Not That Again!

Great ideas for kids' lunch boxes

By FamilyTime


Trying to decide what to pack in our kids' lunch boxes is nearly as challenging as deciding what to have for dinner! Truth is, many kids love lunchtime because of the chance to trade up: "Trade you a bologna sandwich for pretzel sticks."

Another problem are the lunch boxes that return home with half-eaten sandwiches and untouched apples. What's a mother to do?

Lunch in Stages
Elementary-school children don't always like a big, all-in-one sandwich or a whole piece of fruit.

They prefer their food in small bites. Send pre-wrapped cheese slices, turkey or ham in a baggie, three or four crackers in place of bread, and peeled and sliced carrots and apples.

Small containers of yogurt, cottage cheese, and pudding are big hits, too. Freeze juice boxes to pack with them. They defrost by lunchtime but meanwhile keep everything cold.

Bread and More Bread
For those who like sandwiches, experiment with different kinds of bread. Instead of white sliced bread, try whole wheat or dark pumpernickel. Too exotic? Then try pita pockets, bagels, wraps and tortillas.

Add pizzazz to the sandwich with a dab of mustard, salad dressing, or salsa. For fun, send packets of these condiments you save from fast-food restaurants.

Extras Count
Little extras make a big difference. Pack a few pickles or olives in a baggie or small container.

Send cut-up veggies such as broccoli, cucumbers, and zucchini -- anything to replace predictable carrots and celery now and then.

It's expensive to buy pre-packaged chips, dried fruit, and other foods. Pack healthful veggie chips or pretzels in small baggies -- the kids will get their chip fix and you control the amount. Ditto for raisins, trail mix, dried fruit, and crunchy cereal.

Cookies, brownies, or a small slice of cake are always welcome -- and when it comes to baked goods, kids love homemade. Wrap these in plastic wrap or in a baggie.

Special Occasions
Remember holidays and special family times. Use cookie cutters to cut out star- or snowman-shaped sandwiches. Drop a mini candy bar in the lunch box for Halloween or a chocolate Kiss on Valentine's Day.

Include some leftover birthday cake the day after a family celebration. When spring is around the corner, make flower-shaped cookies.

A Message from Home
Young children especially are thrilled to find a note, an old photo, or a cartoon snipped from the newspaper in the lunchbox every now and again. Surprise them -- they'll look forward to opening the lunch box.