As you may know, it's been a brutally hot summer. Even before the massive heat wave broke out, we quickly learned that lunch packing needed to be adjusted.
Teagan spends 90% of her day outside (not during the dangerous heat- they move the kids indoors to open gym time for the hottest parts of the day). On a typical summer day, her lunch box sits out in the heat for a few hours- holding her morning snack, lunch, and afternoon snack. Even without the heat, her high level of activity has her far more interested in having an assortment of snacks that she can fill her tummy with instead of anything that feels like an actual meal.
Zach is lucky in that his preschool camp spends a lot of time outside but lunches stay indoors and are often eaten indoors, too. His lunch is easier.
They are each responsible for making sure that they control their food intake so that they have a morning snack, lunch, and an afternoon snack. I initially thought about marking packages with a stick or something so they knew what items were for snack and which were for lunch. But I also thought I'd rather not do that because I like them to be in charge of what they choose to eat.
The main thing we've learned is we can't pack a bunch of fresh foods. Plastic containers holding berries or cherry tomatoes get cooked- even with a cold pack in the lunch box.
I am committed to packing as healthy a lunch as possible but I've had to realize that the situation calls for a different kind of packing. During the school year, Zach eats breakfast and lunch at school. He gets wonderful, healthy cooked meals and we love the program for it. Teagan has the option to buy but prefers to take her lunch. Because her lunch stays indoors and lunch is a more controlled situation (sitting at tables with friends with lunch ladies and rules and such), her lunches can include fresher foods. We tend to pack bites of chicken, cheese (she likes shaved parmesan the best), berries, apple, tomatoes, fruit leather, and a treat like a fortune cookie.
So between this change on how they eat, the hot weather, the increased activity level, we've learned that we have to adjust what we pack in the lunch boxes.
Here are the other items we are keeping stocked in the pantry this summer for day camp lunches and snacks:
Dried fruit. The current favorites are craisins, pineapple, and dried mango.
Freeze dried fruit. Zach has no interest but Teagan discovered a love of "crunchy fruit" when she first tried Funky Monkey at our state fair several years ago. Target now carries their own brand of freeze dried fruit. We are currently spending extra dollars for the little individual packs but I preferred and will soon go back to buying multiple fruits and making our own mix that we then pack into little containers. The little packs are just saving our time/energy sanity right now.
Fruit leather. Not fruit snacks. I don't buy fruit snacks- they are generally loaded with sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial flavors and colors. We buy fruit leather at Trader Joe's or at Target. Fruit leather is 100% fruit, usually made from fruit puree, and is sweetened by the naturally occurring sugars in the fruit instead of added sugar. (Side note: something I now want to try is making my own fruit leather!)
Crunchy things: Goldfish, pretzels, peanut butter crackers. Teagan fell in love with a little snack mix I created that we call "Gone Fishing" that is just pretzel sticks (fishing pole), craisins (bait), and goldfish (your catch). I'm not a huge fan of these snacks but they are great for this specific season of lunch packing.
GoGoSqueeZ: Zach has always loved applesauce. Teagan loved it as a baby and then lost interest. We came across GoGoSqueeZ at Target and decided to try the Apple Strawberry and both kids LOVED it. These little pouches are 100% fruit, no artificial ingredients. Go to the website and look around- I think you'll like what you see. We are still playing around with the flavors. Zach hasn't met one he doesn't like. Teagan's preference is Apple Strawberry or Apple Berry.
I have tried packing produce for them. Apples, cherry tomatoes from the garden, grapes. But they tend to just bring them back home.
A typical lunch box will include: peanut butter crackers, pretzels, goldfish, dried fruit, fruit leather, GoGoSqueeZ, yogurt, cheese. We will double up on some items, sometimes throw in a cereal bar for Zach, freeze dried fruit for Teagan.
No, we don't have these lunch bags. But they are cool!! They came from an Etsy shop that is no longer in business.