Healthy School Lunches your Kids will Eat!

healthy homemade school lunches

A healthy breakfast & lunch are vital for attention and learning, and help keep kids focused and alert all day. I’ve taught hundreds of kids to plan and cook for themselves, and the vast majority of them, given the opportunity, will choose healthy, nutritious foods if they taste good, are offered in variety, and if they feel like they are allowed to choose for themselves.

Healthy school lunch ideas
Click the image to watch this morning’s segment on the AM Northwest webpage!

Ham and cheese wraps in lunch boxVariety

Kids get bored with the same old, same old…and a variety of foods helps ensure more balanced nutrition.

  • Wraps are sturdier and less messy to eat. Who wants to eat a smooshed sandwich?
  • Quesadillas are quick and easy to make. Ham & Cheese, Pizza, Turkey and cheddar
  • Vary hot and cold lunches. A thermos of their favorite soup or stew is a nice break from cold lunch, especially in winter.
  • A hot sandwich, wrapped in foil, will stay warm in a thermos, all day!
  • Pita Pockets are easy to eat, less messy, and because pita it denser than sandwich bread, you can assemble them the night before, and they won’t get soggy.

Tip: Small rewards for bringing home rinsed dishes and thermos’ are totally worth it!

yumbox-lunchboxLeftovers of favorite dinners make GREAT lunches

  • Slightly under-cook veggies, so they don’t turn to mush when re-heated.
  • If you struggle to get them to eat it at home, don’t bother packing it for lunch.
  • Let you kid’s help make the meal. Kid’s LOVE to bring and brag, and are twice as likely to eat something they helped make.
  • No kid worth their My Little Pony back-pack doesn’t like cold pizza!

Lunchable

Homemade “Lunchables”

Kids love stuff they can assemble!

  • Deli meat: slice it into cracker-size squares, and put it right back in the bag!
  • Cheese slices: Ditto
  • Crackers, whole wheat pita pockets, small flour tortillas
  • Raw veggies (carrots, celery, bell peppers, cucumbers, etc.)
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Pickles
  • Trail mix
  • Treat (cookie, pudding, yogurt, etc.)
  • A 011316.f.ff.LostItalianwhole rotisserie chicken can make a week’s worth of protein for one hungry teen-ager or a couple of littles! Chicken legs, chicken with rice (use your rice-cooker), chicken salad wraps, sliced chicken-breast pitas…the list is endless!
  • Check out the bulk food section, it’s not just rice and beans anymore. Buying staple lunch items in bulk can save a ton of money over the same items in pretty bags.
  • Want to add a little more variety, without buying the whole produce section? Check out my post, “Shopping the Salad Bar!” over on our outreach page!

Make a master list of healthy lunch ingredients, and let your kids take turns choosing items from each food group the next time you go shopping. It works, it really does.

Save yourself some time!

Does it really need to be sliced on a perfect bias? Does every sandwich need to be cut into cute shapes and adorned with smiley faces? We’re not Martha Stewart, people, and nobody’s giving out Michelin Stars for the contents of our kid’s lunch bags. 😉

CARROTSTICKSFresh fruits and veggies begin to lose their flavor and texture as soon as they’re cut. My daughter is just as happy gnawing on a 4 inch hunk of cucumber, or popping whole grape tomatoes. Slice you veggies into manageable pieces in advance, and store in a large, sealed container of cold water for the week.

Spend those precious minutes assembling fresh, quality foods that your kids will eat. Flavor will trump fancy every time!

Chef or Cob salads are quick and easy to assemble. Send with a small reuseable container of their favorite dressing, and a baggie of croutons.

What to Skip

Bananas do NOT travel well, and nobody want to eat a brown, mushy banana. Save the bananas for breakfast! Always wrap the stems in foil.

Prepackaged “lunchables”. Sure they’re convenient, but you’re paying double, sometimes triple, for something you can easily assemble (with fresh fruit and veggies!) yourself.

16236AProbably the biggest rip-off in home-packed lunches are juice boxes.

Non-recyclable containers filled with a few swallow of sugar-laden “fruit” juice, and a grossly inflated price…ugh! Invest in a few reusable drink bottles, and fill them with pure, no-sugar-added juices at a fraction of the cost.

This goes for just about any “individual serving size” items (chips, cookies, fruits & veggies, trail-mix, etc.,)

All of these can be purchased in family-size portions, and added to a sandwich baggie for pennies on the dollar.

Assemble

Make it a team effort!

Make a (supervised) lunch “assembly line” in the morning. Kids can pick and choose what they want from a selection of meats, cheeses, fruits and veggies. All YOU need to do is pop a treat in the bag at the end of the line!

Stop over-paying for greasy burgers, spongy pizza, and chemical-laden processed “convenience” foods, and give your kids a leg up on learning with fresh, healthy, money-saving lunches.

