Huge App Update and New Food Bundles to Fit Every Lifestyle

Sneak peak from our new Nut Free bundle

Sneak peak from our new Nut Free bundle

When we first launched LaLa Lunchbox back in 2012, our goal was to make school lunches easier for families. Our mission was to get kids engaged in the meal planning process in a long term effort to help raise the next generation of healthy eaters. We sought to make the "what's for lunch" chore easier for parents, to help them save time and money by packing lunch items that they had already shopped for, and that their kids would actually enjoy eating. 

Sneak peak from our new Dairy Free bundle

Sneak peak from our new Dairy Free bundle

We've been overwhelmed by the response in the last four years! To the LaLa Lunchbox users who email us with comments and praise, we thank you tremendously. We could not have come this far without you! To the publications who have posted about us, we are forever grateful. You have helped hundreds of thousands of people find relief in the daily slog of lunch packing. 

Sneak peak from our new Gluten Free bundle

Sneak peak from our new Gluten Free bundle

While we are satisfied with how far we've come, the lunch-packing struggle is far from over. Here's the big news: to celebrate the back to school season, we've made the LaLa Lunchbox app FREE to download (what are you waiting for?)

Sneak peak from our new Vegetarian bundle

Sneak peak from our new Vegetarian bundle

And the even bigger news: in response to the ever-changing landscape around families and food, we have added five dietary-specific food bundles for users to download -- nut free, dairy free, gluten free, vegetarian and kosher. Four of them have been curated by well-known, phenomenal dietitian and blogger Holley Grainger and the kosher bundle has been curated by the ever-amazing kosher blogger and cookbook author Ronnie Fein. Each bundle contains about 25 new ideas to provide lunch packing inspiration for a variety of lifestyles and eating habits. In addition to these dietary-specific bundles, we've also added three new bundles filled with lunch inspiration from drool-worthy creative food geniuses: Aviva Wittenberg, Sylina Lunches and Gina Kirk.

Sneak peak from our new Kosher bundle

Sneak peak from our new Kosher bundle

Sneak peak from the Aviva Wittenberg bundle

Sneak peak from the Aviva Wittenberg bundle

We hope that this new content inspires you and your family to pack interesting, delicious lunches for your kids this year! As always, we welcome your feedback. Please just drop us a line to let us know how it's going. If you'd like, follow along on Instagram, where we post daily pics of school lunches - we're there in the trenches with you! Be sure to tag us (@lalalunchbox) to show off your lunch creations.

Sneak peak from the Sylina Lunches bundle

Sneak peak from the Sylina Lunches bundle

You'll be able to browse the new food bundles on the app and decide whether the content is for you before downloading. We think you'll be pretty excited when you see the wealth of healthy, delicious, kid friendly options. Of course, these new bundles won't replace the food library you already have -- they're designed to add even more amazing content to our already robust selection of foods. If your child attends a nut-free school, if someone in your family has allergies or sensitivities, if you have dietary preferences for any reason whatsoever or if you just want a fresh injection of new lunch inspiration, we've got you covered. Please note: these bundles are available for a separate, one time fee of $2.99, and with about 25 new lunch ideas in each bundle, that amounts to approximately 11 cents per idea. 

Sneak peak from the Gina Kirk bundle

Sneak peak from the Gina Kirk bundle

So listen, back to school can be an overwhelming time for families. And getting back into the school lunch routine can be downright intimidating. We get that, and we're here to ease the pain. After you download LaLa Lunchbox, go ahead and hand over your iPhone or iPad to the kiddos and let them pick out the foods for their lunches. Their choices will become and easy-to-use grocery list for you so you'll stay on top of your lunch game. As Holley says, "inviting children to lend a voice in the food they eat helps to cultivate a healthy relationship with food, fosters a sense of pride and makes kids more likely to eat more food, resulting in less waste and more money saved." We bet that after using LaLa Lunchbox regularly, you'll never open up a smelly, uneaten wasted lunch at the end of the day again, and you'll never sweat over the "what's for lunch" question again. Win-win. 

Please feel free to email us with comments, questions or feedback - our customers are our number one priority! Best of luck with back to school!  - Gillian 

You may also like:
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Top 5 Reasons to Involve Your Kids in Meal Planning
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Plan B and the Secret to a Delicious Lunch

I've struggled over the years to carve out solo time for each of my three kids on a regular basis. Who doesn't love the idea of a weekly mom-kid date? But somehow life gets in the way and I can't seem to make it happen with the kind of regularity that I'd like. Ugh. So when I had the opportunity to dine with my youngest (soon to be 4), I changed my plans and made it happen. 

