Update: I just found some practical, well-design water bottles – at Winners! I’ve updated the image and linked to the amazon page.
I’ve shared some posts with my top baking recipes for back-to-school, and also my go-to foods and tips for packing plant-powered lunches. Today, I’ve decided to help you with the logistics of packing lunches, from kitchen gear to organization.
Packing lunches seems to strike either anxiety or grief with parents – or a bit of both. It’s understandable, between school allergy issues, eating a vegan diet, and individual weegan food preferences, it can feel like all too much. A little planning goes a very long way.
So, here are my 5 tips to help get you 0rganized to pack plant-powered lunches:
1. Batch Cooking and Baking. I talk about batch cooking in some detail in Plant-Powered Families. It’s not just helpful for planning dinners, but also for packing lunches. The benefits apply to both ingredients/individual foods and specific recipes. Are you…
Baking potatoes? Bake another 5-6 spuds. You can use them in lunches – sliced in sandwiches, cubed to dip in hummus, mixed with veggies or beans as a salad, added to a thermos soup, etc.
Making hummus? Do at least a double batch. Refrigerate and freeze portions so you don’t have to make it every week.
Cooking pasta for dinner? Make extra and use another day in a lunch (many ideas in PPF).
2. Lunchbox Picks. What will work best for you to pack lunches? We’ve had some discussion on this in our PPF FB group. Some of us mamas love the bento style boxes. I recently got a PlanetBox, and while it’s a little pricier than some other lunchboxes, I think it’s worth the price.
It’s stainless steel, very durable, and with a smart design. In the past I’ve used boxes with lidded containers, and the girls often lost components. It’s a bit of a nuisance to replace those pieces, so that’s something to consider. For another option, choose the widely available ziploc or glad containers. They are BPA-free now, and come in many different sizes. I’ve found that useful for the past number of years packing for bigger and smaller appetites. I also pack hubby’s lunch, and send him off with 5 or 6 containers. I also re-use containers from vegan yogurt and dips for things like grapes, crackers, segmented oranges, and other small lunch items.
Having two or three BPA-free water bottles per kiddo is also very helpful. Many times bottles are left behind in the classroom. I like to fill the girls’ water bottles the night before. It saves just another few minutes in a frantic school morning! *After writing this post I stumbled on the coolest water bottles – at Winners. Actually, Charlotte found them. She’s at that age where some water bottles are just ‘not cool’… anything with patterns or worse, flowers! What I like about these copco bottles is that they are compact, fit in backpack side pouches easily, and yep, they are BPA-free. Also, they unscrew about 1/3 of the way down for easy cleaning, and also to add ice cubes or citrus slices! And the attached cap is brilliant.
3. Keep It Simple. Kids love their favorite foods, and lunch times at school are not the time I “experiment” with new foods. Unless the girls ask to try something in their lunches, I stick to the foods I know they’ll love and eat. Why? Because they have very little time to eat (about 10-15 minutes), and I want them to actually eat! I prefer to use dinner hour and weekends as times to work in some new food choices or work on those picky food tendencies. So, keep it simple for yourself and your kiddos. You’ll save yourself some money – and a lot of stress.
4. Rotate Key Recipes. On that note of keeping it simple, make a list (either on paper or mental notes) of some key recipes to rotate week to week. As the school year progresses, you may want to freshen up the recipes with some new ones you’ve discovered and the kids really enjoy. But start now with a list of some favorites. For us, it’s Chickpea Nibbles (PPF, recipe also here), Simplest Marinated Tofu (PPF, recipe also here), muffins and snack bars, Super Cheesy Sprinkle (PPF) and plenty of hummus recipes!
Also don’t hesitate to rely on some quick fixes for weekly rotation. Some of ours: *Amy’s Baked Beans (stir in another cup or more of cooked beans, stretch that sauce!), whole-grain fig/fruit bars, and nut-free veggie burgers. (*As a side, I often make sandwiches with the Amy’s Baked Beans (+extra beans). Put a layer between whole-grain bread, add a slice of Daiya cheese if you like, voila! Baked bean sandwich.)
5. Kitchen Gadgets and Appliances. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again and again… there are a couple of kitchen appliances that make my food prep a lot easier. First, a large capacity food processor. I have a Breville, it’s 16-cup and BPA-free. I don’t think you need a 16-cup, but at least a 12-cup (and preferably 14). This is how I triple, and even quadruple, batches of hummus. I also make double batches of veggie burgers and protein power balls (also from PPF, nut-free for school!). Second, a very good blender. Preferably high-speed. I use a Blendtec. and I’ve had it for about 8 years now. Yes, it’s more expensive than a standard blender. But, it does a heck of a lot more! I use mine daily (usually 2-3 times a day), for morning smoothies. Then, I use the twister jar for things like sauces, salad dressings, chia puddings, nut butters, and the nut-free super cheesy sprinkle the girls love so much. We lost power recently for a full day, and I felt lost without my Blendtec! I use it in many recipes throughout PPF, as well as here on the blog. If you don’t yet have a Blendtec, stay tuned – giveaway coming up!
I hope these tips help you get a little more organized for the school year. Please share any tips that you think might help others reading – and me too!
Back with more soon…