Controlling the Controllable

November 30th, 2011 · 217 Comments · Organizing, Strategizing, Planning, Uncategorized

Do you know this phrase? Controlling the Controllable. Or should I say, have you heard of this condition? Symptoms include:

-Adding tasks to your to-do list even after you’ve completed them, just so you can experience the satisfaction of crossing that task off the list.

-Having a sudden irrepressible urge to rearrange your sock drawer or color-code your bookshelf or clean the living room blinds with a toothbrush after reading a terrible story in the newspaper.

-Recording what will be for dinner or what has been for dinner every night for going on fourteen straight years, even when those dinners consist of a pasta-potato-buttered-biscuit starchfest (picky toddlers) or a microwaved Boca Burger, which was as imaginative as it was going to get after a long day at the office  (picky bosses).

-Organizing your grocery list by supermarket aisle.

-Mentally spreadsheeting the time your children spend with you versus the time they spend in childcare or with a babysitter or nanny. (And hoping you will come out ahead.)

-Having the fleeting thought If I could make all corners of my life look and feel as orderly as this compartmentalized lunchbox by PlanetBox, then I can accomplish anything.

A little more about this PlanetBox, which is the first in a series of DALS holiday giveaways. The above photo is the lunch my daughter took with her to school this morning, and when I packed it last night after dinner (it was my turn) I employed the same lunch-packing formula I always employ when it’s the end of the day and there’s been some Pinot Noir and not one more brain cell is available for functioning. It goes like this:

Something Crunchy (crackers) + Something Fresh (edamame, clementines) + Something Leftover From Dinner (crazy delicious Trader Joe’s buttermilk biscuit — stuffed with ham and cheese) + Something Sweet (iced gingerbread cookie) = Lunch!

And yes, in case you are wondering. Employing formulas to complete basic everyday household tasks? Another grave symptom of The Condition.

Your kid can customize the PlanetBox with his or her choice of magnet decals. This one is “Modern Art….”

…And this one is “Under the Sea,” but they have over a dozen more to choose from. PlanetBoxes are made from non-toxic stainless steel and come with a carrying case (with thermos pocket) and two smaller steel containers. FREE PlanetBox goes to a DALS commenter chosen at random, with special consideration going to those who have inspired lunch ideas. Winner announced on Monday.

Update: The winner of the PlanetBox goes to Ingrid. Thanks to everyone for playing and especially for the fantastic ideas.

PS: The next giveaway will be announced very soon and will be for newsletter subscribers only.

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217 responses so far ↓

  • 1 SAC // Nov 30, 2011 at 9:13 am

    We use a similar formula…. Crunchy (crackers, pretzels) + fruit + protein (turkey pepperoni w cheese cubes, peanut butter) + a small treat. I like the look of that biscuit, will have to give it a try!

  • 2 Meister @ The Nervous Cook // Nov 30, 2011 at 9:14 am

    “If I could make all corners of my life look and feel as orderly as this compartmentalized lunchbox by PlanetBox, then I can accomplish anything.”

    Haha, no kidding, right?! As long as I feel like my lunch is under control, I feel like the rest of my life can’t possibly be too far behind.

    I always have three courses: A salad, a “main” (today it’s home-baked falafel with roasted beets), and a “dessert,” which is an apple or a pear 9/10. Lunch is my favorite time of the day!

  • 3 Kara // Nov 30, 2011 at 9:25 am

    If I were following the rule today: Something Crunchy + Something Fresh + Something Leftover From Dinner + Something Sweet = Lunch!

    Two thoughts (frst from the fridge, the other from fancy):

    (1) Annies pretzel bunnies, carrot sticks w/PB, chicken in honey mustard leftovers cold wrapped in lettuce, tapioca pudding

    (2) vinegar coleslaw made with long shred red and white cabbage, strawberries, pulled pork BBQ on ciabatta roll, homemade minty marshmellows dipped in chocolate

  • 4 Chrisina // Nov 30, 2011 at 9:29 am

    Inspired lunch idea? Good god, I finally got my kid to eat a cheese stick after 4 years so I’m no help.

  • 5 Meg // Nov 30, 2011 at 9:33 am

    i love using leftovers for lunch, usually whatever veggies we have mixed with quinoa or couscous and a little feta or chèvre (yum!) …my husband is sadly not so creative, and has pretty much had a proscuitto & brie sandwich every day for the last two years. except when i phone him and remind him about the leftover stew in the fridge, of course :)

  • 6 Leslie // Nov 30, 2011 at 9:34 am

    I have been eyeing these this year, but didn’t make the jump. (My husband actually “caught” me watching the video on their website at the start of the school year. He was incredulous that I was “watcing videos about lunchboxes”! Ha! If I win, I’ll buy one, too! I have no inspired lunch ideas. My kids like the same thing over and over. The current fav of my youngest is homemade peanut butter crackers (creamy peanut butter spread between two Milton multigrain crackers).

  • 7 Amanda // Nov 30, 2011 at 9:37 am

    Oh. My.God. I have been coveting those PlanetBox lunchboxes for two years now, but they are way out of my price range. I hope I win! Oh I hope I do….

    Our formula isn’t Beautiful Mind-worthy (Sandwich+crackers+fruit or veggie+a sweet of some sort), but thanks to DALS I learned that I can put LEFTOVERS in the lunchbox. What an eye opener that was – chicken drumsticks? Check! Chili in a thermos? Check! My son’s lunches have improved tremendously with this (rather obvious now that I think about it) addition to the traditional mix. Thanks!

  • 8 Kristin // Nov 30, 2011 at 9:39 am

    We have a formula or more of a routine I guess. Lunch and 2 snacks is 2 fruits, 1 “main”- either a sandwhich (no nuts) or pasta, a cereal bar, yogurt, and a crunchy treat like goldfish. This box looks very cool.

  • 9 Meg // Nov 30, 2011 at 9:47 am

    Lunch today will be curry raj for my 7 month old. Is that creative?

  • 10 Dianne // Nov 30, 2011 at 9:47 am

    Love PlanetBox lunchboxes – but again, out of my price range.

    I have no inspired lunch ideas – my kids go to a preschool at a synagogue, and so we cannot send meat in their lunchboxes. Oy vey, so hard to come up with ideas. And this year, my daughter is in a peanut-free classroom. I’ve got tuna and egg salad on repeat ….

  • 11 Sara // Nov 30, 2011 at 9:49 am

    My son is a Kindergartner and only has about 15 minutes to eat lunch, less when you consider the craziness of a Kindergarten lunchroom! So I fill him up with as much protein & fruit as possible and cross my fingers that he eats some of it! He loves peanut butter on celery, hard boiled eggs, cheese & cracker sandwiches …

  • 12 30 and counting // Nov 30, 2011 at 9:49 am

    I’m new at this and packing a lunch for my toddler is… tricky! He does well with WW tortilla quesadillas with refried beans and cheese. His favorite is the “Nacho Taco” cheese with the taco seasoning in it. Eww. I know. But I feel good about parts of it and he eats it, so it is a winner!

  • 13 Randi // Nov 30, 2011 at 9:50 am

    My kids are big pesto lovers so I often pack them a chicken or turkey and pesto sandwich/wrap! And always fruit.

  • 14 Bodi // Nov 30, 2011 at 9:53 am

    My first grader, who ate peanut butter and jelly or peanut butter and honey every day for more than a year, recently announced that he wasn’t going to eat that any more. What’s more, he no longer likes the smell of bread – so won’t eat sandwiches. I managed to get around the later yesterday by giving him a cream cheese and pesto sandwich, but this post is super helpful in giving me lots of non-sandwich ideas.

  • 15 jess // Nov 30, 2011 at 9:59 am

    My dad always arranges his grocery list by aisle.
    A skill I have not inherited, sad to say.
    I use a similar formula to pack my kids’ lunches. I try to have something fresh, something sweet and something protein-y.

  • 16 Tara // Nov 30, 2011 at 10:04 am

    I actually have a spreadsheet-based grocery list template organized in the order of the aisles at the store we frequent the most. It’s a sickness. It’s good to know I’m not alone.

    I have found that mini-quiches baked in a muffin tin make a great leftover/protein component in a lunchbox. And if you core and slice an apple, then put it all back together and wrap it up tight it won’t turn brown between breakfast and lunch.

  • 17 Nancy // Nov 30, 2011 at 10:06 am

    Beautiful lunch box! Is the Planetbox hard to clean (ie is it one more onerous lunch related chore for the evening)? I’m a big fan of sending hot leftovers in a thermos–pasta, soup, turkey hot dog (with bun on the side!)

  • 18 Tricia // Nov 30, 2011 at 10:08 am

    My formula reminds me a little of the old 4-4-3-2: protein (egg, cheese, peanut butter) + starch + fruit + vegetable + treat. Last week my husband packed the kids “guac kits”: whole avocados (with a plastic knife and fork for slicing and mashing) and a lidded bowl with squeezed lime, salt, and minced onion. Then carrot “scoopers” (cut on diagonal) and matzoh for dipping. Plus a little fruit. They both loved it!

  • 19 Vanessa // Nov 30, 2011 at 10:09 am

    I love the lunch boxes! I don’t think I will get special consideration in the giveaway dept, as lunch here consists of whatever I can rustle up to throw in the bag in the 2 seconds before the bus comes. Hopefully there is something healthy and maybe even something my girl will eat in there:) This lunchbox would be an inspiration!

  • 20 Schuyler Bogel // Nov 30, 2011 at 10:16 am

    We talk at family dinners about what kinds of things to pack for school lunches. My girls have good ideas, most of the time. Right now they are into musubi, a Hawaiian/Japanese treat I grew up on that is essentially a big rice ball (made sushi-style), with some kind of protein, wrapped in seaweed. So yummy.

  • 21 Jen // Nov 30, 2011 at 10:17 am

    With my three kids, I used to employ the crunchy + fresh + main dish + snack (our school system still schedules them) + drink = lunch.

    My 9-year old twins haven’t rebelled yet, so their lunches usually resemble the above mentioned formula. However, my 13-year old daughter now only wants two things for lunch–prosciutto (yes, I know…) and something crunchy (usually Tings). She takes a cranberry and almond bar from KIND (so tasty!) for snack and that’s it. I’m hopeful this new lunchbox would motivate her towards more items in her lunch!

