Monday, August 29, 2011

Back to school...two of my current faves.

Q is back to preschool two days a week starting tomorrow. So we've been slowly getting things ready. My goal recently has become not to buy anything new if at all possible. This has really caused me to become creative in trying to repurpose items to fit other needs. And the second part of my goal has been that if I DO need to buy something, either buy it used or buy something that can be repurposed later on. That seems a little confusing, but here's an example.
Quinn got this awesome backpack from Oma and Opa for Christmas. I decided it will be her school bag this fall (yea--no need to buy another when we have a perfectly good one!). I needed to mark it with her name. I decided sharpee was a no-go, because little brother may someday inherit this backpack and he probably wouldn't be a fan of Quinn written on it. I also decided the ever-popular monogramming is not in our budget and a bit too permanent.
I was browsing the isle at Hobby Lobby to see what options were available in iron-on or sew-on letters when I discovered these little guys:
They are pin-on letter badges. Each one was .99, so for under $5 I have Q's name on her school bag, it's removable and I can use the pins again for something else. Now to give them a try and see how they hold up for school.

I DID buy Q a new lunchbox this year. I pack her lunch "bento style" (more on that later) and her previous lunch box's opening was small enough that the containers I packed had to be tipped to remove them from the lunchbox, causing the contents to get all mixed up.
I randomly discovered this new lunchbox (which came with the tupperware container) at Walmart for $6, and the little opening on the bottom is PERFECT for holding her little lunch container, with an ice pack underneath.
I bought her initials with the badge letters for her lunch box.

Now, onto lunch. I pack her lunch "bento style." My main inspiration for this is Wendelonia's blog. However, I take a much more relaxed (or lazy?) approach to her lunch and don't do much decorating, although I am in big time awe of the food art from her website!

Because my goal in packing her lunch is to save money, I always use the same main container, a small square tupperware knockoff (this year I'll use the one that came with her lunchbox.) I also use two small pinchbowls I got at walmart a couple years back (Q used them when she was a baby) and two small stacking bowls that I stole from her little kitchen in the playroom. I also sometimes substitute in different sizes of lids--I save a bunch of lids--peanut butter lids, peanut lids, etc., and they come in handy when I need lids of different sizes. I also sometimes use cupcake wrappers to hold the food. Here is Q's lunch for tomorrow:
-triscit crackers, sliced cheddar-jack cheese, sliced baby carrots and a nut/dried fruit mix.

If I put something with lots of small pieces in, I usually slip a pasta lid over the little bowl to help minimize spilling.

Here are the tips I've discovered in a year of bento packing for a toddler (and from being a toddler/preschool teacher OBSERVING kiddos eat at school)--
-I always pack TOO MUCH (and not on purpose...). She never eats all I pack. Oops. So I try to limit what I put in there to a reasonable amount, and I also offer her the leftovers from her lunch for an afterschool snack in the car on the way home.

-packing bento style helps me pack a healthier lunch as I try to include protein, whole grain, fruit, and vegetables in each lunch. And I can see it all at one glance, so that helps me see where there are nutritional gaps.

-packing her lunch this way saves lots of money--I don't buy any packaged items--no cheesesticks, no packaged crackers, etc. It's easier just to take a small amount from a bulk container, and often I noticed my toddler/preschool students (when I am in the classroom teaching) throw away the majority of those little packages because it's too much food for them.

-she only eats the stuff that is really easy--if she has to open something or it's in too big of pieces, she won't eat it. At home we believe kids need to learn to eat apples without someone cutting them up for them their whole life, so we give her a whole apple and she is fine with that. For school, though, I usually find she'll take a bite or two and that's it. From the teacher end I have observed that lunch is such a social time--kids talking, kids watching other kids, kids wiggling around, kids looking to see what else everyone else has for lunch--and also such a quick time that minimal attention is put into actually EATING the child's own lunch. So fingerfoods that are cut into smaller pieces and are quick and easy to eat are the biggest hits. And you don't need to keep track of a spoon this way, either!!

-for this reason I don't do sandwiches much. When I occasionally do, I cut into small pieces.

-I try to pack a wide variety of foods to encourage her to try new things.

-I sometimes use "fancy toothpicks" to hold turkey rolls together or for her to use to spear and eat grape halves. This adds a little excitement to her lunch.

-I only pack water as a beverage. If it happens to spill in the lunchbox/backpack, no tears are shed on my part. We use the same waterbottle each day, and it fits in the top compartment of her lunch box. I use the Inchbug labels for her waterbottle. We bought these for her baby bottles when she was a couple months old and they have been a great investment and have since marked her sippy cups and now her water bottle. Love that they stay on even through the dishwasher and I basically never have to worry about marking her drinks again.

I'll try to post a few more photos through the next few weeks of some other lunches I pack her....
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