Monday, August 31, 2009

How To Give School Lunches Good Grades

The school year is new, but early grades for brown bag lunches have not been promising in my home. For example, servings of leftover lasagna recently failed the lunchroom test. The pasta tasted great, but looked unappealing in a small sandwich bag, the kids said.

It's a challenge to assemble lunches that are nutritious, tasty and frugal. Aria Kagen, co-owner D'lish, a private chef company, offers these tips:

Be a cookie-cutter. Update boring sandwiches with interesting shapes. Kagen uses cookie cutters to style sandwiches in to unusual shapes. Even tuna fish or peanut butter can appear exciting when shaped into hearts or stars.

Invest in containers. Packaging counts, and attractive food containers can upgrade the taste, texture and freshness of school lunches. Kagen recommends purchasing containers in different sizes for hot and cold food, including a thermos for soup. Reusable lunch containers also deliver an eco-friendly lesson plan about recycling.

Spice it up. Pack a taco shell, re-fried beans, ground meat, sour cream and chili sauce into small, individual containers. With those ingredients, your child can put together a taco in the lunch room.

Prepare ahead. Fresh vegetables, fruit slices and green salads can be prepared and stored on Sunday night and packed into lunches as needed during the rest of the week. That menu plan will save time and money.

Add a few flourishes. Kagen uses festive paper napkins decorated with action heroes for her son's lunch. Other families slip in hand-printed notes or hand-decorated napkins into brown bags or lunch containers. "Make it an experience," Kagen says. "It doesn't take a lot of money."

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vilkri said...

We do most of these things for our little guys already, since one of them is gluten-intolerant. So, we keep all of them on a gluten-free diet. - I am glad that you mentioned "invest in containers" in your post. Recently my wife and I almost ended up in an argument, because she spent a bit of money on some really nice containers. I wondered what the point was. Thanks for enlightening me! My wife couldn't convince me yet. I guess it often takes an outsider to convince the spouse of something, doesn't it?

Beth said...

I must admit I'm a little appalled at the cookie-cutter idea -- what a waste of food! Unless the moms are going to pack all the edges in their own lunches instead?

My mom used to get the same "interest" by cutting our sandwiches into weird divisions instead of the usual halves and quarters. No waste!

Beth said...

Sounds like some great ideas, but I must admit I'm a little appalled at the cookie-cutter idea. I'm sure the stars and shapes are cute, but it seems like a lot of waste. How can that be good for the environment or the budget?

Sue said...

One solution to the cookie cutter bread waste is to cut the shapes before you make the sandwich. Use the trimmings for croutons, bread pudding stuffing, bread crumbs etc.