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The School Lunch Round-Up: End of Summer Fast Approaching

Summer may be coming quickly to a close, but the lunches just keep coming! With a soon-to-be-1st-grader in summer day-camp and a preschooler doing his thing in preschool, every evening means taking a few minutes in the kitchen to ensure they are well-fed little ones the next day. With one swimming sometimes twice a day and the other being a 3-year-old… they both have a lot of energy they need kept fueled.

After sharing these first five lunches and then this update with five more, I noticed a trend and decided to just go with it. Thus begins a series of school lunch round-ups, brought to you at the end of every month when I pick five fab examples and share them with ya’ll.

As always, I’m using Easylunchboxes, the Mini-Dippers by the same brand, and Wilton Reusable Baking Cups. Heart them all so much!

School Lunch Round-Up: blueberry oatmeal muffins,  colby jack cheese cubes, a banana half, Kashi 7 Grain crisps, and baby-cut carrots | Painting Sunnyblueberry oatmeal muffins,  colby jack cheese cubes, a banana half, Kashi 7 Grain crisps, and baby-cut carrots

School Lunch Round-Up: mix of white and blue tortilla chips, seasoned black beans, colby jack cheese cubes, kiwi slices, and red grapes halved | Painting Sunnymix of white and blue tortilla chips, seasoned black beans, colby jack cheese cubes, kiwi slices, and red grapes halved

School Lunch Round-Up: whole wheat English muffin PBJ (or PB alternative), Chobani yogurt tube, blueberries from the local Farmer's Market, and thinly sliced cucumber | Painting Sunnywhole wheat English muffin PBJ (or PB alternative), Chobani yogurt tube, blueberries from the local Farmer’s Market, and thinly sliced cucumber

School Lunch Round-Up: mini-bagel with butter and strawberry jam, baby-cut carrots, Chobani yogurt tube, watermelon chunks, and cucumber chunks | Painting Sunnymini-bagel with butter and strawberry jam, baby-cut carrots, Chobani yogurt tube, watermelon chunks, and cucumber chunks

School Lunch Round-Up: slices of naan bread, hummus (in container), string cheese, sliced peach, and baby-cut carrots | Painting Sunnyslices of naan bread, hummus (in container), string cheese, sliced peach, and baby-cut carrots

I’m going for at least one vegetable and fruit every day, whenever possible, as well as getting a solid protein in there. These lunches are vegetarian as Haven doesn’t eat meat and they are both fine without it for lunch anyway.

Noticed there are three snacks there too? Haven’s day-camp asks that we send two snacks (one for morning, one for afternoon) and Diallo wants one in his lunchbag too, just for the sake of fairness. He usually eats his cereal bar in the morning on the way to school, since his preschool actually provides snacks twice a day – usually grown in their own school garden or from a local farmer or bakery!

Want more inspiration? Check out more lunches with me on Pinterest or peruse the EasyLunchBlog!

Anyone else go through naan bread in their family like crazy? Eating three peaches a day while they are in season? Cutting up cucumbers in a variety of styles to entice your children?

PS: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own, and I have not received compensation for anything written. Links to products on Amazon may be affiliate links. Keepin’ it real.

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Let’s Do Lunch Again Sometime

Like, today. Or even better, every day this week!

Consider this the third installment of my learning-to-pack-school-lunches trilogy. Kind of like Mockingjay is to the Hunger Games, or Breaking Dawn is to Twilight. Let’s not even get into Harry Potter, those things go on and on. Didn’t their high school last 8 years or something? Can you imagine basically living through high school twice?

Okay, let’s put that nightmare aside and get back to business. When I realized I was about to begin packing lunches for the kids for the first time ever, I did my research and planned compulsively accordingly, then I went ahead and jumped right into it with my first full week. Since then, I’ve tried a couple things again, found some things that didn’t work and a few that were quite successful, and remembered to a few photos along the way. I think it’s best if we start with the successes. Let’s the games begin!

