Packing Favorites for Back to School Lunches

Here in New York City, kids don't go back to school until after Labor Day. So we're enjoying these last bits of summer and gearing up for our new schedules. My biggest concern at the moment is how we'll adjust to an earlier wake up time and an earlier bed time. Should we start setting an alarm this week? Or should we relish these last few days of sleeping until after 7:00 am? 

There's been a lot of discussion around here about what to pack for the first day of school already. Below are some of the favorites from last year. You'll see that some seem like big lunches and some seem rather petite... that's just how it goes around here; some days are hungrier than others. For more lunchbox ideas, head over to our School Lunch Gallery, separated into categories for easy browsing. And of course, you can download LaLa Lunchbox for FREE for the back to school season, to make planning and packing easier for the whole family. 

Cheese tortellini, green beans, grapefruit, raspberries, dark chocolate with mint.

Cheese tortellini, green beans, grapefruit, raspberries, dark chocolate with mint.

Breakfast for lunch! Waffles, mini maple syrup, egg, Applegate chicken apple sausages, apple, grapes. 

Breakfast for lunch! Waffles, mini maple syrup, egg, Applegate chicken apple sausages, apple, grapes. 

Ham and cheese sandwich kebabs, mango, apple, chocolate chips. 

Ham and cheese sandwich kebabs, mango, apple, chocolate chips. 

Yogurt with raspberries, egg, clementine, banana, granola. 

Yogurt with raspberries, egg, clementine, banana, granola. 

Banana and sunflower seed butter roll up, peas, blueberries, raspberries, orange, dark chocolate with pretzel. 

Banana and sunflower seed butter roll up, peas, blueberries, raspberries, orange, dark chocolate with pretzel. 

Roll ups with Applegate salami, salad, apple, celery and carrots, chocolate chips. 

Roll ups with Applegate salami, salad, apple, celery and carrots, chocolate chips. 

Hummus, chips, celery, kiwi, avocado and cocoa cookie.

Hummus, chips, celery, kiwi, avocado and cocoa cookie.

Cheese and crackers, strawberries, nectarine, pumpkin seeds, Annie's granola bar. 

Cheese and crackers, strawberries, nectarine, pumpkin seeds, Annie's granola bar. 


Rock The Lunch Box

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I'm so excited about our back to school partnership with Rock The Lunch Box (a fab team from Annie's, ApplegateHonest Tea and Rudi's Organic Bakery)! We've listened to your feedback and have added the products that you love from the brands that you trust. Now they are right at your fingertips within the LaLa Lunchbox Food Library. You can download the app for free and get a fresh start on healthy lunch packing as your kiddos head back to school.

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Head on over to the Grocery Screen within LaLa Lunchbox and click on Rock The Lunch Box to find fabulous ideas, tips from the pros and great coupons. And whether you're already in the throes of lunch packing or you're still enjoying the final days of summer, be sure to check out our favorite lunch boxes so you'll be set not only with what to pack but also where to pack. Need lunch inspiration? Right this way...

Remember, we love to hear from you. If there are products that you want to see in LaLa Lunchbox or LaLa Breakfast, please let us know! And if you enjoy using our apps, please leave a review on iTunes. 

Thanks and best of luck with back to school! 

Rock The Lunch Box Twitter Party

We've teamed up with the folks behind Rock The Lunch Box (Annie's, Applegate, Honest Tea and Rudi's Organic Bakery) for the busy Back to School season! What's that even mean? It means that now, the products that you love from the brands that you trust are right at your fingertips within the LaLa Lunchbox Food Library. You can download the app for free and get a fresh start on healthy lunch packing as your kiddos head back to school. Head on over to the Grocery Screen within LaLa Lunchbox and click on Rock The Lunch Box to find fabulous ideas, tips from the pros and great coupons

Rock The Lunch Box Twitter Party 81815

But here's more exciting news: today, we're having a #RockTheLunchBox Twitter Party! The school season is just around the corner and while kids are enjoying the last bits of summer awesomeness, parents are thinking about how to get on top of school lunch. We’re here to help renew your lunchbox inspiration! Join us, our Rock The Lunch Box friends and MommyFactor for the #rockthelunchbox Twitter Party August 18th! We’ll be sharing lunch tips, recipes, delicious giveaways from all our brands, and we also have some questions for you! Come hungry for ideas and get ready for a fun-packed hour. Spread the word!

Who: You, Honest Tea, Annie’s Homegrown, Applegate, Rudi’s Organic Bakery, LaLa Lunchbox & MommyFactor

What: The #rockthelunchbox Twitter Party

When: August 18th 1-2pm ET

Where: Twitter, simply follow the #rockthelunchbox hashtag

 

For more information on Rock the Lunch Box, visit: www.rockthelunchbox.com.

