Power Your L​unchbox For Lunchtime Success

School starts for my kids in just a week and we’re trying to wrap our brains around it. We’ve had a busy (busy!) summer with a move, swim team, vacations and just fun with family and friends–we’re never quite ready for it to end. I know many of you with kids in school had some of them head back a couple of weeks ago so maybe you’re already looking for new ideas! So even though my kids are getting older, it seems we can never have enough ideas to keep packed lunches interesting AND tasty.


As some of you may know, I’m a Parents on Produce member for Produce for Kids®. Starting last week and running through September 15th, they kicked off the new Power Your Lunchbox Pledge which encourages parents to pack healthier lunchboxes for their kids this back-to-school season. Visitors to poweryourlunchbox.com can pledge to pack healthier lunchboxes; get dietician-approved, kid-friendly lunchbox ideas and tips; and download coupons from companies supporting the program. Sounds pretty great, huh?

Well, here’s the extra bonus! For every pledge that families or individuals take, participating produce companies will make a 25 cent donation to DonorsChoose to fund health and wellness classroom projects around the country! Additionally, Define Bottle will be providing DonorsChoose.org with 20 percent of each sale during the pledge time frame! (Coincidentally, my kids have been asking for a Define bottle since seeing them on the Shark Tank television program awhile back!)

“There is so much in the news today about what kids are eating during lunch at school,” said Trish James, vice president, Produce for Kids. We’re excited to be encouraging parents to pack healthier lunchboxes this school year and providing them with resources to do so. “In addition, we’re able to raise funds to educate kids in the classroom about making healthier food choices and the importance of nutrition and exercise.”

Produce for Kids’ Instagram and Twitter fans can use the #PowerYourLunchbox hashtag to show off their healthy lunchboxes throughout the program to be automatically entered to win weekly prizes and have their lunchboxes featured on Produce for Kids’ Facebook page. Prizes include bento boxes, fruit-infusing water bottles, grocery store gift cards and more.

Parents looking for even more tips and resources for healthy lunchboxes are invited to join me, Produce for Kids and partner companies at the #PowerYourLunchbox Twitter party on August 20, 2014 at 9 pm ET. Twitter parties are always so much fun and I ALWAYS learn something new (well, usually lots of something new!)
#PowerYourLunchbox sponsored by Produce For Kids

Y’all, they even have a Power Your Lunchbox Pinterest board that you can check out–so many great ideas there!
#PowerYourLunchbox Pledge Pinterest Board ideas

I’ve personally added a few Produce For Kids recipes to our own “must make” list. I think these sound like tasty choices that my kids will enjoy and my teen (especially) will think are “cool” enough to bring to school, too! These are tops on my list:

#PowerYourLunchbox sponsored by Produce For Kids
(pictured clockwise from left)

Easy Lunch Stackers Bento Box

Mac N Cheese Muffins

Pizza Bento Box

Italian Orzo Pasta Salad

Produce for Kids partners supporting Power Your Lunchbox Pledge include: AMC Direct South African Summer Citrus, Define Bottles™, GROW by Organics Unlimited, Laptop Lunches® Bento-ware and Pero Family Farms®. These companies will be making a difference by helping Produce for Kids fund health and wellness classroom projects across the U.S. through DonorsChoose.org.

Have you heard of DonorsChoose ? It’s pretty cool! It is an online charity aimed at helping public and charter schoolteachers across America obtain the supplies needed for their classrooms. To date, 190,000 public and charter schoolteachers have used DonorsChoose to secure $247 million in books, art supplies, technology and other resources to enhance student learning. Even you can give to DonorsChoose. By making a donation online, YOU get to choose which teacher and/or project you want to support. It’s really neat.

Are you are teacher or know one? Teachers across the country are encouraged to begin uploading their health and nutrition-based classroom projects as early as September 1 to receive funding from the Power Your Lunchbox Pledge program. Produce for Kids will be enlisting the help of the public to match donations to all projects that meet these requirements. For more information on teacher eligibility, please visit DonorsChoose.org <http://www.donorschoose.org/donors/viewChallenge.html?id=242936>

It’s SO easy to take the Power Your Lunchbox Pledge! Just CLICK HERE to get started. I hope you’ll join in all these opportunities for tasty lunchbox ideas for you and your kids that ultimately help kids all over, too!

Disclaimer: I have not been compensated in any way for this post–I am just an excited member of the Parents On Produce board hoping to share the wonderful resources mentioned here!

Boar’s Head Jerk Chicken, Spinach and Avocado Wrap (Sponsored Video)

We love wraps! They are an easy way to jazz up a lunch whether it’s on the go or at home. I love that you can customize them to everyone’s individual tastes and include lots of yummy produce too! When I choose lunchmeat, I like to choose Boar’s Head because they have SO many different flavors and types from lower sodium to low nitrates to all different kinds of flavored meats. We pretty much always have baby spinach and avocado at our house so that’s what I decided to include in these. And the spicy Jerk Turkey from Boar’s Head’s new Bold Mission flavors give these wraps just enough zip to make the flavor pop!

