Packing a school lunch: if you have school-aged kids, you're doing it, day after day, all year. I am passionate about packing school lunch for my son, and snacks for my daughter for hikes, library trips, and the like. Yet I know every parent doesn't get as excited about packing lunch, and at the beginning of February with months of winter still to come I too can use a little inspiration now and then. I thought I'd catalogue all the photos I took of Cash's school lunch (with a few Polly snacks thrown in!) since school began last September.
I have set myself the goal of packing Cash's lunch every day without using any disposable packaging. Of course, that isn't as difficult when cooking food from scratch at home. Another thing that makes waste-free lunches easier is appealing storage. I love using stainless steel containers for my son's lunchbox. They're sturdy, light, unbreakable, and beautiful, and with several sizes plus a thermos they're also versatile. Most of ours come from Ukonserve, an American company with a true commitment to waste reduction.
There may be lots of variety, but there's consistency too, which is what makes this 7:00 am task possible. I use lots of fresh fruit: plums, canteloupe, watermelon, and blueberries in the warmer months; clementines, bosc pears, kiwi, and apple in the colder months. Veggies: french beans, edamame, carrots, cucumber, sweet pepper. Sometimes for his snacks I'll make homemade crackers (with lots of seeds!), fruit leather (apple and cherry were big hits), or popcorn with butter.
I do avoid anything too dessert-y in a lunchbox. (The energy bites contain chocolate chips, which is about as close as I get.) In our family if we're going to have a sweet treat on a weekday, I'll try to time it for after-school snack (hot chocolate, or a cookie). I stay consistent (strict?) about avoiding refined sugar in school lunch, which then means I don't worry about having special-occasion treats on birthdays and Christmas. In the lunchbox, sweet items like fruit, muffins and energy bites satisfy small tummies and give kids long-lasting energy, too.
Another way I try to make lunch waste-free is to use lots of leftovers (no wasted food!). Macaroni and cheese (warm in thermos) is his favourite, but I've done other pasta dishes, as well as fishcakes, pancakes and french toast (plain or made into sandwiches). I often make whole-grain muffins (blueberry, lemon-honey, or green smoothie) and energy bites on the weekend to last the week. Protein is so important for growing bodies: cheese, chickpeas, edamame, fishcakes (tuna and quinoa), sunflower seed butter as a dip, ham wraps, boiled egg, and our go-to quick choice: an omelette, which he doesn't mind having cold. It's the easiest lunch in the world.
Cash's School Omelette
1 Tb butter
parmesan cheese, about 2 Tb
Heat a cast-iron or nonstick pan over medium-high, and put the butter in the pan. Scramble two eggs in a bowl. When the butter has melted, swirl it around the pan and pour the eggs on. Let the eggs cook on the pan until they are mostly set, about 4 minutes. Shave about 2 Tb of parmesan cheese over the omelette, and then use a flat spatula to fold the omelette in three, as a letter, right on the pan. Remove omelette from pan to let cool. Cut in half lengthwise and place in lunch container.