If you’re like me, you remember Lunchables when they came out, many years ago. There were two options – ham and cheddar or turkey and Swiss. Each small, three compartment “box” had about 6-8 crackers, the same number of meat and cheese slices (nice and thick), a packet of sauce (that sweet horseradish was the bomb), and soon, a chocolate mint, like you might find on a hotel pillow.
They were the perfect school lunch or midday snack – with a box/pouch of juice, or a piece of fruit on the side, you had a meal. All four food groups in one, prepackaged, container to go. Hell…hubby and I still occasionally buy them for a wine and cheese dinner night, when we’re too lazy to pick our our own cheese and crackers…especially on sale at 10/$10!
The more I read about them not being satisfactory for school lunches or snacks, irritates me. A bento box, which is essentially the same thing, but trendy, is fine. A Lunchable, bought from your local grocery store though…that could be the difference between whether your kid can eat their lunch or not.
We ate them! We survived! And, frankly, I’d trust my kid eating a Lunchable over cafeteria slop.
Not able to sleep, my mind started thinking about how you could easily make your own at home and keep them different and exciting, every day of the week! Maybe let Junior pick which he’d like on which day, or break it up with a “leftover lunch” Wednesday or however you roll.
Easy to pack ahead, quick enough to throw together in the morning. Get some cheap containers from a local dollar store (because you know by the end of the year, you’re going to have 10 containers and 500 lids…if you’re lucky), that are easy for small hands to manipulate, and try a few of these ideas instead.
Just remember – pack each component in its own container to avoid anything getting mushy, soggy or cross-contamination of flavors. That way, if little Suzie just isn’t feeling mushrooms today (despite being her favorite) or husband John just didn’t have time to add that sauce, it’s still a pretty solid system, that encourages eating all four, major food groups and allows a hands-on approach for picky eaters and DIYers.
As always, feel free to switch, add, alternate, make suitable to you or your family’s likes and needs.
Always check with your kids school to make sure nuts are acceptable – that can change from year to year, even week to week, if someone has an allergy related incident.
I may add, we find a ton of great deals at Trader Joe’s, Sprouts and other whole food type markets. Especially on cheese, which can be expensive and poor quality (goat cheese, for example – we can get a log, 16oz, I believe, at TJ’s for half the price of a 2oz disk at the mainstream grocery).
Do how you do! Be who you are! And, feed your family right! These are just a week’s worth of ideas for lunches, snacks or even a cozy date night. Each including a “theme”, a protein, dairy, fruit/veggie, grain and add-ins.
Plastic utensils (or wine) optional!
Homemade Lunchables – Seven Days and Dessert!
Summer sausage slices (we adore the turkey summer sausage from TJ’s – in the cracker aisle)
Goat cheese (spreadable) or cheddar cheese
Tomato slices/cherry/grape tomatoes
*flavored mayo optional
String cheese/shredded mozzarella
Mushroom slices/black olives/bell pepper or sweet banana pepper slices (favorite fruit or veggie pizza topping)
Mariana/pizza sauce/jarred Alfredo sauce
Water crackers for “thin crust”; butter crackers for pan/thick
*garlic butter, pepper flakes and Parmesan cheese optional
3 falafels, quartered (make your own or buy frozen – they’re essentially chick-pea/garbanzo bean “meatballs”)
Pita chips/pita bread cut into 1/4 or 1/8.
Cream cheese/goat cheese
Baby corn/water chestnuts/bamboo shoots
Eel/teriyak/sweet and sour sauce
Bibb/butter lettuce cups
*Sesame sticks optional
Fajita or taco seasoned meat of choice
Shredded cheddar or pepper jack/Mexican/fiesta blend cheese
Half an avocado, sliced
Taco sauce, salsa or sour cream
*refried beans optional
Eggplant or portobello mushroom (preferably grilled or sautéed)
Nut-based cheese (almond, cashew, etc.)
Sun dried tomatoes
Multi grain crackers
*go to town with the veggies! However, avoid soy nut butter! It’s just disgusting.
7. MY hometown fave!
(You probably know by now, I’m from NY and proud! This is my bagel and lox on the fly solution!)
Lox (thinly sliced, smoked salmon)
Cream cheese – plain, veggie or onion and chives
Onion, tomatoes and/or alfalfa sprouts
*This one shouldn’t need a “sauce”, but if you must, I’d suggest balsamic or white balsamic vinegar, optional
8. Somethin’ Sweet
Nuts like cashews, almonds, hazelnuts or pistachios or granola blends, chopped/broken into small pieces
Strawberries/bananas/small or sliceable fruit of choice
Nutella or similar hazelnut based spread/peanut butter (if allowed).
Graham crackers (flavor of choice)
*Fruit based jam/jelly optional
Let us know if you try any of these or need some other, Lunchable-friendly alternatives to make the night/morning before school, getting home snacks, eat-on-the-go/office easy, cozy date night meal options, and we’ll do our best!