6 slices Boar’s Head Jerk Turkey
4 slices Muenster cheese
¼ C baby spinach
½ sliced avocado
1 tablespoon ranch dressing
Two whole wheat tortillas

Layer chicken, cheese, spinach and avocado on one side of the tortilla. Drizzle ranch dressing over ingredients. Starting at end with turkey, cheese, spinach and avocado, begin rolling tortilla ending with unfilled end (this allows for the ingredients to shift and it will be less likely for it to all spill out). Haven’t heard of Boar’s Head’s Bold Mission flavors line of lunch meat and cheeses? Then check out this fun video below!

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Boar’s Head and I am being compensated however all opinions are my own.

Keep Fruit Fresh-Lunchbox Tip!

Have you seen those little packages of cut up apples or other fruit sold in the grocery store or wholesale club? I’ve bought them when in a pinch as an easy alternative to sending cut up fruit in the kids’ lunches. But they can be pretty expensive and sometimes the fruit starts to turn brown even before the expiration date.

I’ve known about putting lemon juice on apples to keep them from turning brown, but the straight lemon juice can give the fruit a funny taste and then fruit comes home uneaten. Not exactly the plan I had in mind! There had to be a way for me to make my own for a lot less money.

So, awhile back I came across this tip on Lunch In a Box to keep acidulated water (lemon or lime juice mixed with water).

I’m not very exact about it. I usually fill a measuring cup with about one and half cups of tap water, then squirt some lemon juice in. Maybe two teaspoons I’d guess. Until recently, I was making up this mixture each evening when I was making lunches but after becoming more conscious about food waste, I started to feel bad pouring the mixture out when I was done dunking the apple slices.
Instead, I now make up the mixture and keep it in a resealable container in the refrigerator to dunk slices each night. It’s been working great and I can keep the water for at least a week before I feel I need to pour it out.

Here’s how it works:

Make up the lemon juice and water mixture and transfer from measuring cup to a resealable container.

Slice the apples and put them in the water. I usually dunk them pretty well (push down and around so they’re all covered by the lemon water) and leave in for about a minute.

Put in container for carrying in lunch or where ever! These apples actually went to school in my daughter’s lunch. She didn’t eat all of them (I put a lot in there) so these came back home. I put them in the refrigerator and remembered to eat them the NEXT day. You can see they are not really brown at all and that’s after more than 24 hours since being cut up!

I’m planning to try this with pears next but I imagine it should work just as well. I hope this little tip will help you get healthy foods into your family’s meals-on-the go and save a little money too!

Kitchen Organization (Part 3): Back To School Launch Pad

Several years ago I read about creating a Launch Pad to help us get out the door on hectic mornings. I set ours up in the front closet and it has made the process of getting going a whole lot easier. Since then, I’ve taken it one step further and applied the launch pad idea to the kitchen and created a lunch preparation launch pad.

I’m sure I’m the only one whose cabinets and drawers get out of control after awhile, right? :-) But in case you know someone who’s like me, just pass this info. on to them. You know, the person who sometimes get in a rush and just throws things in the cabinets and drawer? Before you know it you have a real mess on your hands. It’s generally a good idea to go through everything at least annually to get reorganized. Be sure to evaluate and purge containers that are broken, you no longer use (like all those snack cups for toddlers we don’t need any more—at least not so many!) and other unused items…some may be recycled while others may head to the donation box.

Lunch Pad drawer before.

Lunch Pad drawer after.

Storage container cabinet before.

Storage containers organization during.

Storage container cabinet after (lunch containers are on bottom shelf).

I have two primary areas for my lunch preparation tools and containers. First, I’ve created a drawer that holds our reusable beverage containers, reusable snack/sandwich bags, our fabric napkins, bento box tools (the few that we have), sandwich cutters and a few other essentials to streamline lunch making. Secondly, I have designated a shelf in my storage container cabinet just for lunch making items…our reusable sandwich boxes and other containers that hold more “wet” foods like soup or pasta, dips or wet fruits like cut up watermelon, etc.

In between those areas are my refrigerator, a kitchen island and my pantry so grabbing what I need is all right there (yes, our kitchen is one thing that sold us on this house—the layout is great!) So when setting up your Lunchtime Launch Pad, try to locate it near the items that you will be pulling from to put into the lunch.

I try to make the kids’ lunches in the evenings and put things that need to stay fresh in the refrigerator to pull out in the morning. And when they’re able to help, it makes things a lot easier for them too to find what they’re looking for! Then, all we have to do is put it all into the lunch bag just before it’s time to go–that’s one more way for us to streamline our morning routine. And if you were inspired by last week’s guest post on bento-box lunch making, check out Michelle’s Journal Corner blog and her Muffin Tin Monday feature for how to organize all the tools that can come with that!