  • 22 Stephanie // Nov 30, 2011 at 10:22 am

    Guilty on all counts! I absolutely organize my grocery lists by aisle. I’ve had my eye on planetbox gear for a little bit, but I’m still making daycare lunches for a picky toddler. They usually consist of PB&J + fruit + sweet potato…sometimes we have leftover pasta and sometimes I cut the sandwiches into shapes. Not too exciting, but maybe I would be more inspired if I had a fun box to fill?! Keep up the great blog!

  • 23 Kelly // Nov 30, 2011 at 10:36 am

    I always organize my shopping list by aisle – a working mom has to shave off time where we can! My kids lunches usually consist of leftovers from dinner or hummus on goldfish bread with some fruit and/or veggies in there so the teachers don’t judge me.

    I love love love those lunch boxes. Hoping it woudl inspire me to pack fabulous lunches.

  • 24 JessicaD // Nov 30, 2011 at 10:39 am

    Man, I feel like I’ve found my people! So many good organizational ideas. Sadly, no great lunch inspirations from me…

  • 25 Kelly // Nov 30, 2011 at 10:41 am

    I love your formula. We haven’t had to pack lunches yet, at least not on a regular basis. My oldest stays a couple times a month for lunch, she is in a half day kindergarten. I love these boxes and had been wanting to try them.

  • 26 NS // Nov 30, 2011 at 10:43 am

    No kids, but for my husband (and future kids, I hope): prosciutto/sliced meat and or cheese wrapped around veggies (asparagus in the summer, broccoli these days, avocado if he’s lucky) + piece o’ fruit + piece of veg (carrot sticks) + a sweet treat (usually a square of chocolate). If dinner leftovers make it past breakfast, they knock out the meat/cheese rollup.

  • 27 Lizzie // Nov 30, 2011 at 10:45 am

    I’m not as accomplished as you are at lunches (partially because I have no kids and so can throw leftovers into a microwaveable mug with a good tight lid, put a piece of fruit next to it, and call it lunch), but one of my Symptoms is Controlling Breakfast: something crunchy/sweet (diced apples) + something vegetably (chopped spinach) + a protein or two (scrambled egg and crumbled feta) = all wrapped in dough, baked on the weekend, and ready to grab on the way out the door.

    During (grad school) final exams, I’m pretty sure that getting up at 2am and bleaching the bathroom because I can’t sleep is a symptom of the same disorder…

  • 28 robin // Nov 30, 2011 at 10:48 am

    my daughter has the same thing for lunch everyday. Actually, she eats it as soon as she gets home because she’s too busy socializing at lunch to eat. peanut butter on crackers, trader joes yogurt, trader joes fig bar, sliced apple, chedder cheese and milk. every. single. day.

  • 29 Angela // Nov 30, 2011 at 10:53 am

    Our school is nut free, and my daughter adds to that a long and ever-changing list of banned items (she didn’t eat sandwiches of any kind for years). I try to keep on hand a big bag of pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds (one salted, another not) and a half bag of chocolate chips — all from Trader Joes, of course. That mix serves both the sweet and the salty and is pretty healthy (except on those days when she picks out the chocolate and leaves the rest). I also find a lunch box with individual compartments/containers is essential, as I can’t bring myself to leave one empty, even with a near-empty fridge, and even on nights when the thought of making lunches is unbearable.

  • 30 Erin // Nov 30, 2011 at 10:54 am

    My son is also a “same lunch every day” sort of kid, which wouldn’t be so bad if his demands didn’t include cold mini-corndogs. Blech!!!

  • 31 Valerie // Nov 30, 2011 at 10:55 am

    What a great lunchbox – I need something fun and envy-worthy like this to help me to remember to pack my lunch every day.

    I am a leftovers-for-lunch kind of girl. I just need reminders to actually bring those leftovers with me in the morning! I’m on a roll this week, and today I have roasted veggie enchilada stack.

  • 32 Courtney // Nov 30, 2011 at 11:09 am

    The lunch box is adorable!! Cooking and serving meals is one of the only ways I can have any semblance of control in my house. A lunchbox like that for my kids would probably hold homemade chicken nuggets, peas for the boy, broccoli and hummus for the girl, whatever fresh fruit I had on hand, and maybe a juice box (no cookies, though- we try not to do that in our house).

    Then again, cold leftover risotto is always such a treat; especially when mom’s comes with one of those mini-single-serving wine bottles!

  • 33 AnEmily // Nov 30, 2011 at 11:10 am

    Gah, I’m having such a struggle with lunchboxes. It’s like a disappointing present when I open their lunchboxes and see what they HAVEN’T eaten every day. Perhaps it’s time for them to pack their own!

  • 34 MaryG // Nov 30, 2011 at 11:14 am

    My kids’ favorite packed lunch is a “taco kit” – baked Tostitos scoops, leftover taco meat (yes, they eat it cold), grated cheese and thin sliced lettuce. It’s all in the marketing…

  • 35 alex // Nov 30, 2011 at 11:17 am

    after refusing to eat sandwiches for my entire childhood (saran-wrapped turkey and cheese rolls, please!), ive come to appreciate the complexity and nuanced genius of the pb&j. maybe having a toaster oven at work helps.

    lunch for me tends to be all over the place – typically I’ll bring about 5 different shaped glass and plastic containers, some reinforced with duct tape so i dont spill any homemade squash soup on my daily bike ride to work. i prefer glass, but there’s only so many jars one can wrap in workout clothes and smush into their bag. what i need is something space efficient and durable (more like rugged!), with lots of appropriately sized containers for my mango slaw, berry compote, farro salad and side of buttermilk dressing!

  • 36 Kerry // Nov 30, 2011 at 11:18 am

    My daughter is on a soup kick right now. But other things we have done are dried cranberries, celery with pb, fruit (of course), applesauce, cheese and crackers, cucumber slices etc. that looks like such a cute lunchbox.

  • 37 Mila // Nov 30, 2011 at 11:19 am

    Challah roll w/genoa salami + Colby jack cheese is my daughter’s favorite :)

    Grandma’s zucchini muffins are well loved lunch box treats…

  • 38 Woodley Place // Nov 30, 2011 at 11:22 am

    The PlanetBox is gorgeous! I just watched the video. I would pack grape tomatoes in the top long compartment, sugar snap peas and hummus in the side compartment and leftover orange-ginger-sesame noodles with edamame in the big compartment. TJ’s chocolate-covered cherries in the tiny compartment and some aged Vermont cheddar cheese in the bottom left corner. My 3-year old would eat every bite between snack and lunch!

  • 39 Cole // Nov 30, 2011 at 11:22 am

    what a fun giveaway! The type A part of me is sqealing inside :) haha

    A typical lunch in our house is leftovers if we have any left over. If not I will toast bread and make a sammy, or a veggie burger with sprouts and hummus. We typically always have cooked brown rice and roasted veggies in the fridge as well that I can throw on top of a simple salad. On the side is always a piece of fruit and a small snack like granola or crackers. Yum!

  • 40 Jen // Nov 30, 2011 at 11:30 am

    Great giveaway! My husband took over the lunch packing 3 weeks ago (GLORIOUS!). Before he took over it was yogurt, sandwich OR dinner leftovers, fruit and something crunchy. He’s much more imaginative, though, so the kids have been getting wraps, burritos, breakfast foods… etc. Things kids are happy with the variety, PLUS now my husband is packing lunch for me too!

  • 41 jesser // Nov 30, 2011 at 11:32 am

    Seeing cool lunchboxes like this one always remind me of the lunchbox description in Girl of a Limberlost (if only I could find a similar one at an antique shop!!) … and I love them. They are organized and neat and pretty and just as importantly, filled with possibilities! Swoon.

    Since my kids are still little, I rarely have to pack a lunch, but here are the hits so far: carrots or cucumbers with dip (riata, ranch, hummus), muffins (savory or sweet), breakfast burrito or anything rolled up in a tortilla, various hand pies.

  • 42 Sara in Montréal // Nov 30, 2011 at 11:37 am

    My personnal recipe is: a main, a yogourt, a fruit, something to drink and a ‘side’ – cheese sticks, fruit ‘n go, etc.

    Anything goes, I favor the leftovers for time saving, but my daughter says she will only eat ham or pork sandwiches. The thing is she is strangly inapt at regognizing what kind of meat she’s eating – frequently misidentifying fish for chicken. So as long as she thinks its pork or ham, she’ll eat it with delight – even the ‘dreaded’ chicken sandwich.

  • 43 Rieke // Nov 30, 2011 at 11:38 am

    We are an international family and try to incorporate foods from differen countries in our kids’ lunch boxes. Something Indian (naan), something Asian (from vegetarian sushi rolls, to rice sprinkeled with sesame, seaweed salad to edamame etc), something European (big, baked pretzels or pretzel rolls)… You get the idea. Not only do they get interesting foods to eat, but we also talk about what different things people eat in different countries, and how that makes each country unique.

  • 44 Caroline // Nov 30, 2011 at 11:47 am

    Nothing inspired over here for lunchboxes… Though I have found that my kids (1st graders) don’t need a huge lunch, as they still have 2 snacks a day that are taken to school. So we usually do the “main” course: a small sandwich, cheese/pepperoni & crackers, or a lentil chili (or other soup leftovers); a fruit and a veggie. They also just get water for lunch, most days, though sometimes we’ll surprise them with a milk of some sort. A small treat and/or a love note may also find their way into the box occasionally. ;-)

  • 45 Robin (noteverstill) // Nov 30, 2011 at 11:47 am

    When we need an extra quick “thing” for lunch boxes, we stick in a small container of chickpeas. Nothing fancy, just rinsed from the can and then (depending on which kid) quick sprinkled with salt, cumin and lemon) or completely plain. Maybe they’re weirdos, but they LOVE chickpeas in their lunches :)

  • 46 Holly // Nov 30, 2011 at 11:47 am

    I’ve been wanting to get one of those boxes. I send my son’s lunch and dinner and snacks with him to daycare, so I try to come up with good ideas. We have a couple staples, things he loves to eat that I always include. Beyond that, I am for a fruit, a vegetable, and two mini entrees. He’s pretty open to food, so I’m trying to come up with new ideas!

  • 47 Alicia // Nov 30, 2011 at 11:47 am

    We share your formula! I do try to switch up the sandwich “breading” — my kids love wraps, TJ wheat mini bagels and pretzel buns. They are also big fans of “mixes” as snacks or in their lunch boxes — which is a great way to use up small portions of dried cereal, crackers, seeds and dried fruit. Plus, they will usually try new things when they are in the mix.

