Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Back to School Lunch Mania, Makeovers & Pledges

Ashleigh & Ryan on the first day of school

If I had a nickel for every school lunch article I have read in the last two weeks, I would have enough to buy a week's worth of school lunches!

I'll tell you what my secret is when I'm at a loss for ideas.  I go to the school's lunch menu and recreate it but with real foods and organic ingredients.  Super, super simple.  Now, most of the school lunches that are served at our cafeteria are hot (or at least moderately warm) so that doesn't always lend itself to a complete copy however it can be done.

For example, our school is serving pepperoni pizza, baby carrots with ranch dip and applesauce this week.  Now tell me how easy is that to makeover?  Way easy.

Step 1. Take a little whole wheat pita bread or equivalent and top it with a tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and pepperoni (Applegate makes one that is nitrate free even).
Step 2. Warm it up in the toaster oven the morning of school and wrap it up in a bit of tin foil or an appropriate size container.
Step 3. Baby carrots... c'mon, been there, done that, right? I've made homemade ranch dip in the past however we're on a hummus kick right now so that's what I'd put in a little tub to go.
Step. 4. Applesauce is a no brainer too.  You can find organic applesauce at Costco in tiny little packs or you can make your own too.  Even better might be to cut up an apple into slices and drop that into their lunch.

Another lunch that is being served this month is spaghetti with meatballs, salad bowl to go (not sure what this is?), fresh kiwifruit and fudge bar.

Step 1. Again, you can take a bit of leftover spaghetti and freeze it for this one. I've seen ideas where parents pop them into muffin tins and then reheat in the morning.  A thermos is key here.
Step 2. So salad bowl to go I haven't seen yet at school however I'm guessing this is a little bowl of iceberg lettuce with shredded cabbage and carrots.  You get the visual.  I put together some cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers and carrots with some 'dressing' like homemade ranch or hummus again.
Step 3. Kiwifruit. Simple. Trader Joe's is selling 6 organic kiwis for, I think, under $3. I cut the ends off, peel and make slices for my children.
Step 4. Fudge bar.  Sigh. I can't tell you how many times I see the children at school just eat that fudge bar and toss the rest. The lunch ladies try their best but it happens. Now, my alternative would be a healthier sweet treat like Annie's organic chocolate bunny crackers or yogurt covered raisins.

Now my children take after their father in that they all could eat the same thing everyday for weeks and not get burned out.  There is a point though when we all need a change and oddly enough the school lunch menu can provide ideas.

Also, I am trying this year to not use plastic baggies at all. I know that single serve foods like the Annie's cheddar bunnies are just like a baggie however I am not just going to throw them out. My plan is to use up what I have and then have a "baggie free lunch" for the rest of the year.  There are a kajillion alternatives out there to the plastic baggies, too.  You can find homemade cloth pouches on etsy, stainless steel containers at Whole Foods, cute reusable containers at Japanese import stores or even the Dollar Spot at Target has fun little plastic tubs.

I guess you would call it a pledge of sort. Who's with me?

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