Lunches packed and ready to go!
(cold items like drink containers and fruit go
into refrigerator to be pulled out in the morning)

I hope this helps you get off to a great start of the school year (or any time) and making packing lunches a little less stressful!

Giveaway Winner! Back To School Goodies

Congratulations to Tracee! She is the winner of my Back To School giveaway. I used Random.org to choose the winner and the number was #22–Tracee’s number! Tracee, please contact me within 48 hours so I can get the goodies on their way to you.

Thanks to everyone who entered and for sharing your great lunchbox ideas! Be on the lookout for another giveaway coming this week!

Back To School Giveaway!

Today is my Facebook birthday–yay! It was on this day last year that I put up my Facebook fan page and 380+ Facebook fans later here we are–thank you all!

In honor of my Facebook birthday AND back-to-school, I’ve got a giveaway for you! Included in this prize package are some items that will make packing a lunch a little more fun! It includes one each of the following:

–Dip & Snack Container (as mentioned in last week’s guest post about Healthy Lunchbox Ideas)
–Heart-shaped Sandwich Cutter
–Heart-shaped lid design sandwich keeper
–Yellow lunch tote (it’s not insulated but it’s very cute!)
–Package of Four Reusable produce bags (as mentioned in my Go Green post last spring)
(I realize the colors are little girly so if you don’t pack lunches for girls and you win, just give it to a friend who does!)

Here’s How To Enter:
1. Leave a comment with your favorite quick and easy on-the-go lunch ideas.
2. Become a follower of my blog (link is on the left of this page)
3. Like Meal Planning Magic on Facebook
4. Email subscribe to my blog.
5. Blog about the giveaway and leave me a link to your post.
6. Update your Facebook status with a link to this post.
7. “Tweet” about this post.
8. Vote for my blog at Babble.com’s Best Mom Food Bloggers (I’m currently on page 2, #69 but hopefully your votes will move me up!)

Remember, leave a comment for each entry. Only one entry per person per method listed above. If you are already a follower or subscribe to my blog, you can still have an extra entry–just mention that in the comment. Good luck!

Giveaway Rules:
Winner will be chosen via random.org and will have 48 hours to claim their prize. If prize is not claimed a new winner will be chosen. Winner will be posted on blog and if an email is given, they will be contacted via email. Open to US and Canadian residents only (sorry to my other international readers!)

Disclosure: I, myself, purchased all the items in this giveaway. I did not receive any compensation from any of the companies mentioned in this post or the items shown for this giveaway. Check out Giveaway Scout’s listing of blogs with giveaways for more chances to win great prizes (seen link to the left).

Lunchtime Doesn’t Have to Be Scary!

Lunchtime. The mere thought of it can strike fear into even the most organized or health-conscious parent. Since I began sharing my meal planning message with other parents, have discovered that coming up with new ideas for what to pack for school lunch can sometimes be a bigger challenge than figuring out what is for dinner. Is it something that your child will eat? Will he or she trade it for something better? Or just toss it because they really don’t like it but have never bothered to tell you that? Is your child’s school a “nut-free zone”? It seems to have become much more complicated than it should be!

Well, I’m right there with ya! I have made it my personal quest to come up with new ideas of what to pack in my kids’ lunches. I’ve scoured the net to find resources that might give you the inspiration to try just one new thing this week. And that’s what I recommend…start small by trying one or two new things this week. Whether that’s adding grape tomatoes instead of seedless grapes or cheese and crackers instead of a ham and cheese sandwich, add it to your arsenal if it is a winner. Keep track of those hits and misses by writing them down (in your meal planning binder of course!). So when you’re spreading peanut butter on what seems like the millionth sandwich, you can go back to the list and choose something different for tomorrow’s lunch.

Another way to add to the list is to just ASK your kids what they want. Seems simple enough but how many of you have actually sat down with your kids and brainstormed new lunch or snack ideas? We did this last year and it almost became a game with my kids. They were coming up to me days later saying things like, “Mom! I forgot to add avocado! Add it to the list!” Keeping track of what you brainstorm is key. If you’re like me, your brain has to keep track of so many details that if you can delegate that task to a piece of paper (or computer list) I say go for it! Then all you have to do is refer to the list instead of starting all over.

Lastly, check out some of the resources here on my blog. One book I recommend is “The Healthy Lunchbox” by Marie McClendon and Cristy Shauck. They’ve done a lot of the legwork for you with forms and tables that have taken some of the work out of planning lunches for your kids. I’ve also added some lunch links to the Meal Planning and Recipe Idea Links section…take some time to check them out and I’m sure you’ll come away with at least one new idea you can probably try tomorrow! I hope you’ll find the inspiration to make this year the year of more creative (and hopefully healthy) kid lunches!

P.S. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments section for this post!