  • 48 Susan // Nov 30, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    My kids are not sandwich eaters which makes packing lunches especially fun. I do a lot of “homemade” lunchables – salami, wheat thins, fruit item and a small treat or leftovers in a thermos. They especially like chinese food, pasta and chili in the thermos.

    Those lunch boxes are rad!

  • 49 Christine // Nov 30, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    I put their vitamins in their lunch because it is so hectic at home. They love those Omega-3 gummies!

  • 50 Ashley // Nov 30, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    Funny, I do the same thing, only it’s usually Something Crunchy (tortilla chips, pretzels, etc) + Something Sweet (banana with yogurt for dipping) + Something I Can Hide Veggies In (sandwiches, salad, etc).

  • 51 Shannon // Nov 30, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    I make a lot of bento-style lunches for my daughter, and I’ve been coveting a Planet Box for a long time!

    The most inspired lunch idea I’ve had lately involves using a sandwich sealer. I lightly buttered the inside of the bread and put spaghetti inside the sandwich. My daughter thought it was incredibly cool.

  • 52 Laura // Nov 30, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    I’m the QUEEN of writing it down on the t0-do list, even if it has been done already.

    Love the lunch box! Glad to hear it comes with the thermos pocket because we are big left-over soup eaters.

  • 53 Hailey // Nov 30, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    so true! Love those lunch boxes.

  • 54 Kristen // Nov 30, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Before my daughter started kindergarten, I researched lunchboxes to death. (For the record, this was the one I wanted!) And I stockpiled loads of ideas for lunches.

    By the start of the school year, though, my carefully crafted plans disintegrated. My husband nixed the lunch box ($60? What if she loses it on the bus?), and my daughter decided she’d only eat peanut butter and jelly. Great.

    We do like to switch up what goes with the sandwich, though — make-your-own trail mixes with nuts and dried fruit are a huge hit. And cucumbers. Not so much carrots, but sliced cucumbers are a big winner around here.

  • 55 Randy // Nov 30, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    Great lunchboxes! I just bought a copy of Bittman’s How to Cook Everything and am teaching myself to cook. My kids loved the “MarkNuggets,” so I put them in a heated thermos for lunch the next day, along with a homemade sauce.

  • 56 Kym // Nov 30, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    the risk of my 4-year old not eating dinner is high…we’re at the peak of picky eating right now. I load up the veggies during lunch (he likes veg, and he likes lunch. Good combo, right!!).

  • 57 Kristi // Nov 30, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    I love those lunchboxes! They are great. For lunch I like to eat leftovers and I always try to hit the food groups…plus a special treat for dessert!

  • 58 Becky // Nov 30, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    My son is a peanut butter-aholic in a nut-free school. Sigh. Current favorite item is a mini whole wheat pita cut into triangles (that’s important — they must look like pizza slices), served with pizza sauce for dipping and mini turkey pepperoni. He won’t eat cheese unless it’s actually ON REAL PIZZA.I tried. Sigh again. Love the lunchbox!

  • 59 Alicia // Nov 30, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    I pack my son’s lunch bag for daycare as soon as he’s in bed. He’s not yet a year old, so crunchy isn’t really in our formula yet, but he can eat pretty much anything we do minced up. A lot of leftovers are involved, but I try to make sure what he gets will taste good at room temperature. Chili with avocado always gets finished. Even sweet potatoes with full fat yogurt are ok at room temperature if they have a little cinnamon.

  • 60 Cecilia // Nov 30, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    Great giveaway! And I’ve gotten so many good ideas from the comments.

    My daughter is just two and she’s mostly at home with dad for lunch. It usually consists of a cup of local organic yogurt (because I swear to you she won’t eat anything but this particular brand and certain particular flavors of it), and some veggie booty. Or leftovers. Leftovers trump anything. Rice casserole, corn pasta, or meatballs.

  • 61 Sarah // Nov 30, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    I love this container, we’re not quite ready for it yet but I’d love to have one for when we are. :)

  • 62 Bea // Nov 30, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    Thank you for a fab post. I have read your blog for quite awhile now and have really enjoyed it. I was utterly amazed that you get your girls out of the house in 45 minutes in the mornings. I also have two girls and I am lucky that I can rouse them from their beds in that amount of time! But I digress… I am glad to read that I am not the only one that uses a formula for lunches. Mine goes like this: (meal- sandwich or chicken nuggets for the four year old) + (vegetable) + (fruit) + (yogurt) + (sweet treat) = LUNCH. Tada! I also organize my grocery list by aisle. It’s in a spreadsheet of which I print out 10 copies and leave on a clipboard in my kitchen. Controlling the controllable. Love it!

  • 63 Jan @ Family Bites // Nov 30, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    I love these! Especially since we’ve been through three lunch boxes since September. My secret lunch weapon is a large stuffed sandwich which I bake on Sunday. Then I slice a hunk off every other day for lunch. It can be filled with pizza toppings, veggies, beans, cheese, etc and makes everyone happy.

  • 64 Amy in VA // Nov 30, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Woefully uninspired lunches but like others, preschool rules severely limit our options. We’ve cottoned on to cheese and crackers, a Stonyfield smoothie and fruit. Kindergarten will rock Kid One’s world when turkey can make an appearance!

  • 65 Nancy Schatz Alton // Nov 30, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    This isn’t so inspired as basic…..plan cold lunches with your kids, so they help select the food; they are more likely to eat it if htey are part of the process

  • 66 Nancy Schatz Alton // Nov 30, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    This isn’t so inspired as basic…..plan cold lunches with your kids, so they help select the food; they are more likely to eat it if they are part of the process

  • 67 Asia // Nov 30, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    I love this. I can relate. I need help with inspiring lunches my 7 year old will actually eat.

  • 68 Jenn // Nov 30, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    I love this! Packing four lunches daily in reusable containers equals a lot of washing each night. One container with little compartments seems much more manageable and fun! We do fruit, cracker of some sort, yogurt, main (usually sandwiches but every now and then leftovers) and a treat every now and then.

  • 69 Sara // Nov 30, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    I love this lunch box. And if it makes me feel more organized and under control, all the better! Love the design.

  • 70 Zoe // Nov 30, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    This lunch box is way cool – and so is the lunch inside it!

  • 71 Emilee // Nov 30, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    Love this post! I am guilty of needing to “control the controllable” on a daily basis. Especially the check list thing!
    Cute lunch box, wish they had those when I was a kid, would have made taking my lunch a lot more fun!

  • 72 Crystal // Nov 30, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    I love, love, love that lunchbox and my girly would love one too. I am partial to pack leftover pizza, carrot sticks, apple and a piece of leftover Halloween candy for lunches.

  • 73 Jennifer // Nov 30, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    This lunchbox looks awesome!

    I’m afraid I’m too often stuck in a boring lunchbox routine (sigh). But my favorite tip is to sprinkle apple slices with some cinnamon. It disguises any browning that may occur before lunchtime and my kids love them. They think it tastes more like a treat, even though I haven’t added any sugar.

  • 74 Kristen M. // Nov 30, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    This post is cracking me up….is this why I organized leftovers in the fridge, caulked the bathroom sink, and deep-cleaned the carpet yesterday!? Totally productive and sort of out of character…

    My zen lunch tips…make lunch while making dinner or cleaning up from dinner, so that I remember to use leftovers. Something fruity, some veggie, some crunchy grain with protein and something special. So far, the kid eats the lunch. Score one, mama.

  • 75 Kristen // Nov 30, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    hmm . . . we stick to some kind of sandwich, fruit or veggie, then some crunchy snack and then maybe yogurt or something. I hate lunchtime! But I would love to have it so organized and controllable.;)

  • 76 liz fisher // Nov 30, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    “Organizing your grocery list by supermarket aisle.” I laughed out loud about this because my grocery list is planned this way and I didn’t even realize it was anal until I emailed the list I created to friends and they didn’t use it…and made fun of me for having one!

    The best thing I ever did for lunches was to buy a Cut-N-Seal tool to make PB & J sandwiches look like the popular version found in the grocery store freezer aisle. My 7 y/o refused sandwiches until I did this and now he eats one almost every day! I also think around a system for lunch: protein/veggie/fruit/treat/crunchy thing

  • 77 JC // Nov 30, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    Such great comments. Must now recalculate and adapt to these fantastic formulas. Thus far, mine has been:
    protein + fruit + crunchy + napkin

    For my daughter, it ends up as a snack bar of sorts.
    My son, on the other hand, is most likely to eat his lunch if there’s a huge bowl of plain pasta and some small-ish, bite-size fruit. Which explains the ravenous qualities of the boy I pick up from child care each day.

  • 78 EC // Nov 30, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    Following the Japanese theory of packing bento boxes, I try to keep my kids’ lunches colorful, aiming for 4-5 colors per lunch to maximize nutrition and visual appeal. For example: baby carrots (orange); grapes (green and purple); leftover sweet potato (yellow); ham (pink) and leftover pasta (white).

  • 79 Hannah // Nov 30, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    We don’t start the lunch routine until next year but I was thinking today that our lunch would have been perfect. Kid #1 has a cheese and apple sandwich with clementine and some steamed veggies (leftovers) and Kid #2 would have all the same things but with the sandwich dissected. It rarely works this well. We are more of a leftovers kind of family. But this box looks like it would work great for that!

  • 80 Sarah // Nov 30, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Oh my gosh it’s great to know there’s more than one of us out there…adding things I’ve already done to my to-do lists and organizing the grocery list by aisle is me to a t!

    My formula is usually a soup or salad + a main course (a sandwich or leftovers) plus a salty snack. In fact most of my lunches fall under your formula if you switch out sweet for salty. My favorite place for inspired lunch ideas has always been this blog: She hasn’t updated in quite awhile but there’s still a mega stockpile of great old posts:-)

    That lunch box looks amazing!!

  • 81 Kdblya // Nov 30, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    If I include something sweet with my son’s lunch, that’s the only thing he eats. So I pack lunch and include a joke on a slip of paper as a treat.

  • 82 Elizabeth // Nov 30, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    I have a very picky eater. He does not eat sandwiches, period. He will not eat food items that touch each other. He has issues with leftovers — usually, they’re not hot enough, despite very expensive lunch box inserts and therma-lunch boxes. As a result, we’ve come up with the “snack” lunch which usually includes crackers, fruit slices, carrots / edamame, yogurt etc. That’s why the Planet Box would be perfect for us — a compartment for each item. Brilliant.