 

Our Favorite Lunchboxes

When I was a kid, my mom sent us off to 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 lunch packing options out there and thankfully, they don't necessarily involve smushed sandwiches or bruised fruit.

Yumbox

Yumbox

We have four options that we have been happily relying on for the last few years (PlanetBox, YumboxKlip It Lunch Cube and Easy Lunchboxes) and have just added a fifth into the rotation: 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. 

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. 

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. 

Easylunchboxes have three compartments, they're sturdy and they're affordable - plus they come in a set of 4 which makes it easy to color code for multiple kids.

Easy Lunchboxes

Easy Lunchboxes

The nice folks from Fit & Fresh recently sent us their Kids' Bento Lunch Kit to try and while it was difficult for my youngest to open the containers, it's been great for my oldest (9 years old). It has built in ice packs and is large enough to fit the variety of items that my big kid sometimes chooses for her lunch (thanks to these silicone cupcake liners). We're happy to have this in the rotation for the new school year! 

Fit & Fresh

Fit & Fresh

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 the Fit & Fresh has room to accommodate an extra large lunch, for those days when the lunches that my kids pick in advance are on the large side. 

Back to school is almost here, and 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 School Lunch gallery. We've divided it into categories to make it easier to browse (dairy, egg, meat, nut butter and vegetarian lunches) and we'll update it regularly as the year progresses. 

Do you have a favorite lunch box that's not on this list? We'd love to know about it! Best of luck with the busy back to school season!   - Gillian 

Camp Lunches

We've still got a few weeks of camp lunches to pack before the busy back to school season is upon us. The reality is, kids eat lunch every day – so whether I'm packing lunches for my three to cart to school, to camp or just to the park on a day when nothing is scheduled, I'm always on the lookout for lunch inspiration. I've been checking out this Insta account and of course this one and I'm looking forward to seeing loads of back to school posts on this one very soon. 

In the meantime, here are some of our recent camp lunches that have fueled my two older kids through days of nature camp, art camp and STEM camp and my youngest one through carefree days at the playground and the park. We update our school lunch gallery regularly (and have organized it into dairy, egg, nut butter, vegetarian and meat lunches to make browsing easier) so keep checking back for ideas there. 

fresh mozzarella sandwich kebabs, celery, apple and popcorn

fresh mozzarella sandwich kebabs, celery, apple and popcorn

waffle with mini maple syrup, raspberries, frozen peas, mango

waffle with mini maple syrup, raspberries, frozen peas, mango

chicken, pasta, cherry tomatoes, green beans, orange

chicken, pasta, cherry tomatoes, green beans, orange

eggs, green beans, roasted sweet potato chips, mango and raspberries, dark chocolate with pretzel

eggs, green beans, roasted sweet potato chips, mango and raspberries, dark chocolate with pretzel

waffle with sunbutter and cinnamon, granola, egg, crackers, banana and raspberries

waffle with sunbutter and cinnamon, granola, egg, crackers, banana and raspberries

ham and cheese sandwich kebabs, carrot sticks, apple, dark chocolate with mint

ham and cheese sandwich kebabs, carrot sticks, apple, dark chocolate with mint

cheese tortellini, green beans, pink grapefruit, raspberries and dark chocolate with pumpkin seeds

cheese tortellini, green beans, pink grapefruit, raspberries and dark chocolate with pumpkin seeds

yogurt with honey and vanilla, blueberries, wax beans, egg, sugar plums, dark chocolate with pretzel

yogurt with honey and vanilla, blueberries, wax beans, egg, sugar plums, dark chocolate with pretzel

various eggs, crackers, plum, cucumber with herb salt, grapes, Annie's fruit gummies

various eggs, crackers, plum, cucumber with herb salt, grapes, Annie's fruit gummies

cheese and crackers, nectarine, strawberries, pumpkin seeds, Annie's granola bar

cheese and crackers, nectarine, strawberries, pumpkin seeds, Annie's granola bar

waffle with mini maple syrup, Applegate chicken apple sausages, egg, apple, grapes

waffle with mini maple syrup, Applegate chicken apple sausages, egg, apple, grapes

Easy Granola, 6 Ingredients

People and tastebuds are funny. My daughter can't stand peppers unless they are roasted, and happens to love roasted red pepper hummus. My son is anti-cheese *except* he loves macaroni and cheese *only* if it is made by my mother. He is kind of anti-dairy except for the fact that he could consume his body weight in yogurt every day. Food is like politics and religion in a way. We all draw our lines in the sand somewhere. I'm okay with that. 