They deserve it (and so do you!)

~Chef Perry

PS – Be sure to subscribe to my blog, and get many more healthy, delicious, budget-friendly tips, techniques, and recipes!


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Pasta Fajioli…an easy way to empty the fridge

Pasta Fajioli AM Northwest

Had great fun being back on AM Northwest last week (watch the clip, below), and got to talk about one of my all-time favorite subjects…comfort food. It’s getting chilly up here in the PNW, and nothing warms you back up like a good pot of soup.

One of my Facebook friends commented that whenever I’m on the show, I always do Italian recipes.

It’s true.

I love French food, and Asian food, and pretty much ANY food, but if I’m going to present the best version of something, something you can taste the love in, it’s probably going to be an old Italian Grandmother’s recipe.

The Home Chef's Guide to Frugal Fine CookingI love this recipe, not just because it’s delicious, and brings back great childhood memories, but because it’s one of those dishes that proves you don’t have to spend a lot, to make an amazing meal.  Pasta is cheap. Beans are cheap. Carrots, onions, celery? Cheap. Add whatever leftover meat and veggies from last night’s dinner, and presto…you have soup!

(For more tips, tricks, and recipes for great eating on a budget, check out my new book, “The Home Chef’s Guide to Frugal Fine Cooking” on Amazon.com!)

Soggiorno caldo!

~Chef Perry

Pasta Fajioli Recipe for AMNW
(pasta va-zool)

1 lb meat, cooked and chopped (roast chicken, sausage, hamburger, etc.)
36 oz “Quick and Easy Chicken Stock
28 ounces fire roasted diced tomatoes, undrained (or 6 Romas, freshly roasted*)
15 oz tomato sauce
1 large onion, chopped
2 Tbs olive oil
4 celery ribs, diced
2 medium carrots, sliced
2 cups beans (cannellini, kidney beans, etc,) rinsed and drained
2 tsp minced fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tsp coarse black pepper
8 ounces uncooked pasta (ditalini, macaroni, etc.)
4 teaspoons minced fresh parsley

Additional veggies: Whatcha’got? Pretty much any leftover veggies will compliment this soup. Peas, corn, sauteed mushrooms, green beans, cabbage…empty that fridge!

Mirepoix for soup

Make the mirepoix: In a saute pan, heat oil over medium low, and saute onions, celery, and carrots until just beginning to soften. Add garlic and cook another 2 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat, and transfer to a stock pot.

Pasta Fajioli AM Northwest

Add broth, sauce, beans, oregano, and black pepper.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, 10 minutes. Add pasta, parsley, and any additional veggies; simmer, covered, 10-14 minutes or until pasta is tender.

Pasta Fajioli AM Northwest

Stir in meat, and serve with crusty, warm bread.

Yield: 10-12 servings

*To roast your own: Place 6 Roma tomatoes on a very hot grill, under a broiler, or directly on above a gas burner. Char, rotating frequently, until blackened on all sides. Place tomatoes in a large zip bag and seal, allowing them to steam 20-30 minutes. Remove the tomatoes from the bag, and peel off most of the charred skin (I ike to leave a little, for flavor). Dice the tomatoes, place in a bowl, sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt, and just cover with hot water. Allow to come to room temp before using the tomatoes and water in this recipe.

Here’s the clip from AM Northwest:

Pasta Fajioli Recipe AM Northwest
Click on image to be redirected to AM Northwest’s video page

 

Help us help kids (and get a great book!)

Home Chef Book Fundraiser

Cover in FrameI’m donating 100% of sales from “The Home Chef’s Guide to Frugal Fine Cooking” AND “The Home Chef: Transforming the American Kitchen” to the MY KITCHEN OUTREACH Program, to help feed the hungry, and teach important life skills to at-risk and special-needs youth.

This guidebook would make a great gift for struggling families, college students, and young couples trying to eat healthy on a limited budget!

Proceeds will only be used to pay for teaching materials, supplies, and ingredients for classes. I’ll post the results here, at MY KITCHEN Outreach Program on Monday, October 16th.

Please place your order, on Amazon, before midnight TONIGHT, to help support the outreach!

Cover in frameThese funds will be earmarked specifically for the new youth classes we’ll be doing for the high school in Stevenson WA, and for our annual turkey roast (10 this year!) for The Father’s Heart Street Ministry. Anything left over will go into the general use fund for MK.

Order your copies of “The Home Chef’s Guide to Frugal Fine Cooking” HERE.

BOTH are availabe on my Amazon author page: www.perryperkinsbooks.com

PLEASE LET YOUR FRIENDS KNOW (by using the “sharing buttons”, below!)

Thank you for helping us help kids!

Chef Perry
chefperryperkins.com