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Michelle Fern Michelle Fern
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What's in your kid's lunchbox?

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What's in your kid's lunchbox?

For those Gen Xers out there, you might remember the lunch treat of Fluffernutter. Made with peanut butter and marshmallow fluff, the sandwiches were my all-time favorite when I was a kid. It's not the healthiest of lunches - really, marshmallow on a sandwich. And peanut butter itself has lost its luster in school cafeterias due to allergy concerns. However, some parents question how healthy the food served in those same cafeterias is. With selections ranging from pizza, chicken nuggets and patties made of processed chicken and fillers, and hot dogs, it's certainly a child's dream and could be a parent's cause for concern.

Some published reports say school cafeteria food can be full of saturated fat and contain little fiber, so nutritious lunch box ideas are in demand. Regardless of the concern about nutrition, it's also a question of cost - schools are forced to increase the cost of school lunches due to rising fuel and food costs, which can become a big expense for the family budget. Ranging from $2-$3 or more if the school offers an a la cart menu, it may be easier to hand over a few bucks in the morning and sleep an extra 15 minutes rather than make their lunches. But when looking at the yearly cost of two kids, you can easily spend $800.

Packing a school lunch is much more economical and nutritious, and your kids will enjoy getting foods they really like.

School lunch planning

This is the perfect time to create a list of lunch ideas to keep handy around the kitchen. Get your kids involved - there's nothing like packing a lunch for you kids only to get a half-eaten sandwich back and a hungry child ready to raid the cabinets. Sit down with one of your children and have them make a list of the foods they like to eat for lunch. Edit and modify your list throughout the year as your kids' preferences change, and consult with your list before doing your grocery shopping.

If you're on your own trying to figure it out, here are a few suggestions:

Sandwiches are the backbone of the school lunch. If your children are like mine and prefer few sandwich options, it's fine if they don't get bored with them.

- PB&J if your school allows peanut products. If peanuts are prohibited, try Fluff and jelly.
- Bacon, lettuce and tomato
- Any lunchmeat they like and cheese
- Egg salad, tuna salad, ham salad
- Wraps are very popular and you can put almost anything on it.

Shake it up a little and experiment.

- Pizza
- Fried chicken or chicken nuggets/fingers
- Mac & Cheese in a thermos (my son likes a cooked hot dog cut up and put in it)
- Salads - believe it or not many kids love salads w/a side of their favorite dressing
- Leftovers

Sides/Snacks

- Apple slices - you can add peanut butter, cream cheese or caramel dip
- Bananas, grapes or other fresh fruit
- Cheese & crackers
- Carrot and celery sticks - add ranch dressing (this is a big hit with the kids)
- Applesauce in single-serve container
- Yogurt
- Jello and pudding
- Granola
- Homemade cookies
- Mini brownies - Bake brownie mix in mini-muffin pans
- and put a few "brownie bites" in a sandwich bag for each child's lunch. They freeze well too!

Drinks can be hot or cold. Pack a thermos to keep the drinks at their original temperature. Some options:

- Water - with or without flavors
- Iced tea
- Hot cocoa
- Juice - try the low sugar or sugar-free brands

Be creative. If you're packing cheese and crackers, try using cookie cutters on the cheese. A cookie cutter can even be used to create an interesting sandwich. You can really embarrass your high-schooler with a heart-shaped or teddy bear PB&J. Serve celery sticks with peanut butter or cream cheese with raisins on top - they look like ants.

Coupons on sites such as www.smartsource.com and www.coupons.com will help you get ready for those fabulous, cost saving, kid friendly school lunches.

Last modified on Monday, 19 December 2011 16:48

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