My 5 year old son is usually a purist with his yogurt but lately he's been game to add some texture with granola. This super easy recipe is so easy, he could make himself if push came to shove. It's a staple in our home! We switch up the dried fruit to add variety and occasionally substitute maple syrup for the honey. 

Granola

Ingredients
2 cups rolled oats
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup chopped dried fruit of your choice

Method
Preheat the oven to 375. 
Combine the oats, coconut oil, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl and mix well. Spread out on parchment paper and drizzle with honey. Bake for 14 - 17 minutes. Once cool, add dried fruit and toss well. 

Big Pig and the Kids

We pigged out. 

I mean it. We bought a 23 pound pig from an amazing butcher called Harlem Shambles and slow roasted it whole on the grill. It was an exercise in bravery as well as grilling and all of the credit goes to my husband, who has wanted to do this forever. As an aside, Harlem Shambles gets some of their meat from Kinderhook Farm, in upstate NY, where my family has enjoyed wonderful farmstay vacations and eaten some of the best eggs I've ever tasted. 

Back to the pig. 

prepping the pig

So we get this thing home and my husband starts prepping it for the grill. I figured we'd just put salt and pepper on it and call it a day. But he had a whole plan that involved stuffing the cavity and tying it up, and he's the Grill Master, so here's what went down: 

stuffing the pig cavity

He stuffed the cavity with fresh parsley, rosemary, garlic, lemon and onion and seasoned the whole thing with salt and pepper. The prep work was no small feat... it took over 45 minutes, involved some minor cuts from super sharp knives and there were at least two discussions about not having an apple for the traditional "apple in the mouth" photo. And then, voila! 

pig!

After figuring out how to put it on the grill, he set it to 225 degrees fahrenheit and slow cooked it for about 4 hours. Here's how it looked about halfway through: 

rotisserie pig

The cooking twine was a bit of a mess and didn't hold together as expected, but c'est la vie. Meanwhile, the kids were both fascinated and disgusted. When the cooking process was done, here's what he brought into the kitchen: 

Big Pig!

Delicious feast! My family and our guests descended on this thing like characters from Lord of the Flies. All of the kids had a taste of the tongue and loved it. Loved it! They also bravely tasted the ears and the cheek (which was particularly succulent and flavorful). My 5 year old announced that he wanted to "open it up and taste the brain" but that didn't happen (thankfully. That concept made me pretty squeamish). Two people tried the eye, which I have to admit, also made me a little disgusted. Only my two year old (and all of the adults) tried the snout. The rest of the kids backed off of that one. Not surprisingly, a 23 pound pig can feed way more than 8 people, and even after sending our guests home with doggy bags (piggy bags?), we're still knee deep in Big Pig leftovers. 

Two of my kids wanted it for camp lunch Monday and I used it for dinner to make noodles with pork and broccoli. We might be on pig hiatus for a while, but it was well worth it. 

noodles with pork and broccoli

I'll use the bones to make and freeze a stock and look forward to creating some tasty soups when the weather gets cooler. Recipes and suggestions are always welcomed! 

Kids and Salad

I've seen and heard of kids eating all kinds of salads. I see it with some of my friends' kids, and on Pinterest that kids eat all kinds of raw veggies and salads for both lunch and dinner. It hasn't been our experience here. While my kids do eat vegetables, they're usually cooked in some way (with the exception of carrots and celery). 

arugula salad with endive and parmesan

So last week when my older daughter (9 years old) had a sleepover with my niece, I was shocked to get a text that she had devoured the salad my sister made for dinner that night. "Must have that recipe," I texted back. And boom! Just like that, a new chapter has begun chez moi. I went out the next day and bought the ingredients: arugula, endive, parmesan and lemon and served it at a dinner party where it was gobbled up by four out of the five kids, and by all of the adults. The salad itself is nothing earth shattering. We're not recreating the wheel here. But it is enormously comforting to see that if you keep offering new foods, that one day kids will be comfortable enough to give it a go. 

My daughter even requested it for lunch today. A first! She says she loves the spicy arugula and the mild endive mixed together. And she's a huge parmesan cheese fan. Plus, most things taste amazing with olive oil and lemon. 

lunch with salad!

Do your kids eat salad? If so, what kind? 

Arugula Salad with Endive and Parmesan

8 oz baby arugula 
1 endive, sliced
4 oz Parmesan, sliced with a cheese plain
Juice of one lemon
Olive oil to taste

Toss all salad ingredients together. Drizzle olive oil and squeeze lemon juice on top. Combine everything and eat immediately.