  • 83 nicole // Nov 30, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    I always try to make my kids lunches balanced. That’s my biggest concern. Most days its a square of cheese cut into a fun shape (dairy), a fresh fruit of some sort, great sandwich- wheat bread (grains), ham, turkey or roast beef (meat) and veggies with humus (cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, green pepper slices, or broccoli). They love it and its all healthy so I do too. If we had this lunch box it would make things so organized (and its nice onthe eyes too :)

  • 84 Anne E. M. // Nov 30, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    English muffin pizzas, dal with veggie sticks and pita wedges and leftovers + minced vegetables bundled in ricepaper springroll wrappers are all lunchtime hits at our house.

  • 85 Steph // Nov 30, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    My daughter has one of these and we love it. Worth every penny. I’ve been putting off buying another for my son, so I would love to win one!

    My daughter’s favorite lunch items are turkey and cream cheese rolls, leftover steak, and leftover refried beans or straight tuna fish (both of which I put in the big dipper). She also loves fresh fruits and will eat carrots and celery if I put hummus or ranch in the little dipper.

  • 86 Ingrid F. // Nov 30, 2011 at 2:34 pm

    I pack my kids lunch bento-style. By using a smaller box, I’m less intimidated @ 6 am! I’m still mystified by what comes home-there seems to be no rhyme or reason to what he eats on a daily basis at lunch.

  • 87 Andrea // Nov 30, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    Lunch… must be kosher style… must look like snacks… I am thankful for Trader Joes ever day! applesauce squirters, yogurt (drinks or tubes), cheese sticks, hummus & pretzels, fruit snacks and (maybe) carrots… not really a meal but good enough for pre-school!!! And I LOVE the BOX!

  • 88 Mom of Boys // Nov 30, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Okay, here is my favorite: plain yogurt (european style) in one container and cut up mango and kiwi in another for dipping in the yogurt. He loves it and eats it! Protein, probiotics, and fruit!

  • 89 Stephanie // Nov 30, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    My 3rd grader is a “restrictive eater”–lots of foods on the No-list. I am confident he will outgrow it as one of his brothers was the same and is now a fabulous eater. There is always hope people! I do pack mac and cheese in a thermos and lots of crunch + fruit. The small dessert is his favorite hands down(no matter what it is).
    I totally organize my list around the grocery store set-up. We have a new store and it has messed up my list mo-jo! Oh well, another excuse to impose order on something.

  • 90 Susi Diallo // Nov 30, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    I use a similar lunch box. The one featured is VERY nice. My son doesn’t like sandwiches…for inspired I wrap turkey on picks and stick a cherry tomato on the end.

  • 91 Laura // Nov 30, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    I am definitely one of those “add it to the to-do list so I can totally check that off!” kind of gals.

    We employ the “Rainbow Strategy” at our house. We try and incorporate each color of the rainbow in the lunch box. Red and Orange (apple and orange slices), Yellow and Green (Mustard and lettuce on the ol’ turkey sandwich), and Blue and Purple (blueberry mini-scone…well, it’s sort of blue and purple, right?) It’s fun to find ways to make the rainbow with what we have in the fridge and has introduced our family to loads of new foods!

  • 92 Petra // Nov 30, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    My son wants to eat a PB&J sandwich every day. I try to vary the “main course” of his lunch some, but most of the time his request wins. So I at least try and make the sandwich with different types of bread. I only use whole wheat, and get regular sandwich bread, thin buns, bagel thins and tortillas. This way it doesn’t seem like he’s eating the same thing every day, even tho I pack different sides if possible.

  • 93 Rachel // Nov 30, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Today is my daughter’s first day of preschool! School lunch packing here I come!!! LOVE Planet Boxes but don’t have one to call our own yet….

  • 94 Catherine // Nov 30, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    I have loved this lunchbox for a long time. Lunches largely consist of a fruit, sandwich and snack item (pretzels) but the favorite is a combo of dried cherries and cashews in an old Grey Poupon jar.

  • 95 My2girls // Nov 30, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    I have been trying to adopt the zero waste lifestyle and have been eyeing these lunch boxes but have held off due to the fact that I am trying to purge the house of stuff not bring more stuff in. But I want to discontinue the use of all the little plastic containers that currently go into my daughter’s lunchbox and I think this would be a great way to do just that. Fingers crossed!

  • 96 Chandra // Nov 30, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    Even if I don’t win…I think I’ll have to purchase these lunchboxes. We’re starting the hunt for a preschool and I’ll have to begin packaging my son’s lunch very soon!

  • 97 Erin // Nov 30, 2011 at 2:54 pm

    I usually make lunch with colors in mind. If red bell peppers are the veggie for the day, then kiwi is the fruit. I find an assortment of colors makes things fun to look at and eat. Even when your selections are limited to the tastebuds of a 5 year old. And always, a couple Trader Joes Powerberries for a treat.

  • 98 erika // Nov 30, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    I am going to start creating a lunch plan now that will last the entire 13 years of school lunches that I have ahead of me when my child turns five. That’s about 2500 lunches. I figure that if I start now (he’s 3) I could accomplish this… along with the corresponding shopping lists. :)

  • 99 charsiubau // Nov 30, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    my kids love Japanese bento-style lunches with rice/ onigiri, some meat and veggies and fruit. Normally I do not put in sweet treats.

  • 100 Sonja // Nov 30, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    great lunchbox! i’ld love to win this for my husband’s lunch.
    hmm… my tip is to pre-prepare most or all of the snacks he will take in his lunch that week and dump them into a giant bowl on the counter (baggies of chips/crackers, mini tupperwares of nuts, etc) and fridge (containers of washed grapes, cheese chunks, other fruit) so that in the morning it is grab and go.

    my other time-saving tip is that when i come home from the grocery store i peanut butter and jam a whole loaf (or 2) of sliced bread, slide it back in the bag and store in the freezer! just grab a sandwich and go!

  • 101 Teri // Nov 30, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    I also have a crazy picky eater — and nothing can ever be touching! Biggest tip ever given to me that I will pass on is put it on a stick. I was shocked how many things my little one will eat if it’s in the form of a Kabob lol. Fruit pushed on a stick, the makings of a sandwich on a stick (meat, bread, cheese etc). The possibilities are endless :)

  • 102 Irene // Nov 30, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    One of these would be great to encourage me to eat more healthily at work!!!

  • 103 Kate // Nov 30, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    Your posts always make me feel so much better about myself – so much more normal, since I too have a binder full of our dinner plans for the last 11 years (entire married life), all written on the back of my organized-by-grocery aisle computerized grocery list. So nice to feel normal about living this way!

    My two school children do use reusable containers for all of their lunch products, but in a MUCH less inspired way. My best stroke of lunch genius is to add cream cheese and jelly to the rotation of peanut butter permutations. Not so inspired, I know, but between that and the bagel options, there’s a different sandwich for all 5 days of the school week.

    THANKS for the giveaways!!!

  • 104 Lisa // Nov 30, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    Like someone above mentioned… I pack my boy’s planetbox while I am cleaning up from dinner (or sometimes while making it)… He always LOVES his lunch and is the envy of the kids and the teachers (who usually send a scout out from the teachers’ room to see what Justin has for lunch today!). I post pix of his lunches on my facebook page occasionally and people sometimes end up calling and ordering a planetbox for themselves! I might now win this freeby but one day WILL get a planetbox for myself…especially now that they have a new grown-up looking black carry case!

  • 105 robin // Nov 30, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    I was nodding in agreement while I read this whole post. Glad to see I am not the only one!
    I have a 3 year old and, our lunches, like yours break down to categories.
    fruit-any (he likes them all)
    veg-we also love soybeans, or green beans
    starch-annies bunnies or pirates booty
    protein-cheese stick or sliced turkey (sometimes both)
    Those lunchboxes are adorable!

  • 106 Heidi // Nov 30, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Love the PlanetBox! Alas, I do not have an inspired lunch idea as my two-year-old is so picky if I could get her to eat pasta, potatoes or a buttered biscuit I would be thrilled. BUT if she had a PlanetBox, she might think that lunch is so fun that she might be willing to eat more than a cereal bar for lunch!

    And by the way, I think your daughter’s lunch looks fun and delicious! Thanks for all the inspiring ideas.

  • 107 Rebecca // Nov 30, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    I love these lunch boxes! I have been looking into them for a while, and am glad to hear that they are really great. Thanks for the post.

  • 108 Susan // Nov 30, 2011 at 3:30 pm

    Oh – I definitely have that syndrome! This lunch box looks great. I’m always trying to pack many small containers into the lunch tote but this would be so much better! For lunch I wish I had inspired ideas. We do a lot of snack lunches – some fruit, some crackers, vegies and hummus, some leftovers – a little of everything with the hope that something will be eaten.

  • 109 Ioana Buibas // Nov 30, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Oh that so is sooo me. One of my favorite school lunches (and my 6-year-old’s) is some version of Japanese onigiri (rice balls), stuffed with tuna. I usually put some nori crackers from Trader Joe’s on the side, some edamame and maybe some fruit too. My kid doesn’t like sandwiches, so I have to get pretty creative. Nutella on bagel or bread (okay, technically a sandwich) also is always a sure thing. I usually give her berries with that and maybe a gogurt.

  • 110 Alexis // Nov 30, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    We’re a big fan of dipping things at my house. Most lunches involve:

    Something Chewy (bagel) + Something Crunchy (celery) + Dipping Sauce (sun butter) + Something That Can Be Stirred (apple sauce) = LUNCH

    My son lives for the weekend when he can dip animal crackers in Nutella. Let’s be honest, I kind of live for that, too.

  • 111 jmbh // Nov 30, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    We use reusable cloth “baggies” in my son’s lunch and boy do I feel much better about how many fewer plastic bags we use. He loves to dip anything and everything. Peanut butter, hummus, yogurt are frequent favs with fruit, crackers, and veggies. We send him with a thermos of water for a drink. A homemade cookie occasionally enters the mix, though yesterday he said, “but, mom, all the other kids cookies are perfectly round”. I didn’t realze that lunch envy would start at 4.

