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Reader to Reader: Your Great School Lunch Recipes!

Here in Miami we send a lot of edamame‘s for snacks and lunch… the kids love to pop them out, dunk them in a favorite dressing (my daughter likes carrot/ginger) and they are easy. Also, a great side for the lunch bag is jicama with a squeeze of lime and a teeny pinch of celtic salt if desired…we also use veggie booty for a side, dip with veggies, and the healthy version of the traditional lunch items to prevent the “trading” issue. Best thing is to get a list from the child of agreed upon items, so you know that the lunch ends up in their tummy, not the trash or their friend’s tummy!

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When I was in grade school I can remember my favorite lunch. I used to split half of my sandwich with my best friend as she loved it too. Hope you enjoy!

Avocado Sandwich

Whole wheat bread/multigrain
1 small avocado peeled
1 small tomato
mayonnaise as desired
Add sprouts and/lettuce or any other vegetable or mushrooms

Cucumber Sandwich

Whole wheat/multigrain bread
or French roll
Italian dressing
1 small cucumber
red onion
lettuce if desired
sprouts if desired

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This isn’t exactly a recipe, but for three generations my family has loved this sandwich, and it is very healthy. On whole grain bread spread some nut butter, add raisins and top with honey. Then cover with the other piece of bread. Another plus — if the whole grain is wheat, add a glass of milk to this sandwich and you have a complete protein. I’m not sure if other whole grain breads create the complete or not.

This sandwich travels well, too, needs no cooling. It’s simple and filling and yummy.

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I’d like to say that the first step in making a lunch is to stop wasting brown bags and buy a good insulated lunchbox, mini-icepack, and sealable plastic containers to go with it. Most of the containers are #4, one of the safer types of plastic. A good lunchbox will last several years. It’ll mean washing the containers every night, but what you save (the environment!) by avoiding disposable paper bags and plastic baggies makes it worth it. Also, if you come home with something you weren’t hungry for, you can just stick the container in the fridge (or wherever) until tomorrow — it’s already packed! The insulation feature is a key concept as well. That way you can safely carry foods that need to stay cool or warm. I suggest using a lunchbox with 2 compartments so you have the ability to transport both hot and cold foods at the same time. I carried a “litter-free” lunch all through middle school and high school (class of ’01 so my experience is pretty recent).

In high school, I took extra juice and a snack so I would have something to eat when staying after school for an activity, and
the juice was still nice and cold thanks to my insulated lunchbox and icepack. No nasty warm bottle of water, and it sure beat using the soda machines!

Even though I’m not in grade school anymore, I do still need to pack lunches now and then, like to avoid eating at a restaurant or so I’ll have something to eat at a picnic. I like to take sandwiches in my lunchbox. My favorite is home-baked ham on homemade rye with some raw (unpasturized milk) Swiss cheese. Delicious! When not in the mood for a sandwich, I take some kidney or
baked beans (the little containers don’t leak) and a homemade muffin. And perhaps some fruit, like putting pineapple chunks in one of the little containers. A little container of a snack-type food comes in handy, too, something like nuts, dried fruit, or a homemade cookie, so you can just whip it out anytime for a quick snack.

The secret is in being able to carry around the containers, the insulated lunchbox. The containers liberate you so you can carry just about any food you want! Forget carrying a purse, I’m carrying a lunchbox, lol! Actually, they have so many pockets these days,
you can fit the essential purse things in there, too. And a pocket-pack of tissues comes in handy if you find you need an extra napkin!

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Used to send spaghetti (squash) in a hot thermos with salad in a small Tupperware. Hot dogs (turkey) in chili also in the hot thermos. Freeze ice cream in a thermos overnight — seal & off it goes to lunch. My youngest loved the frozen yogurt. Potato salad in the cold thermos with cheese cubes, dill pickles & sliced whole wheat bread. Hard boiled eggs were ALWAYS a hit, with anything. Sandwiches, soups, salads. I don’t send lunches off any more — the kids are grown & he’s retired but I used to have F U N coming up with new ideas. There was always a Hershey’s kiss in every bag.

