Thanks to Sunny, I finally have the motivation to make a post that’s been long overdue. I know one of the hardest challenges for us in the beginning of adapting a Paleo lifestyle (that’s removal of dairy, grains, legumes, sugar, chemicals and all processed foods) was figuring out what to pack for lunch. Breakfast was easy enough, since we love eggs. And dinner can simply be solved by replacing grains with salad on most meals we were making before. But lunch, what a challenge!
However, lunch really isn’t that hard – or at least it doesn’t need to be. It took a few weeks (OK, maybe months) for us to finally re-conceive what a packed lunch looks like – but now we’ve got it down and it’s not at all hard anymore. In fact, the sheer simplicity is what has kept us from making a post before this point. We realize there’s more options without bread, than there ever was with it. It was Sunny who asked us to guest blog a lunch box guest blogger series, featuring packed lunch ideas for the back-to-school fears keeping a few moms up late at night. Thanks for the gentle nudge and thinking of us!
I notice that most healthy lunch boxes I see online use images of glass containers, which are seriously fantastic in our home. However, I do not trust our boys with breakable items for school. If you met my jubilant and very active children, you would also agree that this would not be the best of ideas. As a result, we often use container lunch boxes, like those shown below, because they are convenient and store juicy items well. But, the boys prefer the “normal” looking lunch boxes above. We adapt using WrapMats, small BPA-Free containers and snack bags from individual sellers on Etsy for kraut, olives, guacamole, meats, fruits, etc.
True to my thrifty form, I got these Bento brand Laptop Lunchbox kits from Zulilly at 50% off several months ago. As a subscriber to quite a few “discount” sites (Eco Baby Buys is another good one), I see these and other brands regularly – if you really want some but aren’t ready to give up the gold I suggest joining as many sites as you can (create a new e-mail account just for sales if you want!) and then wait until you see them for a price you’re willing to pay. Otherwise, Amazon has some really cute ones too! This particular brand does a fantastic job of keeping food and fluids in the box, but it also comes with a case just in case little hands forget to replace the lid perfectly.
These Goodbyn lunchboxes are my personal favorite. They have a handle, fit well into the front flap of Cole’s book bag and have a surprisingly huge amount of storage space. However, since the lids have to be put on carefully (or else spills will occur) we usually use these for picnics and events where we know adults can help secure the adorable customized lids (with provided stickers) for our boys.
When shopping for lunch meat look for brands without any ingredients other than meat and spices (like salt, not dextrose). We like Applegate Farms (their turkey bologna is the most affordable) and get wonderful buffalo and venison salami from our butcher and farmer’s market. You can also use your own roast chicken meat, roast beef or pork belly slices to make an equivalent to lunch meat – we’ve featured these examples to showcase how easy and simple lunch packing can be.
We find that the key to success with packing lunches is playing to the kids favorites. Our boys like lunch meat, black olives, fruit, eggs and avocado – so we figure out ways to always include at least one or two of their favorites. We have some seriously excited boys when we offer something with which to dip or wrap. It makes it fun, entertaining and something other school aged kids are curious about, instead of being grossed out and causing an “ewww” scene.
Whatever lunch you pack or carrying device you use, just make it fun and exciting for the kids. Write notes to them and make sure to pack one item they will be super excited to find. It’s hard enough to be different, but if the other children see that your child’s food is colorful and exciting because they always have something cool like dips or wrapped food, then the other kids will be curious (read: jealous) instead of mean about your child’s difference.
And remember, kids have days where they just go, go, go: always pack more than you think they could ever possibly eat! Otherwise, they might come home and say they were hungry for a snack so the teacher gave them Goldfish, Ritz or Oreos.
If these ideas are a good start but still leaves you wanting more, check out the following posts to further provide inspiration:
- Sunny’s And Love It Too Lunch Series
- This ENTIRE blog Primal Kitchen: A Family Grokumentary is dedicated to packing real food lunches
- Sarah’s at Everyday Paleo has quite a few results when you search School Lunch
*Note, the Anytime Cookies, Black Olive Tapenade and Pineapple Sauce recipes will be available (eventually), we promise – until then, use treats (Lara Bars) and dips your kids love (wholly guacamole brand is always a hit with our boys)