  • 112 Kristin // Nov 30, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    1 fruit, 1 veg, 1 starch, 1 protein, 1 dairy…or sometimes 2 fruit, dairy/protein combo, and always the requisite starch…but really what do I know? Because it feels like a crap-shoot every day I make lunch and every day it comes back to me. A couple of things I can count on is my pasta with lemon, peas, ham and ricotta/parmesan and the TJ’s crescent rolls baked with a slice of cheese and lunchmeat rolled up in them. The TJ’s jarred peaches and pears are always good in a pinch when I’ve run out of fresh fruit. They have a little more crunch to them than the average canned fruit.

  • 113 Jesse // Nov 30, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Love this post! My son is a picky eater so we usually pack him a Thermos with leftovers/soup. He also enjoys cheese cubes and fresh fruit.

  • 114 Anna // Nov 30, 2011 at 3:48 pm

    Wait, not everyone organizes their shopping list by aisle? If I didn’t do that, we’d be wandering around the store for hours!

    I don’t have to pack a school lunch yet–kindergarten next year will bring that particular form of parental torture. But we do have a formula for picnic lunches–and lunches and snacks in general:
    Something she’ll eat (homemade ranch dressing, crackers or toast sticks, salami)
    + a bunch of stuff we hope she’ll eat (hummus, cheese sticks, almonds, apple slices, carrot sticks, leftovers, quinoa tucked into a quesadilla).

  • 115 jo // Nov 30, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    wow, so many good ideas in these comments! i’ve wanted a planet box for my daughter for a long time, but haven’t been able to afford them.
    unfortunately lately i’ve been lunch-packing-burned-out, so i’m lucky if i get a sandwich, carrots and ranch, and one other thing in there. good thing there’s all these good comments! dinner: a love story to the rescue yet again!

  • 116 Leah // Nov 30, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    We use Laptop Lunchboxes and have for years, but I could always be swayed by a stainless steel alternative. Oooh, pretty and shiny …

    Today my girls had inari sushi, made at home with sushi rice and tofu skins from our local Asian market. A Japanese friend taught us how to make them and we’ve never looked back. And I always try to enforce some sort of veg or fruit, but I like the idea of using texture as a variable. Crunchy would be popular around here.

    And man, I recognized myself in the list that began this entry. It was a little eerie. No wonder I love your writing so much, Jenny!

  • 117 annie // Nov 30, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Inspired idea? I’m hopeless. I accidentally sent my 2.5 year old to daycare with leftover scrambled eggs instead of macaroni and cheese. What was funnier was that she ate the whole thing and was thrilled. I give up.

  • 118 Krystal // Nov 30, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    Love the crunchy, fresh, leftover, sweet formula and the lunch box.

  • 119 Tara G // Nov 30, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    Love this! My daughter used to be such a great eater but we are also in the peanut butter and jelly rut. However when she starts kindergarten next year she won’t be able to pack that since the school is nut free. I avoid processed lunch meats but she will eat yogurt and cheese. I always include fruit and she loves fruit leathers/fruit flats. Leftover goldfish encrusted chicken strips are a favorite and sometimes pizza. I really hope she outgrows this!

    P.S. There is a great iPhone app called Grocery IQ that allows you to organize your lists by aisle. You can also share your lists real-time with other iPhone users you designate. I use this for all of my lists.

  • 120 Amy // Nov 30, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    I’m not inspired when it comes to packing lunches. My kids thrive on the lack of variety. We do, however, use cloth baggies to avoid the plastic variety!

  • 121 bernalgirl // Nov 30, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    Love your blog, and I’ve been wanting to try a PlanetBox!

    Some lunch ideas that seem like more effort than they take and my daughter loves:
    - TJs Baked tofu cut into “sticks” with hoisin sauce for dipping
    -Salmon onigiri (rice balls with leftover rice and canned boneless/skinless salmon)
    - Hard boiled egg with seasoned salt

  • 122 cathy // Nov 30, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    my formula is fruit+protein+yogurt or carb = lunch. Although she’s 4 and has 20 minutes to eat, and I’d prefer her eat all of what I’ve packed rather than 1/3 of many more things.

    Scarcity is the mother of invention when it comes to lunches. Peanut butter and jelly quesadillas (what happened to the bread?), cream cheese and jelly crackers (sensing a theme?), “sushi” roll up (tortilla, cream cheese, carrots/pears/whatever is available)

  • 123 The PranaMama // Nov 30, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    Did you write this just for me? I am in love with the planetbox AND this post!
    I’m on a similar, something starchy, something healthy, something with protein and something sweet repertoire. One of our faves is hummus and broccoli slaw rolled up in a whole wheat wrap. Or cheese and crackers with apple and a cookie. But without fail, my daughter will come home and complain that her friends all bring candy in their lunch or demand to buy school lunch. It goes to show you can’t really control anything, can you…?

  • 124 Chris // Nov 30, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    I’ve been looking for a more sustainable way to pack lunches for my boys and these look amazing!

    One of my fridge crisper drawes is dedicated to grab & go lunchbox items – string cheese, babybels, Stonyfield smoothies, yogurt tubes, applesauce, etc. Makes life a hell of a lot easier at 7am.

  • 125 Celina Trujillo // Nov 30, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    My kids are digging pomegranate seeds a lot recently. They are fresh and crunchy. PB on celerey with dried fruit on top is also always a hit.

  • 126 Stacy // Nov 30, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    Def I mix it up every day. Today is left over pasta in a thermos, yogurt and fruit, white milk to drink.. I don’t have a formula except I know protein is necessary each snack and lunch.
    My sons fav is leftovers or soup. He accepts sandwiches, wraps etc too but would easily get bored!

  • 127 Trang // Nov 30, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    I think that is totally cute and perfect for my little ones’ lunches. There’s a formula for their lunches too: Cream cheese & jelly/ham/just CC sandwich cut into quarters (must be quarters!) + something crunchy (goldfish/pretzels/veggie straws) + something fresh (broccoli/carrots)+ something fruity (apples/grapes/orange) + a special treat like a Hershey Kiss (DO NOT FORGET the treat!)=happy lunch for the 3-5 crowd :-)

  • 128 samantha // Nov 30, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    i have 4 in school and we do a main (sandwich or make your own lunchable), a fruit, a veggie, something crunchy and something sweet. It has to be enough for snack time and lunch time and two of them are almost teenagers so lots of whatever it is!

  • 129 Deb @ Home life simplified // Nov 30, 2011 at 5:23 pm

    I do a main item (sandwich / wrap / 2 muffins/ pancakes of substance / pizza / stir fry noodles) + fruit + 2 snacks (usually one sweet + one savoury), then decide based on their day ahead + any comments / signs from last lunchbox whether to top up with a filler snack (like mini rice cakes / crackers)

    Love that lunchbox!

  • 130 Natalie // Nov 30, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    I love this post! Guilty on all counts of the controlling the controllable disorder!

    Lunches for us consist of dinner leftovers, string cheese, fruit, and sometimes chips. Always looking for inspiring ideas :)

  • 131 Ivy // Nov 30, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    My daughter is enamored with those horrible ‘lunchables’ (so many chemicals!), so I make her homemade versions:

    Crackers or toast bits
    Squares of sliced quality cheese and/or lunch meat (or sometimes I use cookie cutters and make special shapes of both)
    Little slices of tomato
    A tiny squeeze bottle of mustard and/or ketchup
    Matchstick apples (tossed with a little lemon to retard browning) or orange wedges
    A couple of olives
    A cookie or candy

    Just like the store bought versions, but with a much shorter ingredients list.

    During the winter I sometimes pack a small sip bottle of water and a pack of Emergen-C — like Koolaid but with vitamins.

  • 132 Mary // Nov 30, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    umm…umm…yea, I got nothing-
    (but, would LOVE to win the lunch box)

  • 133 Su // Nov 30, 2011 at 5:44 pm

    If your children are tired of leftovers, try pureeing them and using it as a dip or spread. It’s a whole new meal! Thanks for the giveaway.

  • 134 Slauditory // Nov 30, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    Oooh! My formula is one protein (usually plain yogurt, sometimes chicken, sometimes beans), one-two veg (frequently spinach or celery), one-two fruit (usually an orange or an apple), and a grain (frequently brown rice or Wheat Thins). I might also include nuts/seeds or some other snacky thing as a snack. I pack my lunch every day; each item goes into a one-cup container, so everything is already measured out. That lunchbox brings joy to my heart.

  • 135 Sarah // Nov 30, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    I wish had inspiring lunch ideas! Between a super picky child and a nut-free school, I often struggle with coming up with a well rounded lunch, particularly when it comes to protein. Recently my (meat-hating) son tried (and liked!) turkey at Thanksgiving and I feel like a whole new world is opening up to me. :-)

  • 136 shannon // Nov 30, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    Not inspired, but, I let my 7 year old tell me what she’d like to eat for the week. We made a master list at the start of school and she gets to pick each week what she’ll have. She doesn’t require different meals each day so its a pretty simple proccess. This week its blueberry bagels with cream cheese, fuji apples and a snack/crackers. Since we started this she’s eaten all of her lunch without complaint.

  • 137 tawnya // Nov 30, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    My son’s favorite is “lunch snack” which I made up one day I was tired. It’s base is usually yogurt and a banana or orange and then it’s off from there: toast, crackers, nuts, cheese, whatever. It’s his absolute favorite type of lunch.

  • 138 kristin // Nov 30, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    string cheese + fruit + leftovers. not very inspired but is quick to throw together when you are running late!

  • 139 leslie // Nov 30, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    love these!!! I feel good if my monkeys get something sweet, something salty, and a sandwich….

  • 140 bridgit // Nov 30, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    I totally suffer from controlling the controllable (except that the spreadsheet is in my head), and I love these boxes! We send our son with little containers and one of those fancy reusable plastic and cloth sandwich wrappers that my mom made him. He loves crackers and cheese, with carrots (better yet cukes or snap peas) and fruit. He doesn’t go for meat, so it’s that or a pb&j (on a TJs whole wheat tortilla if he has anything to say about it).

  • 141 betsy // Nov 30, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    Always looking for inspired lunch ideas for my nearly vegetarian girl (scorns all but salty preserved meat) who is tired of PB and J. Love these boxes and will need to go ahead and buy one if I don’t win:).

