A little advance planning makes school lunch fun, frugal, and delicious.
Charleston, Dorchester 2 and 4, and Berkeley County students returned to the classroom last week with a few more vegetarian options on their menus. While meatless options are not always available in school cafeterias, home packed lunches will add variety, flavor, and nutrition to your child’s school day.
A good sack lunch starts with planning ahead. Prepping sides ahead of time makes packing lunch a snap. Pasta salad, potato salad, Cole slaw, fruit salad, and vegetable salads keep well in the refrigerator and flavors improve each day. Gazpacho Salad is a favorite in warmer months. Toss chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, celery, and bell peppers with red wine vinegar, salt,and pepper to taste. If you pack a lettuce-based salad, remember to send the dressing on the side.
Sandwiches are a standard brown bag standby. Bean spreads, nut butters with jelly or fruit, homemade seitan, tempeh, or tofu cutlets, and tempeh bacon make fab sandwich fillers. Any bread, tortilla, flatbread, or large leafy green can hold you choice of filling nicely. For wraps, try wrapping the sandwich in foil or deli paper to help reduce potential mess. As a fun alternative, pack lettuce leaves and filling separately for assembly at the lunch table.
One of the easiest ways to prepare for lunch is to cook extras at dinner. Meatballs, chili, soup, and stews from last night’s dinner work very well at lunch. Pack hot dishes in a thermal container and send garnishes and condiments on the side. Taco bowls with seasoned beans, rice, lettuce, salsa, vegetarian or vegan shredded cheese are quick, inexpensive, and delicious. Pack tortilla chips on the side to make lunch time fun.
Lunchboxes, bags, and refillable containers have come a long way. Reusable containers with removable ice packs help keep meals cool and separated perfectly. Several types are available at a wide price range. BPA-free plastic containers are among the mos affordable options and can take a beating. One of my favorite new containers is a refillable food pouch. Squeeze’Ems replace disposable pouches of pureed foods and make them more affordable and green. Instead of purchasing boxes of smoothie, applesauce, yogurt, or pudding pouches, make them and fill a Sqeeze’Em. The caps stay sealed in lunchboxes and they are easy to clean. Kids of all ages love them. Squeeze’Ems are BPA-free, freezer, microwave, and top-rack dishwasher safe. If a hot lunch is your thing, thermal containers in various shapes and sizes do it well and in styles that appeal to all ages.
Mix it up this school year. Throw some old and new favorites in the lunchbox and make lunch fun, fugal, and delicious.
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