Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunday Savings Tip: DIY Lunchables

Who doesn't love lunchables? They're small, cute & fun to assemble and eat. I freely admit the little dude ate plenty of these in his toddler years. Especially when getting anything into him was a big battle! As he's grown, his sense of food adventure has expanded (thank goodness!). He's much more willing to try new foods and recipes. However, he still has a soft spot for those little packaged lunches.

Now, there are two really great reasons NOT to feed these to him. One, they are expensive for what you get. Store brands cost $1.29 for 6 crackers, 6 pieces of american cheese and 6 squares of bologna. If purchased in bulk, its about .25 worth of food. Secondly, they have little to no actual nutrition, just calories. Its hard to spend the time I do shopping, prepping and cooking healthy meals at home for the family and then send junk with him to school.

Thankfully the idea behind lunchables is easily translated into real food.

For a meat/cheese lunchable: These are my favorites. I often get tired of making sandwiches (for myself and everyone else) This is a quick throw together lunch that covers the same bases but in a different way. For the base of your stack, choose a whole wheat "triscuit" style or similar cracker. If you get them baked, they often have only whole wheat & salt as ingredients. For the cheese, replace the american with a nice organic cheese you like-- mozzarella, cheddar, jack. It's pretty convenient that a basic slice of cheese will fold and break into 4 perfect squares. So 2 slices of cheese will set you up for 8 cracker stackers. For the bologna, replace with sliced lunchmeat w/o nitrates, sugar or added preservatives (try the deli counter if you can't find it prepackaged). When assembling, be sure to pack the crackers separately from the cheese/meat or they'll get soggy.

For a pizza lunchable: These are the little dude's favorite! He loves pizza and the whole "make it yourself" aspect really gets him excited! For the crust, try a whole wheat tortilla or pita cut into quarters. For the sauce, I just use an organic canned tomato sauce. I've taken the extras, divided it up into portions and frozen them in my silicon muffin liners. After its solid, I'll pop them out and toss in a baggie in the freezer. On days when he wants this for lunch, I'll just put one disk into a sealed container or baggie and it'll defrost by lunch. For the cheese, I just shredded up some organic mozzarella. Couldn't be any easier! He's happy, I'm happy, its a win/win for everyone!
Whole wheat tortilla from Trader Joe's, quartered

Sauce art

Finished slice w/shredded mozzarella
Extra sauce for the freezer/future lunches!

To complete this easy lunch, just add a piece of fruit and/or some veggie sticks and a bottle of water!

If you really want to get cute, get one of those divided plastic bins and it will look just like the ones from the store!

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