  • 142 Tarah // Nov 30, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    Oh dear…I guess my hubby is right. I am controlling…I do all those things! The timing for this post is so perfect! I’ve been searching for divided lunch boxes for my 9 month old who will start daycare at age 1. They provide food but with his allergies I’d rather be in “control” of what he eats while out of my sight.

  • 143 ASuburbanLife // Nov 30, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    I make 3 lunches each morning for 3 daughters each with slightly difference preferences/dislikes. Sandwich + fruit + snack + crunchy + napkin note.

  • 144 Leana // Nov 30, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    My daughter is a very adept practitioner of controlling the uncontrollable and this lunch box would absolutely delight her — she does a sort of organization in her own box every morning after I pack it. My best lunch trick is a thermos full of brown rice with soy sauce (or Bragg’s liquid aminos) and nutritional yeast — because she’ll always eat it.

  • 145 Anne // Nov 30, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    I don’t have anything earth shattering for lunch. I am a left over dinner kind of gal–but we didn’t have ANY left overs on Monday but I did have some tortillas–blue flax tortillas actually–and smeared some peanut butter on there and wrapped around a banana. It was awesome! Sweet…carby…fruity…kind of nutty! Next time I am trying it with yogurt and granola ala

  • 146 Hannah // Nov 30, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    So cute! I think I would use it for myself more than the kiddos though. I also employ the something crunchy, fresh and leftovers formula to most lunches. I’ve started making little muffin egg cups whenever I turn the oven on and these work great with salad or some bread for easy lunches.

  • 147 Sophie // Nov 30, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    I want one!! Lunch ideas: If there’s a microwave, I like mini pot pies (made in jumbo cupcake tins)– usually filled with potatoes, zucchini, squash, and cream/flour/black pepper sauce. Those are very filling. And healthy–at least if you focus on the veggies and forget the rest. Swiss-arugula-avacado-black pepper wraps (in Trader Joe’s Lavash bread) are also nummy, and are great when there is either no microwave or no clean microwave in the vicinity. And cinnamon-sugar apple slices count for three of the variables in your formula!

  • 148 Jeanie // Nov 30, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    I love this post and the lunchbox! My formula is veg+ fruit+ protein+ carb= lunch. This gets me through the evenings as my 11 year old packs his own lunch. Quesadillas are a favorite (carb + protein), salad with dressing on the side is a regular, but his gold standard is homemade empanadas – veg, carb and protein in one happy package! Also, half a grapefruit with a pink plastic grapefruit spoon is currently very popular.

  • 149 Karen // Nov 30, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    There are days when the lunch formula comes down to this:
    Something brown/tan
    Something green or orange
    Something brightly colored

    And that’s all folks!

  • 150 Cay // Nov 30, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    I have been drooling over those fantastic lunchboxes but am unable to pony up the $$! My kids have been using and loving their Goodbyns for a couple of years now, but next year my oldest is going to middle school and I think it might get rejected as too babyish.
    Somehow having smaller compartments to fill is way easier than just one big empty lunchbox staring at me at 6:30am.
    AND I have totally written something on my to do list after I”ve done it just to check it off!!
    Ideas: hummus or some healthy spread, with pita triangles and other things to dip into it (cukes, carrots). Also SEAWEED! It’s super healthy, you can cut it into any size, and won’t matter if it gets slightly banged around en route.

  • 151 Renée // Nov 30, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    I pack a little-of-this-and-little-of-that lunch for my 3-year-old. She uses the Lock-n-Lid box, which has 4 compartments and I like to put together something that’s aesthetically pleasing in terms of color. (Ha! Can you tell I only have to pack for one kid?) I really love packing her dried fruit (especially apricots and whole pitted dates), sliced mini cucumbers, and a hard-boiled egg made into little bear or bunny shapes using one of those bento molds. (Reference earlier comment about only having one kid in school so far.) The hard-boiled egg shapes are so adorable.

  • 152 kb // Nov 30, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    My formula is protein+fruit+veggie+snack=lunch. Water bottle always. Sometimes I blow my daughter’s mind and put in a juice box. Or a cookie for her snack. I like to keep her guessing.

  • 153 Cay // Nov 30, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    Oh, AND a question for you pack-the-night-beforers: do things get stale or soggy sitting overnight in the fridge? Esp sandwiches…

  • 154 Kelsey // Nov 30, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    Here is the deal: I do not have children. I have nobody to pack a lunch for, but that has included me these past two years of grad school. I feel like an inspiring lunch box such as these would encourage me to do something beyond “I will just drink a bunch of tea until it is time to go home, oh wait here is the vending machine, hurray peanut butter crackers).” When I was a kid, my Mom’s inspired packed lunches always included a handwritten note with a lipstick kiss on a napkin. And if I can’t replicate that, I can at least make the most of leftovers and will maybe even spring for some string cheese and pomegranate seeds to pack.

  • 155 roselee // Nov 30, 2011 at 10:11 pm

    I am a middle school teacher and have to eat lunch in 30 minutes, sometimes with students coming in for help during lunch. My husband is always looking for new ideas to keep me interested. He does great salads, fruit, and something from last nights dinner. I like having some sweets to share with the kids.

  • 156 Dawn // Nov 30, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    I’ve been wanting one of these PlanetBoxes since my son started school two years ago!

    He always has been an adventurous eater, having whatever we have from American, to sushi, to curry.

    He loves maple yogurt with anything and seaweed snacks which come in prepackaged sizes great for a snack. We will reuse small juice bottles or jelly jars (well-packed) to fill with lunch items.

    Love all the ideas on your site!

  • 157 Danica // Nov 30, 2011 at 10:19 pm

    My son is not quite at the ‘lunch at school’ phase yet as he is only in half day kindergarten but I have been staking out awesome lunch ideas already and am lookingat getting him a planet box for Christmas…yeah, I’m a little crazy! lol
    Right now our lunches always involve a main course, a fruit, something sweet as a treat and milk. I have so many cool ideas I want to try once he is in school…but will have to try them out soon!

  • 158 Heather // Nov 30, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    for dtr: goldfish, trader joe’s granola bar, raisins, clementine, ham sam–carrots if I remember
    for son: ham sam, hummus and pita, granola bar, triscuits baby bel cheese

  • 159 Dawn // Nov 30, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    I’ve been wanting a PlanetBox since my son started taking a lunch to school two years ago!

    He has always been an adventurous eater since my husband and I always feed him whatever we are having. He eats everything from American, to sushi, to curry. He loves maple yogurt with anything, and likes to take prepackaged ‘seaweed snack chips’ for his school snack. We reuse small juice bottles and even glass jelly jars (well-packed) to fill with lunch items.

    Love the ideas on your site!

  • 160 Andrea // Nov 30, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    I would love to win this…I am just starting the lunch packing years with my kids in preschool and could use all of the help I can get!

  • 161 Ingrid // Nov 30, 2011 at 11:09 pm

    Damn…there are 148 comments on here already! How will I distinguish myself for this fabulous giftie?!?!? Jenny – here is the deal – if you recall B-dorm, you will always remember that I inspired lunch ideas like it was nobody’s business. Who could ever forget my salads with raisins and fruit on it??!?! It is clear that the lunch you made for your daughter is an exact replica of my model, circa 1992-1993. Admittedly, I did not have TJ’s to work with – so no fancy biscuits for me, but still – it was INSPIRED…I mean, come on Jenny – give it up for Bdorm :)

  • 162 beth lehman // Nov 30, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    I don’t have great ideas, although investing in a thermos for hot lunches (soups, pasta) has been perfect for one of my kiddos. We stick with basics, a sandwich, fruit, veggie, snack bar. Boring…. but predictable!

  • 163 Jocelyn // Nov 30, 2011 at 11:41 pm

    Would love to win a planetbox! We use silicone baking cups to further divide up any containers/compartments. There are ones in square and triangle shapes that work great in any squarish tupperware or compartment. They fit in the planetboxes very well. It’s colorful, safe and flexible

  • 164 Jocelyn // Nov 30, 2011 at 11:59 pm

    my picky eater sometimes gets sick of sandwiches. but he still likes the sandwich components so we then give him deconstructed sandwiches – rolled up pieces of deli meats, cheese and a healthy bread-like option such as cut up pita bread or something like that

  • 165 Sara // Dec 1, 2011 at 12:01 am

    I don’t have any kids, so I can get away with uninspired leftover lunches. My mom was really good at packing surprise hidden notes though!

  • 166 Elizabeth // Dec 1, 2011 at 12:03 am

    Goodness, do I love that lunchbox. Sadly, I do not have any creative lunch ideas … however, if I had that box, I would certainly be encouraged to “think outside of the box” … ;)

  • 167 Annmarie // Dec 1, 2011 at 12:06 am

    OK: THANK YOU!! Even if I don’t win…I have been tryingt to reacll this brand and track one down. I spied it when serving a harvest lunch at my kids’ elementary school. Cute twin kindergarten brothers had them and I alsmot DIED!! Everything is yummier when presented that a-dorable way!

  • 168 Jenn // Dec 1, 2011 at 12:09 am

    So many comments! I share your affliction; however, I do not organize my food store list by grocery isle :) I’ve not seen this brand of Bento box — lovely. My girls (ages similar to yours) would love them. However packing soup in a thermos would be a challenge here (another leftover I like to pack). If the thermos isn’t packed in their lunchbox, they somehow can’t “find” it. Love your blog :)

  • 169 olivia // Dec 1, 2011 at 12:26 am

    only lunch my little guy has ever hoovered up before he came home: a toaster waffle sandwich with sunflower butter and jam. great ideas from these comments though! i will try.

  • 170 Jennifer // Dec 1, 2011 at 12:45 am

    I was just proclaiming my love of the Planet Lunchbox the other day — it is our first year using it and I love cleaning only one thing versus lots of little containers and the different compartments make it more interesting to make lunch! Also, my daughter rarely requests the magnets anymore for those thinking of buying….And, if you live in the Bay area, you can go to the company in San Rafael and pick it up. They are super nice.

    Crackers or tortilla slices in one compartment, veggies and/or fruit in the second, a protein of some sort or sandwich bites in the third, and yogurt in the fourth is a pretty standard. Dried fruit pieces in the mini-compartment — no cookies allowed at pre-K!

  • 171 Maya // Dec 1, 2011 at 12:47 am

    Both my kids love when I make homemade “lunchables” for them. A little meat, a little cheese, a fruit and something sweet….I also throw in their gummi vitamins – they love telling their friends their mom gave them two pieces of candy at lunch!