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Don’t know if this will help with children’s lunches, but I once worked in an office with 4 other women and we all brown-bagged it. It got pretty boring, so what we did was each day we packed a lunch — and it went to someone else. That way we didn’t just do the baloney sandwich thing, we tried new things because it was for someone else. It’s easy to make great sandwiches if you take the time to put sprouts and tomatoes and fresh herbs in separate little containers and make the sandwich or salad when you have lunch. None of us would do that kind of thing for ourselves, but we got pretty creative when it was sort of competitive. You know, who can come up with the best lunch of the day.

And let’s not forget that planned leftovers from the night before can become soups or stews to be enjoyed hot the next day. For example, scalloped potatoes can become a yummy potato soup with a few additions. Leftover mac & cheese can become either a hot or cold dish when combined with fresh garden produce or leftover meat and some herbs. Likewise, beef stew can become a great soup if you add fresh produce and herbs. Take some croutons in a separate little container and add just before eating.

Just get into the habit of “no waste” and you’ll figure out ways to use that last crust of bread (croutons) or half a tomato, etc. Go back to your roots and remember the food of the depression era.

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Annie B. Bond

Annie is a renowned expert in non-toxic and green living. She was named one of the top 20 environmental leaders by Body and Soul Magazine and "the foremost expert on green living." - Body & Soul Magazine, 2009. Learn Annie's latest eco-friendly news on anniebbond.com, a website dedicated to healthy and green living.

11 comments

+ add your own
6:16AM PDT on May 8, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

11:01AM PDT on Apr 10, 2013

Some great ideas and yummy recipes.Thanks for sharing

1:27AM PDT on Jul 3, 2012

Some great ideas here. Thank you everbody. The swapped lunch sounds like fun.

7:45AM PDT on Aug 11, 2010

great tips everyone, thank you! i'm also a huge fan of putting any leftovers in wraps - makes last nights dinner a yummy and easy sandwich!

6:19AM PST on Feb 4, 2010

A god one:
French babybaguette sliced in the lenght,
Put some garlic-yoghurt Mayonaise in it, fill it with sliced Gouda cheese, red Paprika, roastet Sunflowerseeds, and salat of season...(best: Ruccola salad with a few drops of Lemon) if you like ad some thin sliced red onions and herbessalt ...yummieee! :-)

11:30AM PDT on May 29, 2009

Sandwhich idea:
lettuce, tomato,red onion, olive tapanade on wheat bread. Good as is or with a little vegan cream cheese to make it even more decadent.

11:25AM PDT on May 29, 2009

Oh and thinly sliced cucumber!

6:49AM PST on Jan 12, 2009

Just a word of caution: it is not recommended to freeze plastic bottles, as the plastic, at this temperature, leaches into the drink.

11:43AM PDT on Aug 23, 2007

I think when your a kid, there is something very appealing about eating a warm lunch from your thermos! Chili, soup, stew, pasta or your favorite leftovers from the night before are particularly comforting on a cold winter day. My kids love a surprise lunch in their thermos and I find many of these meals more nourishing than a typical sandwich! Buen Provecho!

6:22PM PDT on Aug 16, 2007

Here's another idea, my kids love wraps, and the favorite is: mix 2/3 mayo to 1/3 sour cream or yogurt, and add a little finely chopped chipotle pepper (I buy a can then jar it up in fridge). Spread a couple teaspoons on tortilla, add turkey and a little veg that you have handy, (red bell peppers sliced thin with green onions sliced lengthwise are good) and maybe a little grated cheese. Yumilicious!

Also, they like quesadillas, even cold. Buy the canned refried beans ranchero flavor, add a little cheese and salsa onto a tortilla, top with another tortilla and fry in dry pan. Cut up with scissors, much easier!

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