With the newness of the lunch routine that started in September long worn off, many families are now buying their lunches (parents and kids alike) out of boredom with their regular packed-at-home fare.
Doling out cash for chow every day adds up, and there’s a cost to your health, as well as your budget. We often make much poorer choices eating out than when we pack a fresh lunch from home. That’s why mom-to-five, Cristi Messersmith, has adopted the bento lunch system when packing her children’s lunches, and often her own.
Messersmith blogs at bentonbetterlunches.blogspot.com, where she posts photos, descriptions and instructions on the daily lunches she makes for her kids. “My kids are pretty picky, and with their list of likes being so short, packing lunches could easily become a tedious chore for me,” she admits. “Packing meals bento style helps me keep my kids' school lunches fresh and fun by presenting familiar foods in different ways.”
Bento-style lunches, like Messersmith’s, use cookie cutters and creative arrangements to make lunches more appealing, and usually integrate plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. “They don't need to be to be fancy to be fun,” explains Messersmith. “A handful of grapes arranged in a ring around a cherry tomato looks like a flower, add a slice of cheese cut in a butterfly shape and it's a garden theme. Alternating rolled up slices of lunch meat with cheese or veggies on a colourful skewer makes it seem like party food.”
Karen Humphrey blogs at notesfromthecookiejar.com, and says for her family it’s all about thinking outside the box. For instance, instead of using bread, she makes big batches of homemade buttermilk biscuits. "You can stuff them with lunch meat or cheese, hummus and veggies, or just spread them with butter. Cut small, they’re great for little hands, or you can pack two for larger appetites,” she says. Karen also blogs at chasingtomatoes.ca—check out her recipes for Three Seed Biscuits, Cheddar and Chive Biscuits and Buttermilk Biscuits.
A creative lunch begins with great tools. Do you have the right lunch box equipment? Invest in small reusable containers with good seals, and you can buy larger, more cost-effective packages of yogurt and dips. Buy a good quality Thermos for packing soups, stews and pastas. Fill with boiling water and seal for a minute before filling with hot food, and it will be the perfect temperature by lunch time.