  • 172 Sara // Dec 1, 2011 at 1:07 am

    I so wish I could organize my life like that bento box. Luckily for me, so far I haven’t been in charge of lunches. My son is only 18 months and my husband is in charge of the lunches he needs on his two days of day care. I’m dreading the daily need for lunches.

  • 173 Deb // Dec 1, 2011 at 1:18 am

    I love the magic variety of the bento box, but not as much as I love the crunchy + fresh + leftover + sweet formula — that’s morning magic! And I’d like to share an inspired lunch idea, but all I have is this Monday’s actual lunch, which was inspired by panic — Rice pasta? Check. Veggies? Check. Sauce? Sauce? No sauce (no butter, no broth, no milk, nothing sauce-y)… Wait — leftover Sunday morning hollandaise?! We have a winner. “Best pasta ever, mom!” The secret, apparently, is the delicious heart-stopping butter sauce :)

  • 174 Eliz // Dec 1, 2011 at 2:34 am

    Love the Planet Lunchbox but I don’t know that it would hold enough for my 9 year old – he eats big lunches now. My inspiration is Trader Joes – various frozen TJ’s meals make it into their lunchboxes most days – potstickers, fried rice, edemame, tamales, even burritos. And sushi, not TJ’s – I’ll pick up avocado or cucumber roles when I see them for the next day’s lunch.

  • 175 cg // Dec 1, 2011 at 2:57 am

    My formula for packing the kiddo (and sometimes for myself) is super simple. I pack what I cooked (or ate, if we ate out) for dinner for the next day’s lunch. Since I’m pretty good about the foods we eat, I am almost always ensured that the formula runs like this: protein/carb (added abt 90% of the time/veg/fruit/water to drink.

    In fact, at home I will portion off our lunches (packed in a snap loc container) before I serve dinner. That way we’re ensured a tasty meal. On those nights where there isn’t enough or we went out without leftovers to bring back I go into my freezer and fry up a handful of potstickers, wash off a carrot or celery stalk and cut those up. The next morning I add sliced fruit.

    It works for us, I know what the kiddo is eating, and it gives me peace of mind to know she’s eating real food. Don’t get me wrong we like our hot dogs and spam, and what not. But I need to be in control of that frequency. BTW, as a slight aside I never pack a sweet treat in a school lunch. Her sweet comes in the form of fruit. Sweet treats in our household is for special occasions, or weekends, etc.

  • 176 Laura // Dec 1, 2011 at 7:49 am

    Our daughter is only 10 months but refuses to be spoonfed, so we do a kind of formula: protein (beans or tofu), vegetable (sweet potato, avocado, beets) and fruit (banana, usually). Occasionally we leave cheese too, but if there’s cheese on the table, she refuses to eat anything else!

  • 177 Lisa // Dec 1, 2011 at 9:38 am

    Hi again. To the mom who asked if the food stays fresh if packed the night before: YES, YES, YES! Not only does it stay fresh, but it stays IN PLACE… exactly as you place it… so even if Junior tosses his planetbox around like a football at recess, his food is still separate, organized, and tasty at the lunch table! Also, to the mom who has a 9-year-old big eater: my son just turned 10… he is 5’2″ tall and weighs in at 150 lbs. He is built like a linebacker and eats like one. He will eat anything (and everything) I put in his planetbox and tells me that it is always enough. The visual you get when you see the 5 different foods (more if you have something in one of the dipper containers that it comes with) tricks his mind into thinking there is more than there is… and believe me, there is PLENTY. The portion sizes are appropriate and that makes him eat healthier. Also, I have noticed that when he serves himself at dinner, he will cut the portion of, say, pasta to what I would put in his planet box. It has definately made him (and me!) at controlling portions. This morning, he had maybe 7 chips in one of the compartments… if I was still packing lunches in plastic baggies, he would have had twice that many… but he is content! We do not shop at Trader Joes as the nearest one is 30 miles away… my kid gets normal everyday food… but a planetbox section filled with cut up carrots/brocolli/etc with some fat free ranch or yogurt in the little dipper is just as easy and just as healthy… and yes, he gets sweets… but he comes home completely satisfied with 5 m&ms or one mini cookie because it FILLS that little tiny section on top. I cannot say a bad word about the planetbox… we LOVE it. His friend recently told his mom that Justin’s is the “coolest lunchbox on the planet” and that’s why it’s called the planetbox. High praise from a 10 y/o boy!

  • 178 Debi // Dec 1, 2011 at 10:02 am

    I like to mix it up with a theme lunch like all orange for Halloween – mac and cheese, clementine, carrots, butternut squash, BBQ chips, and candy corn.

    But where in these boxes is the space for my beloved napkin note??

  • 179 Rebecca // Dec 1, 2011 at 10:22 am

    In the bottom of my daughters’ bento boxes this morning (which had two stacking compartments): a layer of brown rice topped with leftover Thanksgiving turkey soboro, some grated raw carrot, and peas, still frozen, that will defrost by lunchtime. In the top compartment were apple slices, four cubes of fresh pineapple, and a tiny square of homemade butterscotch blondie. (Made by the daughters last night, not me). The turkey soboro was made by finely chopping some leftover scraps of dark and white meat turkey with one bunch of green onions in the food processor, then sauteing it in a frying pan with some mirin and salt. It’s really tasty, especially the crispy browned bits. The boxes look small, but when you pack tightly it’s plenty of food, even for my ravenous teenagers.

  • 180 Leslie // Dec 1, 2011 at 10:42 am

    I’ll buy the Pinot if you pack my lunch!!!

  • 181 megan // Dec 1, 2011 at 11:14 am

    Inspired lunch ideas? I don’t know about that — you’re talking to a woman who has been known to send pb and j on a tortilla (“It’s a wrap! It’s fun!”) in a pinch.

    That is a mighty fine lunch box, though.

  • 182 Stef // Dec 1, 2011 at 11:19 am

    Yikes! I do pretty much everything on your list except keep the daily food diary!

    When I don’t have time to pack E a decent school lunch, I do “homemade lunchables” with crackers, lunch meat cut into squares, and cheese that E cuts out with cookie cutters while I’m prepping the meat and crackers. It won’t win me any parenting awards, but it works in a pinch. :)

  • 183 Deirdre // Dec 1, 2011 at 11:28 am

    I have three boys—the first has a laptop lunches box that we love (and that has survived three years of daily lunches). Cheers for dishwasher safe.

    My middlest has a Pottery Barn box that drives us nuts—too many odd size compartments and fits too snugly in its bag/case (imo).

    The youngest is about to start school and we’d love to try this case. We try to mix it up, lunch-wise, but stick to a protein, veggie, fruit and treat most days. PB&nutella was something we probably never should have tried, as that’s their fav now. We freeze Horizon yogurt tubes so they are still cool by lunch time. Cherry tomatoes and red pepper strips are go-to veggies. Thanks for the visual reminders that Cuties/clementines are back in season!

  • 184 Francie // Dec 1, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Am I too late? I don’t know that I have “inspired” lunch ideas as I follow the something crunchy- something fresh- something protein formula. My daughter is in a nut-free school so her protein varies between an organic milk/cheese or turkey roll ups. That lunchbox is super cool. I might want one just for me.

  • 185 Lindsey // Dec 1, 2011 at 11:41 am

    I’m a fan of peanut butter, honey, and sunflower seeds rolled up in a tortilla–uses all the leftover tortillas from taco night. With an apple and some yogurt and maybe a crunchy cookie treat it’s the perfect lunch!

  • 186 Natalie // Dec 1, 2011 at 11:50 am

    I love this planetbox! I adore anything that has cute packaging, and when the product itself IS the cute packaging – consider my mind blown.

    Lunches are interesting in our house. Every morning, I wake up and make my BF his sandwich while he makes our coffee. I cut it into triangles, and pack with a string cheese, every day, and he loves it. [And he's 32!]

    I, on the other hand, am much more difficult, especially if I try to think about my lunch in the morning. I find I’m much more satisfied on days when I pre-pack my lunch at night, and make sure to include both cold items and ones that can be warmed – I never know what I’m going to be in the mood for the next day!

    I love to make a big tray of baked mac n cheese for dinner, and freeze off lunch sized portions from the leftovers. These nuke great at work and with a salad or some fresh fruit feel like a real meal.

  • 187 Jenn // Dec 1, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Those planetboxes seem to make any lunch infinitely cooler and more appealing (…or at least they are more fun to make). We do lots of leftovers for school lunches, wraps, and sunflower seed butter sandwiches cut out in funny shapes with cookie cutters.

  • 188 Mary P // Dec 1, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    So many good tips! Especially the link to the vegetarianlunchbox blog on comment 80, which I couldn’t bookmark fast enough.

    Also, I love the fact that this planetbox can be washed all in one go, as opposed to the pile of tupperwares that are the bane of my weeknight routine.

    I’m not packing for kids, but here’s my tip: sometimes on the weekend, I make a huge pan of mixed roasted vegetables. I always include chopped onion and red bell pepper, mixed with either broccoli or asparagus.

    My favorite thing to do with them is to mix with rotini, feta or mozzarella, Italian dressing, and maybe diced broiled chicken breast to make a hearty pasta salad. It keeps all week and doesn’t have to be heated up at lunch. But the roasted veggies are really versatile. They can be tossed with quinoa, cooked into a frittata or used as a pizza topping… all tasty as cold leftovers!

  • 189 Barbara // Dec 1, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    My all time most inspired lunch was a camp lunch I had packed of veggie sushi roll, edamame, small salad with japanese dressing on the side and rice krispy treats that my son and I made together. I packed it in a bento box and my friend who picked my son up marveled at how beautiful the lunch was. She saw what I had packed him because the entire lunch came back untouched. So I didn’t make that lunch again.

  • 190 Jessie // Dec 1, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    As I read this over lunch, I am most inspired by the stainless steel lunchbox. We recently converted our kitchen/food storage over to glass from plastic as we are trying to get away from toxins and BPAs. I think these lunchboxes are a great idea!

    For lunch today, leftovers from last night – lemon and basil chicken in coconut curry soup (adapted from the last version of Martha Stewart Living). Make the chicken! We barely made it into the soup because we could not stop snacking on it! Super easy and really delicious.

  • 191 Emily // Dec 1, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    OMG – I would *love* to win one of those PlanetBox lunch boxes…they are so cool!!

