese
Fruit Flavored Gelatin
Gelatin with Fruit
Gelatin with Veggies
Carrot Raisin Salad
Dip or Dressing for
Fruit Cobbler or Crisps
Fruit or Cream Pies
Pea & Cheese Salad
Canned Fruit Cocktail
Prunes cooked in Orange Juice
Green Salad, with dressing in a separate small container
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.
Cluster of Grapes
Green Pepper Strips
Peanut Butter Crackers
Crackers & Baloney Triangles
Crackers & Cheese Slices
Crackers & Cream Cheese
Celery stuffed with Peanut Butter
Celery stuffed with Cream Cheese
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.
Peanut Butter Cookies
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Whole Wheat Muffins
Peanut Butter Bread
Orange Juice Muffins
Cinnamon Raisin Biscuit
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
Hot Coffee or Tea
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!
COLD FOOD SAFETY TIPS
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.
HOT FOOD SAFETY TIPS
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 Dan@dvo.com.
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