More School Lunches:  PBJ on whole wheat English muffin, string cheese, diced watermelon, and cinnamon Chex cereal | Painting Sunny

PBJ on whole wheat English muffin, string cheese, diced watermelon, and cinnamon Chex cereal

More School Lunches: Blueberry oatmeal muffin, cubed cheese, wheat crackers, baby carrots, diced cucumbers, and ranch dip | Painting SunnyBlueberry oatmeal muffin, cubed cheese, wheat crackers, carrots, cucumbers, and ranch dip

More School Lunches: Cheese quesadilla, salsa, sliced grapes, and cinnamon Chex cereal | Painting SunnyCheese quesadilla, salsa, sliced grapes, and cinnamon Chex cereal

More School Lunches: Bagel sliced with butter and jam, blueberry oatmeal muffin, Greek yogurt tube, diced watermelon, and baby carrots | Painting SunnyBagel sliced with butter and jam, blueberry oatmeal muffin, Greek yogurt tube, diced watermelon, and baby carrots  More School Lunches: Naan bread slices, vegetable hummus, baby carrots, string cheese, and sliced grapes | Painting Sunny

Naan bread slices, vegetable hummus, baby carrots, string cheese, and sliced grapes

Yes, one of the challenges is keeping the kids hands out of the lunch boxes the night before. Those grapes go missing so easily…More School Lunches:  | Painting Sunny

Those blueberry oatmeal muffins have been a hit. Remember when I baked them? I froze about half of them still in the silicone baking cups, and when I’m packing lunches in the evening (to be eaten the next day) I just pop them into the lunch box and they have thawed the next morning. Voila!

I almost always accidentally write viola and then have to correct it to voila. It would make no sense to be talking about violas right now.

As always, these lunches were made with EasyLunchboxes and the Mini-Dippers containers by the same brand (those are Amazon affiliate links). I’m not paid or perked to mention any brands, I just really have loved using them! They work out perfectly for our family. Check out their blog for a mega-ton of ideas, too.

Another success has been the No-Nut Pea Butter – the boy totally eats it! So far as I know he hasn’t noticed it’s not real peanut butter. When it runs out, I am totally trying out a few other things, though… thank you all for the awesome suggestions! You are my mentors on this journey.

What has not panned out the way I hoped? Just one thing that was so overwhelming disdained by the children it shall never be repeated. Cold macaroni and cheese. You would have thought I’d sent lumps of charcoal and stewed spinach by their reactions. In my defense, it was homemade delicious mac and cheese and personally I like cold mac and cheese. That, apparently, is not a hereditary trait.

Someone asked me what lunch bags I use. Good question, my friend! There is a link to a similar one to the type I picked up at Target right here. Ours looks a bit different (the front pocket Velcros rather than zips). I bought three of them, two blue and one black so we would have a spare in case a grown-up in the household wanted to pack a lunch or if one didn’t make it home. It’s worked out awesomely. Like, the boxes fit easily but snugly inside, nothing shifts around, the front pocket holds snacks and the top mesh compartment fits an ice pack. It’s like I designed a cooler bag just for my purposes, which never happens for me!

Anyone else tried to feed their kids cold mac and cheese? Others weirdos like me who prefer their pasta or pizza less-than-hot?

PS: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own, and I have not received compensation for anything written. Keepin’ it real.


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The First Five: School Lunch Updates, Celebrating One Full Week!

We survived our first week! Surprisingly well, I might add. Well, at least when it comes to lunches… we are figuring all the rest out, too. I received a couple of requests for an update when I had some lunches under my belt… well, the kid’s belts anyway. JK, kid’s don’t wear belts. Or at least mine don’t… except for seat-belts, obviously. I hope that was obvious. Anyway, I feel completely off track now.

Here is a break-down of what I put together for the first five days, and at least for the most part they seem to have been a hit with both kids! That almost qualifies for a miracle.

BTW, I’m using Easylunchboxes brand boxes and loooooove them! The Mini-Dipper containers are pretty nifty too. (Those are Amazon affiliate links). I’m not paid or perked to say nice things about them; they are just working out really well for us!

Day 1: Monday

School Lunch Idea, Day 1: Cheese, crackers, watermelon, muffin, dried mango | Painting Sunny

Cheese, crackers, watermelon, dried mango, and an apple-cinnamon oat-bran muffin

The muffins… well, did not turn out well. I went back and read the reviews and apparently the original recipe left out a couple things that would have helped, so I’m determined to try again. Also, notice those snacks set out along the side? My daughter needs two snacks sent along for her day camp, too. Those are a fruit & grain bar (generic brand) and some goldfish crackers/pretzels mixed together.