    My only packing-the-kid-lunch tricks are these:

    * my husband does it. seriously, every morning before he leaves for work. i don’t know how i lucked out into this, but i don’t question it! (i take care of making dinner and most other meals, so i think he was happy to find his meal niche and he’s sticking to it – works for me! :)

    * each day, he includes a note or napkin with a drawing of a silly face and a reminder to PURELL! (small bottle of purell is tucked into a side pocket of her lunch box.) it’s germ season in our daughter’s school and we are desperate to avoid the stomach flu. as much as we exhort her to wash with soap and water in the bathroom, we figure a squirt of purell pre-lunch can’t hurt….

    * strangely enough, our kid appears to be MORE willing to try strange/healthy/off-the-beaten-track foods at lunch as opposed to here at our dinner table. who knows why? my guess is that she’s chatting so much with friends she barely notices that new fruit or veggie she’s just snacked away on… in any case, this was my inspiration/discovery of the year and i’m working it to the max! pomegranate seeds, cucumbers, even leftover quinoa with sweet potatoes – all were a hit, at lunch!

    thanks for all the other great suggestions, everyone – and for this awesome blog, jenny!

  • 192 MemeGRL // Dec 1, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    I wish I had inspired lunch ideas for kids. I don’t.
    But I have a good one for lunch boxes. The schools in our area aim for “no-trash lunches” (genius–good for the environment and cheaper for the school with less waste pickup) so paper napkins are discouraged. I love(d) writing notes on the napkins and hated to change, but I thought: what if the napkin itself was the memory? So we bought a cheap 12-pack of white cotton napkins at Target and tie-dyed them together as a family. (This is not a skill of mine. I begged a crafty friend to help. Yes, I am that craft-challenged.) That way, they have a memory of a fun family activity every day in their lunchbox and are still no-trash compliant. And if I “need” to write a note, paper still works.

  • 193 Chika // Dec 1, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    I often make onigiri (Japanese rice balls) filled with some kind of protein– leftover chicken/salmon/tuna, etc– and a little Kewpie mayo for my daughter’s lunch. The nori stays separate because she likes it to stay crisp, and some extra always gets packed because she likes to snack on it. Then I just add a fruit and a homemade treat of some kind– muffin, granola bar, larabar, etc.

  • 194 Emily // Dec 1, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    Are you really reading all of these? :)

    When there’s nothing in the house and I have to pack lunches, it’s always pepperoni, cheese, crackers and frozen edamame that will work in place of an ice pack.

    My 7 year old would love this lunch box–she’s so over Barbie and I’m not giving in.

  • 195 Deidre // Dec 1, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    Inspired lunch ideas….mmmm…every morning between 6 and 7 am, I have to be inspired! My approach is much more boring than yours….veggies plus something to dip in (here is where the inspiration comes in…leftover homemade Caesar dressing mixed with yogurt…darn, it’s moldy, well then, mayo…no dressing, mushed up garlic/salt pepper with any of the following yogurt/mayo/sourcream/cream cheese)…..if there are left over meatballs (usually thai or Vietnamese style) then the dip is peanut butter with Hoisin, lemon and thinned with water. If we are short on protien, its tuna/salmon dip (just add mayo!).

    Then some sort of protien – sometimes leftover (like meatballs), sometimes deli selections (meats and cheeses) cut in cubes with toothpick.

    Then fruit — by far their favourite is fresh raspberries stuffed with choc chips! It doesn’t take very long and the kids eat it! Other favourites are frozen apple sauce with yogurt, pomingranite and other berries.

    Some sort of baked good (cookies, muffins or bars) which we bake on the weekend (always cutting the sugar by 1/2!) and freeze. If we had a busy weekend, it is nuts/raisins/seeds mix, and if they haven’t had anything else with too much sugar, choc chips or smarties.

    We also freqently make soup –so a thermos of that and crackers or some sort of bread. In winter, we often pack pasta and sauce (really, it is easier than making sandwiches!).

    The other type of lunch they love is some sort of roll (e.g., salad roll) — using left-over chicken or salmon or meatballs, veggies and noodles/rice wrapped in rice paper, lettuce or nori with the peanut/hoisin dipping sauce….

    If all else fails (meaning there is very little in the house), it is a sandwich or a wrap….tuna salad is the family fall back!

    Thanks for the chance to win such a cool lunch box (I have to say, finding all the containers to put everything in is the biggest stressor of making lunch…where do all those lids go?)

  • 196 AmyPH // Dec 1, 2011 at 11:43 pm

    We’ve got one of those ultra- picky eaters in the house. I’ve found the best way to get her to eat fruit is to pack applesauce with teddy grahams for dipping. Sometime’s she’ll actually finish the applesauce after the Grahams are gone!

  • 197 Leigh // Dec 1, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    My lunch inspiration? A fabulous school with an amazing cook that uses the school’s own organic garden vegetables in the kids’ vegetarian lunches. I just don’t know what I’ll do when my preschooler gets to eat there and won’t touch a vegetable!

    The lunchbox is strictly for me! I am great with leftovers and vegetables – I just don’t like it when my food touches!

  • 198 Kate // Dec 2, 2011 at 12:27 am

    I think I’ve packed leftovers every day for the past month. So easy and so good.

  • 199 Christine // Dec 2, 2011 at 1:21 am

    Inspired is what I would like (to pack or to eat, if it were being packed for me) but my kids seem to prefer dull (comforting?) routine. Our formula is a protein, carb, fruit, veggie and treat.

  • 200 Julie // Dec 2, 2011 at 2:44 am

    A great lunch box like this would (might) inspire me in the mornings. I try to pack something that has protein and something that was alive in the recient past. I always figure that if lunch is a miss, my son will eat a lot of dinner :) Thanks for the chance.

  • 201 Janet Rhoads // Dec 2, 2011 at 11:31 am

    Look, I just got yelled at by my kid’s school for sending stuff in pyrex because apparently the children must be smashing food containers with bricks or dropping them from 50 foot heights. Thereby putting 2 and 3 year olds in danger of getting cut to ribbons by shattered pyrex. Who knew? Soooo… I dropped $40 on a bunch of bento boxes whose lids won’t stay on unless I rubberband them together. I am desperate. I will carve apples into poinsettias and paint “The Starry Night” on bread with peanut butter and jelly and roll sushi to look like Totoro if you will PLEASE just pick me to win this awesome set. Thank you for your time.

  • 202 Justine // Dec 2, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    I love this idea! My preschooler adores what I call an adaptation of the British “ploughman’s lunch”: boiled egg or ham, sliced cheese, stone wheat crackers, slices of apple with a squeeze of lime, and pickle. The pickle can be anything pickled, not just cucumbers. I have gotten into making my own pickles, and my latest to try from the “Food in Jars” blog is the kohlrabi pickle.

  • 203 Kerry-Ann // Dec 2, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    Good to know I’m not the only one out there with a system! I write out the “lunch menu” the night before, and pack what I can, but it usually gets made in the AM. I’m fussy-ate too many soggy sandwiches in my youth. My son eats leftovers, lots of little containers so these boxes look great! My daughter is on a chick pea salad kick which I usually mix with brown rice. I try to throw some chocolate or sweet in there for a treat.

  • 204 Jamie B // Dec 2, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    Those lunch boxes are awesome!

  • 205 Ramona // Dec 2, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    These lunch trays are awesome! My little girl likes cottage cheese with nut crackers (she like cheddar cheese and ranch flavor the best), pistachios and applesauce. Still in the really picky era with her…

  • 206 DL // Dec 3, 2011 at 1:04 am

    I use a formula, too, most of the time. A protein, a carb, veggie & fruit…all in cute, colorful silicone cupcake cups or fun shaps for fruits & veggies for that extra flair.

  • 207 Fi // Dec 3, 2011 at 1:49 am

    These are the coolest lunch boxes out there! Similar formula although dairy is a mandatory addition for everyone in the family.

  • 208 Caitlin McElroy // Dec 3, 2011 at 10:00 am

    I found your blog through the planet box facebook page–I love it!! My lunches always consist of whatever is left over from the night before + vegetables + a fruit + a glass of almond milk + a treat. I don’t have a lot of time for inspired lunches between work and graduate school… My husband will leave for Air Force BMT in January, so I suspect that my dinners (and lunches by association) will start to get more creative seeing as how I won’t have to cater to his tastes for a few months.

  • 209 Darienne // Dec 3, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    A favorite with my kids: pizza lollipops. Basically, roll up the pizza dough and toppings, slice, stick a lollipop stick in it, and bake. Everything is yummier on a stick. Even vegetables. Soy sauce is also magic — pot stickers and onigiri always get eaten.

    I also have my second-grader fill out a menu: I give him at least a dozen options for entrees, veggies, sides, and fruit, and he has to pick three or more. He can suggest new things too — then I have a good list of foods he might eat. Tucking in something coveted — like pumpkin bread — seems to increase the odds more suspicious foods will at least be sampled. I don’t understand why.

    I *love* the Planet Lunchbox containers!

  • 210 Melissa K // Dec 3, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    Love the Planet Lunchboxes- have always wanted to get one!

  • 211 Susan M. // Dec 3, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    Love the lunchboxes. I love ordered systems and small pockets to put things. I love tidiness and rules and good gravy, the world conspires against that. Would love to send the wee one to school with such a tidy lunch.

  • 212 erin // Dec 4, 2011 at 1:06 am

    Is it wrong that I think my kids would love this simply because of the little center box for treats??? Is it wrong that I would eat the treat first? :)

  • 213 Denise // Dec 4, 2011 at 6:29 am

    i have been using laptop lunch boxes for year. this would be a nice switch

  • 214 susana // Dec 5, 2011 at 10:06 am

    wow, that’s so pretty. this would make my hodge-podge lunches seem so much more chic! and delicious :)

  • 215 D Murphy // Dec 5, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    Wow, that packed lunch looks amazing and I love the boxes/tins!

  • 216 Christine // Dec 6, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    It’s like you’re describing me in your post, minus the mental spreadsheet of time with parent v. babysitter… though I do informally track how much time I spend with each of my cats on a daily basis. It’s just courtesy to give them both attention, right?!

    I don’t have children but I do want me one of those compartment lunch containers. Maybe one that’s sectioned out but with a pop-out section that can in the microwave? Does that exist?!

  • 217 Christine // Dec 6, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    Oh, and-
    Do I win the feast?

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