Pro: I don’t have to try to make a whole bunch of lunches the night before. The hurdle of trying to dream up and prepare a host of interesting and nutritious things has caused even the most health-conscious mom to abandon her principles and start buying little packages which are slyly oh-so-convenient to ‘toss in a lunch’.
Con: I still have to try to dream up something interesting and nutritious for lunch everyday. (I’m not one of those cool moms who makes faces on her kids sandwiches with veggies, either.) I need to make it in a large quantity and have it ready fairly quickly to leave room for the other things we want to do.
I find it really challenging to come up with good ideas that are healthy, not too expensive, involve real food and can be made fairly quickly. I thought I would share with you a few ideas I serve that meet the above criteria, in hopes that it will entice you to share your ideas with me. 🙂
A mainstay in our homeschool, my number one lunch idea is ‘snack lunch’. An ingenious phrase coined by my mom during my own childhood, it instantly becomes fun to be served a bunch of unconnected, though nutritious foods. If you are a really cool mom, you can serve this lunch in muffin/mini muffin tins with different things in the cups. (Unfortunately, again, I’m not this type of mom.) It drives me a bit crazy to chop up and prepare all these things, but several of our children love to do so. Ideas for snack lunch include:
- chopped fresh fruit and veggies (avocado is great to serve with snack lunch)
- (or just put out a bowl of apples)
- cheese – cubed or sliced
- summer sausage pieces
- dried or canned fruit
- hard-boiled eggs
- my oldest daughter, our main snack-lunch maker, often makes us deviled eggs
- a healthy milkshake or fruit smoothie will round things out if you don’t have much food in the house
Next, I suggest leftovers from last-night’s dinner. Having a big family, however, doesn’t usually leave enough leftovers for everyone, so this is usually out, unless we have several days worth of leftovers and then I announce a free-for-all, which our children surprisingly enjoy.
We also have sandwiches a lot, particulary peanut butter and jam. They are healthy and inexpensive, though they can get a bit boring if you overdo it. If you are using natural peanut butter (just peanuts), you may find like I do that the sandwiches can be a bit ‘dry’. I have discovered that buttering the bread before putting on the peanut butter makes a world of difference. While we are on the subject of natural peanut butter tips…when I open a new container of peanut butter, I scrape the entire thing into my mixer bowl, attach the ‘cookie’ paddle and mix it up on stir speed for a minute or so to get everything homogenized again. I find if I do this, it will not usually separate again before we use up the container. (Also, I never keep it in the fridge, as recommended, but we go through it pretty quickly.)
Today, I made some great sandwiches, if I do say so myself. A few summers ago, when camping near Ithaca, NY, we visited the Moosewood Restaurant and one of our children ordered (if you can believe it) nut butter, bread and fruit. The nut butter was fantastic. I can’t remember exactly what it was, but I was inspired to jazz up our own peanut butter at home. So, I invented the ‘recipe’ below. I didn’t actually use any specific quantities when I made it, so I’m guessing here for your sake.
Nutty Nut Butter
- 1 c. natural peanut butter (just peanuts), well-combined
- 1/4 c. almonds, chopped fairly small
- 2 T. sunflower seeds
(You can substitute other seeds/nuts in this recipe — whatever you have around. You can also switch out the peanut butter for almond or other nut butter or use a blend!)
Preheat oven to 350F. Put nuts and seeds into a cast-iron frying pan and cook until they are nicely toasted, stirring occasionally. You can also do this on the stove burner, if you trust yourself to watch them.
Stir nuts/seeds into peanut butter.
Your turn! What are your healthy lunch ideas?