We decided to go out to a neighborhood restaurant and when I got home, my little gal was all dressed and ready to go. I spent ten minutes packing the lunch that she had planned for tomorrow and we headed out the door. 

This kid is an adventurous eater. Let me qualify that though: she can't eat dairy, and I'm allergic to fish and nuts, so we don't have that in our home and she's never tried either, but beyond that, she eats with gusto most of the time and doesn't shy away from new foods. I'm not sure if that's because of her taste buds, or whether this is a phase and before I can blink, she'll only eat four foods. I try to just go with the flow and not question it. 

vegetable antipasto

We went to a little Italian spot and ordered vegetable antipasto and two pastas: one with veal bolognese and one with zucchini (her current favorite veggie) and shallots. This kid *loved* the antipasto! She gobbled the zucchini. She tried the roasted eggplant and gave it a thumbs up. She tasted the baby artichoke hearts and gave them a thumbs down. She tried the cipollini onions and said "Mama, can I have this for my lunch tomorrow?" She flashed her big dimpled smile and I knew I had to say yes. 

Plan A lunch
Plan B

That's where plan B comes in. Look, you can plan from night to day, but whether we're talking about solo time with kids or a packed lunch, sometimes life happens and you need a plan B. Sure, I made lunch for her already. She chose something already. I put it in the lunchbox already and the thought of wasting food makes me cringe. And let's be honest, I had my eye on those leftovers for my own lunch! But seriously, how can you say no when your kid - your delightful dining companion - asks earnestly for leftovers of food that you're both genuinely enjoying? 

So here's the secret to a delicious lunch: pack your kids lunches that you also find delicious! Her lunch became my lunch, and I quickly packed the leftovers for her when we got home from dinner. Everyone wins. Of course there are foods that my kids eat that I don't love. But generally speaking, the foods that I pack for my kids are foods that I also enjoy. Her veggie burger with edamame, watermelon and granola became mine. I threw some plum into her box of leftovers and called it a day. So for those days when I have to be a little flexible with lunches and leftovers, I take comfort in knowing that food isn't going to waste. 

Easy Bolognese for Weeknights and School Lunch Leftovers

courtesy of The New York Times

courtesy of The New York Times

Marcella Hazan's recipe for Bolognese sauce was a game changer for me. It's rich, flavorful, and comforting, like an evening with an old friend, and satisfying in every way. But when my youngest child turned out to be allergic to dairy, I knew I had to make some modifications so that we could enjoy this dish as a family.

Over the years, I've made some version of Bolognese at least a hundred times and the truth is, it has changed far beyond Marcella's recipe. But realistically, for a working mom with three kids, the recipe has evolved to a point where it's easy and fast for me to make as well as delicious and safe for all of us to eat. 

Here's what I love best about Bolognese: my kids eat it hot or cold, and basically beg for it in their lunchboxes as leftovers. 

My kids love cold Bolognese with pasta in their lunchbox! 

My kids love cold Bolognese with pasta in their lunchbox! 

This recipe can have loads of variation (included below) which makes it incredibly approachable. I'm now able to get pasta with Bolognese on the table in 30 minutes or less, and while it's a far cry from Marcella's slow cooked masterpiece, it fits the bill in a pinch. 

Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small cloves of garlic, chopped
2-3 large carrots, chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion (optional) 
1/2 cup chopped celery (optional)
1/2 red bell pepper chopped (optional) 
1 pound ground meat (I have used beef, veal, pork and turkey. My preference is beef or pork)
salt and pepper to taste
13 ounce container tomato puree
pinch of ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons of fresh basil, chopped
1 pound of pasta
Freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional) 

Method
1. Put the oil in a pot on medium heat and add the garlic and onion (if using). After one minute, add the carrot (and celery and/or peppers if using) and cook for about 2 minutes until the veggies are fragrant and evenly coated in oil. 

2. Add the ground meat and break up chunks with a wooden spoon, incorporating the veggies with the meat. Cook until the meat is no longer raw and season with salt and pepper. 

3. Add the tomato puree and stir frequently until all ingredients are nicely combined. Add the pinch of nutmeg and stir again. 

4. Add half of the freshly chopped basil, stir and let the sauce simmer for another 15-20 minutes while you make 1 pound of pasta. 

5. Toss with cooked drained pasta and add remaining basil to garnish. 

Enjoy immediately and then enjoy leftovers the next day! 