Day 2: Tuesday

School Lunch Idea, Day 2: Tortilla chips, salsa, berries & grapes, yogurt, dried mango | Painting Sunny

Tortilla chips, salsa (hidden in the little dip holder), berries & cut-up grapes, Greek yogurt, dried mango

I love those Chobani yogurt tubes, and so do the kids – and honestly, if they are on sale they can be more affordable than regular yogurts. I buy the big 16-pack at one time. They just barely folded in half to fit in the boxes!

Day 3: Wednesday

School Lunch Idea, Day 3: Mini Bagel, hummus, apple, string cheese, carrots | Painting Sunny

Mini Bagel, hummus (hidden in the little dip holder), apple, string cheese, carrots

So, I read a few somewheres that if you tossed apple slices with orange juice until they were lightly coated, they would not brown. I wasn’t there at lunch time when the kids got them out, but I can vouch that it appeared to work in the morning; I tossed the slices in the juice and they immediately stopped browning an stayed fresh looking through the entire packing process. Cool, right?

Day 4: Thursday

School Lunch Idea, Day 4: Quesadilla, watermelon, peas, muffin | Painting Sunny

Cheese quesadilla, watermelon, peas, muffin

This was a quick one to make! The kids had watermelon and peas for dinner the night before, so it was easy to put some in the lunchboxes at the same time I added it to their dinner plate. They don’t mind eating any of the stuff cold (they can’t heat their lunches at school, so it is all straight from their cooler bag). I made the quesadilla the night before with just some shredded cheese and a tortilla, and they each got half of one.

Day 5: Friday

   School Lunch Idea, Day 5: PBJ (or nut free butter), string cheese, apple, carrots, red peppers | Painting Sunny

PBJ (or nut free butter), string cheese, apple, carrots, red peppers

Lo’s has a blue note visible in the photo (later stuck to the top of the lunchbox) explaining that it is not peanut butter but “No-Nut” brand butter made from peas. I know, crazy, right? We will see how he likes it… I’ve never used it before! His preschool is nut-free, so I wanted to try out an alternative. The jar is expensive, but it is only him eating it for an occasion lunch, so I think it’ll be alright. Haven likes red bell papers and Lo doesn’t (honestly, I can’t stand them either) and since we had half of one in the fridge I added that to just hers.

You might notice that there is no meat in any of the lunches; Haven doesn’t eat meat (her own adamant choice when she was five) and Diallo does, but it is just easier to pack the same lunch for both of them. He can have meat at dinner, and I don’t think he really needs it more than when he is at home. It’s mostly just because it’s easier this way, and he doesn’t seem to miss it.

Anyone else trying out peanut-butter alternatives? Heard of this apple-dipped-in-orange-juice phenomenon? Hate a food that your kid loves? Please, share any other lunch ideas! I’m bound to run out eventually…

PS: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own, and I have not received compensation for anything written. Links to products on Amazon may be affiliate links. Keepin’ it real.


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To Bento Or Not To Bento: The Pre-school Power Lunch (I’m about to learn a lot)

Somehow I’ve managed to avoid packing school lunches. It’s almost a miracle, really… and it’s about to change.

Both of the kids have solely attended daycare/preschools that provided lunch as well as morning/afternoon snacks, so the kids just ate a quick breakfast at home. When H began kindergarten last year, the price for a before-school breakfast and hot lunch was reasonable and her school had good quality, healthy and wholesome food; so we just loaded funds onto her school account. We did pack a morning snack for her and chipped in to the afternoon snacks her teacher collected. We got really lucky that the arrangements were so easy. Now, in a week H is attending summer camp where she needs to bring a packed lunch and Lo will be at a preschool where all students bring their own lunches (healthy morning/afternoon snacks are provided). I figure when September rolls around, it makes sense to keep packing lunches for both kids since one will need it anyway.

There are some awesome resources out there for brown-bagging it… interestingly, none of them recommend actual brown bags. I’ve really enjoyed reading about the creative/affordable/healthy/convenient ideas people have for their kid’s lunches and wanted to share for anyone else in the same boat.

