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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Sandwich-free Toddler Lunches

My dear friend Bethanne told me a few weeks back that she was stuck in a peanut butter and jelly rut with her son and asked me for some kiddie-lunch ideas.

So I started taking pictures of the girls' lunches for about a week.  

But can I just interrupt this lunch talk to say that I miss Bethanne?  I miss our matching shoes (I think we owned two of the exact same pair and one very very similar... and we often wore them at the same time on accident.)  I miss our coffee dates.   I miss that she was the kind of neighbor who would bring a pie pan over to a desperate pregnant girl the night before Thanksgiving.  I miss Mississippi.  But then again, I don't know if I want to go back because she won't be there with me anymore!  *tear*

Okay let's stop being so sappy and serious.  Although, lunch is pretty serious business.  Because it happens right before nap time and if it's "late" then everyone launches into mega-meltdowns.

My lunch motto: make healthy meals at dinner in large quantities so you have ample leftovers for lunches that week.

It's cheap, it's easy, and it's more balanced than sandwiches.  I kind of have an aversion to sandwiches for a few reasons. First, by not keeping my pantry and fridge stocked with sandwich supplies, I save money on our grocery budget.  We eat bread, but in moderation.  Like as toast with eggs for breakfast.  I would have to buy a lot more if the four of us were eating sandwiches every day.  (Jesse and I also eat leftovers for lunch.  Just not in cute plastic divided containers.)

Second, I think that sandwiches (at least the ones toddlers typically enjoy) offer a somewhat limited variety of nutrients. There typically aren't veggies in a toddler-friendly sandwich.  But there are often veggies in my kid's lunches.  That's really important to me.  

So the picture above is lunch #1.  It was brown rice and leftover roasted broccoli from a dinner.  I also had a mustard sauce left over from a steak dinner... so that was the sauce.  Precooked brown rice is something really good to have on hand.  I make a huge batch every time I make some for dinner and then I put the leftovers in smaller containers in the freezer.  Then I can just bring some out to thaw in the fridge to use in lunches as needed.

Lunch #2: leftover butternut squash-apple-gorgonzola bake, homemade applesauce, and a few sliced bell peppers with a quick curry dip (sour cream, curry powder, salt and pepper).

Lunch #3: brown rice mixed with some leftover chicken taco filling.  Topped with cilantro and sour cream (the tacos were spicy).  Tomatoes with salt and pepper (sometimes they like a splash of balsamic, too.. but they really like toms). Homemade applesauce.

Lunch #4:  More leftover squash, some steak and peas with more leftover mustard sauce, bananas.  Frozen peas are a staple in my kitchen.  My girls like them simply thawed under hot water with a little bit of salt and pepper.  So if I'm looking to give them a veggie side, I just grab my bag of peas.

Lunch #5: Yogurt with coconut, raisins, and bananas.  Half a cranberry-pumpkin muffin, and peas.  When I'm in a pinch (like, no leftovers available because it's the end of the week or something) I just opt for a breakfast-y lunch.  Brunch, if you will.  For example, if we had oatmeal or pancakes for breakfast, I'll do scrambled eggs or yogurt for lunch.

Lunch #6: More leftover steak and peas, deviled eggs, and more applesauce (you can tell I have a freezer full of applesauce right now, eh?  When I don't have applesauce on hand I usually have more fresh fruit around... oranges, berries, bananas, etc.)

Lunch #7:  Leftover taco soup with some chips, cheddar cheese, and some leftover cooked carrots and celery (from making chicken stock that week) with curry dip mixed in.

And here's proof that we do eat sandwiches sometimes ;o)  Nothing beats the sandwich for portability... we have lunch once a week with a friend after bible study, so if I don't have anything homemade that's easy to take (like muffins and fruit) then I grab the bread.  For them: good old pb&J, frozen peas that thawed by the time we ate them, and a banana.  For me: two hard boiled eggs with mustard to dip, and half a tomato-mayo sandwich.

[Also, before anyone raves about how well balanced my kids eat, the answer is NO they did not finish everything on any of those plates.  But our rule is that they have to try everything on the plate.  Just one bite.  I do end up discarding small amounts of food here and there, but over all it works great for us.  They get regular exposure to all the foods we usually eat.  And even if they don't like it today, they will get used to it ;o)  The tomatoes are a great example... both of them used to turn up their noses at them.  But I am more stubborn than they are, so I won.  This book is my basis for our feeding philosophy. .]

Hope that helps give you some more lunch ideas Bethanne!  XOXO


  1. I miss you tooooo!!! We just found out that Adam is going to Keesler for 3 weeks in January and for 1/2 second I thought, "Oh, Yay!! I'll go with!"...no, no I won't...because Jess isn't there WAAAHH! OK, maybe that was a little overdramatic, but I miss you dearly and would give anything to sit down and chat with you in person over a cup of tea.

    Thanks so much for the lunch tips. This was super helpful! Pinning for future use. :)

    1. Oh you should totally go! Keesler in Janurary! Think of all the sunshine! It would be a nice break for you ;o) And you're welcome for the pics. Sorry it took me so long.

  2. I remember when my 4-year-old ate all of this wonderful food. I hope your kids don't go on a food strike like my Giovanna. My Lu will still eat a lot of things (as long as there's not much meat). I'm hoping this phase is short-lived.

    1. Yep! I think you were the one who told me that you can't force a kid to eat. Can't do much but offer up the good stuff on a regular basis, cross your fingers, and say your prayers ;o)

  3. I sure did! I'm also fond of the saying, "kids eat to live, they don't live to eat". Giovanna is coming out of it...slightly. As long as I tell her she can't have a treat without trying everything on her plate, she'll at least taste a small amount. Oh well...it won't be like this for long. It never is.