Our Favorite Lunchboxes

When I was a kid, my mom sent us off to school with lunch packed in brown bags. Between the weight of the apple and the constant shuffling of stuff against the bag in my backpack, sandwiches never stood a chance. It was a good day when the cookie wasn't crumbled. The earth shifted on the day that my mom decided to pack tortellini for me in a plastic container. 

PlanetBox

PlanetBox

Today's kids are so much luckier. There's no shortage of amazing lunchbox options out there and thankfully, they don't necessarily involve smushed sandwiches or bruised fruit.

Planetbox shuttle
Yumbox

Yumbox

We have five lunchboxes that we have been happily relying on for the last few years (PlanetBox, Yumbox, LunchbotsKlip It Lunch Cube, and The Fit & Fresh Kids' Bento Lunch Kit

Klip It Lunch Cube

Klip It Lunch Cube

Each option has pros. I love that the PlanetBox is stainless steel with perfectly sized compartments and a small area for a treat. We have the carrying bag that has a perfect space for a bus snack and a water bottle. The PlanetBox isn't cheap, but we've been using ours for over 3 years without any issues so I view it as a wise investment. There are also stainless steel containers that fit inside so you can pack liquids or things like yogurt and not worry about leakage. We have the Shuttle and the Rover, and both fit a great amount of food for lunch. My tween prefers the smaller PlanetBox, and my younger kids love the big one. 

We have two versions of the Yumbox – one with three compartments and one with five. Both are easy to open, a great size and leakproof so I can pack things like hummus without concern that it'll be all over the apple slices. I wish it were easier to clean the skinny grooves on the underside of the tray, but that could be my dishwasher's fault. 

 

The Klip-It Lunch Cube has a neat design that's easy for kids to open, conveniently fits in a variety of bags and is also well priced. It's perfect for kids who love sandwiches but it isn't leakproof. 

Lunchbots

The Lunchbots container is great because it's compact and fits into a variety of lunchbags. It's also super easy to clean and fits a surprisingly large amount of food. I wish that it were leakproof and I wish that the top had a sturdy clasp to stay put, but we have had no problem keeping it closed with a rubber band, and my tween is a big fan of this box. 

Fit & Fresh

Fit & Fresh

Finally, there's the Kids' Bento Lunch Kit from Fit & Fresh. While it was difficult for my youngest to open the containers, it's been great for my older two. It has built in ice packs and fits a *ton* of food, which is great for those days when one of my kids plans a giant lunch.

Lunch quantity sometimes is a difficult thing... there are days that my kids are super hungry and days that they seem to exist on fumes.  It's comforting to know that some of these boxes have room to accommodate an extra large lunch, for those days when the lunches that my kids pick in advance are on the large side. 

While there's never a shortage of information out there about what to pack, it's also fun to think about where to pack lunch. For lunch packing ideas and inspiration, be sure to check out our Instagram where we post daily pics. 

Pizza Pockets

Pizza Pockets

Pizza. I said it and you got hungry, right? My two older kids love it, but if we eat pizza, it's always made at home. My youngest is dairy free and ordering a cheeseless slice is too hard sometimes. Pizza Pockets are a new fun way for us to eat pizza as a family and they're a great opportunity for us to customize our toppings, or fillings, as it were. The end result is a dish full of pull-apart pizza magic! It's hands-on fun for the family, and if you're a fan of the DIY meals like we are, you'll want to add this to your list. These are great for packing in those lunchboxes too, and so easy to add to the LaLa Lunchbox food library! 

Here's what you'll need: 
Pizza dough (I used multigrain that I bought at the supermarket)
Tomato sauce
Cheese
Fillings (we used sausage, kale and red peppers)

Here's what to do:
1. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line a baking dish with parchment paper and brush with olive oil. Roll our your pizza dough on a floured surface until it's about 1/2 inch thick. Using a circle shaped cookie cutter, cut the dough into circles and set aside. 

dough circles

2. Add a spoon of sauce to the center of each dough circle. 

dough + sauce

3. Add your fillings. I sautéed sweet Italian sausage with kale, red onion and red bell peppers in advance but anything goes here! 

Pizza Pocket with topping

4. Add cheese. Looks like a mini pizza! 

Pizza Pocket with cheese

5. Fold up the sides into a ball, give it a little twist and place it with the seam down into your baking dish. I've marked the dairy free ones with an oregano leaf on top. Brush the tops with olive oil. 

Pizza Pockets ready to be baked

6. Bake at 425 for approximately 30-35 minutes. Here's what it looks like when done: 

Pizza Pockets fresh out of the oven

And the inside? Yummazing. These are easy to pull apart, delicious to eat and also great for lunchbox leftovers the next day! 

Pizza pocket deliciousness