The Best Bloggety Resource Out There

Okay, this lady is the coolest. Seriously. Her name is Melissa and she writes the super-helpful-to-me-anyway blog Another Lunch. I have no recollection of how I stumbled upon her posts, except probably after some serious Googling sessions and it has been the number one best resource. I feel like we’re friends already. Melissa, I promise not to stalk you, please don’t leave!

Another Lunch has not only cute lunch ideas, but some practical tips and most helpful of all, reviews and recommendations on tools for packing lunches. Full confession: I have no intention of packing lunches as adorable as hers. I just don’t have it in me. I do want to prepare lunches as healthy and well-rounded as hers, and I think a lot of the same tools will help me pack quick and well-received lunches for both kids. Each lunch she posts about includes a description of what she used to make it, and links to the products on the bottom.

Lunching Paraphernalia

Yeah, when you’re starting from scratch with this, it takes some tools. I’m keeping it simple for now, at least – no need to pick up a bunch of extra things to cut sandwiches into elephants and so on at this point… I just need stuff to put the food in:

  • After reading this How To Start post from Another Lunch and this round-up and review of lunch containers from 100 Days of Real Food, I went with the EasyLunchboxes which I ordered off Amazon and am waiting to be delivered. It’s awesome it comes in a set of four for less than $14!
  • Since I know I will be packing mostly finger foods and the kids don’t like things to mix together too much, I also tossed some Wilton re-usable baking cups, and Mini-Dippers (also from EasyLunchboxes) into my Amazon cart. It also brought me up to the $25 to get free shipping, which is nice. A lot of lunch ideas I’ve seen use the baking cups to create additional compartments.
  • Also on the recommendation of Another Lunch’s guide, I will wait until the lunchboxes get here and take one to Target to buy lunch bags that fit them. I really want to check the bags out in person, to be sure they have good insulation – neither kid will be able to use a refrigerator.
  • I’ll pick up some ice packs at some point, too. Any recommendations? Water filled vs. gel filled?

(also, I just spelled paraphernalia correctly on the first attempt. I deserve something for that.)

Pinning For A Good Lunch

I went a little pin-crazy on a Pinterest board, looking up lunch ideas. I’m hoping if I find myself stumped while making a grocery list, I might be able to refer back and come up with a couple realistic ideas. There are some other kick-ass boards with kid’s lunch ideas too (about half on the practical side and half on the shaping-food-like-panda-bears side) – check out this one and this one! EasyLunchboxes also have their own Pinterest boards too. No offense to anyone shaping their kids food like panda bears… I’m just not there yet.

To Bento Or Not To Bento

Our preschool recommends going for finger-food style packed lunches vs. the traditional brown-bag sandwich/fruit/chips/milk combo. This rings true for my own kids, who tend to love snack-ish items such as cheese cubes, fruit, carrots, and so on… but often don’t finish a whole sandwich or big item. Using a compartmental lunch box also allows me to add leftovers from dinner when there is something I think they are likely to eat cold the next day, like some pastas or pizza. We also have one kid who eats meat and the other doesn’t, so adding little bits of different things makes sense for us.

However, this strategy is not what a lot of people mean by bento. Check out the links I’ve listed above and you will see lunches with shapes cut out, cute little picks used to hold food, and very detailed themes. It has become a fad in some areas, from what I can tell online – and a lot of time can be spent turning a kids lunch into something creative and cute. I’m not sure this is my style, but for a lot of people it is worth it and a family bonding activity. What do you think? Over the top or a special treat? Maybe just on birthdays, or if the kid is old enough to work on it themselves? Or do you just stick to the traditional PBJ?

Going Nut-Less

Yes, I know. There was no real way to write it that didn’t come across that way, so I just went for it.

I totally support nut-free classrooms. It’s about safety, and I know I want care, respect, and kindness towards my children if they are ever in that boat. It is a challenge, though, and Lo’s new classroom is not only peanut-free but completely nut-free. Lo loooooves peanut butter – it is very much a staple in his diet. Because of this, I’m hoping to try out some peanut-butter-alternatives such as a soy-butter. Any experience with this, good or bad?

Wish me luck in the world of lunch-packing, and please drop me any suggestions, recommendations, and opinions! Especially if you have a magical peanut-butter-fake-that-tastes-delicious!

PS: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own, and I have not received compensation for anything written. Links to products on Amazon may be affiliate links. Keepin’ it real.