Tuesday, June 5, 2012

It's a ZOO In Here - Lunchables-style Disposable Bento

Thursday, 5/17/12 - I hate throwing away perfectly good bento gear. But her preschool said I needed a disposable lunch for their trip to the zoo, and there was no way I was going to go out and buy paper and plastic baggies just for one field trip. So I compromised. I saved a plastic strawberry container to re-use instead (almost ruining my marriage in the process. We kind of have too much stuff in our house. And it's especially messy around the bento-making area kitchen. The only thing that saved me was the promise that it would be leaving soon-ish.)

It's a Zoo In Here! Bento
Top: Mozzarella elephants, Canadian bacon giraffes,
animal cookies, carrots and raspberries
Bottom: Frozen dye-free yogurt tube, Whole Grain Ritz Crackers
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The easiest way to go nut-free was with meat and cheese. And the funnest way to do that is go Lunchables-style. Especially since I had bought some tiny animal cookie cutters in preparation for this field trip's lunch in particular! I used some tall paper muffin cups from IKEA to separate everything, and to give it some extra pizzazz.
I froze the Trader Joe's yogurt tube in the bottom of the box the night before, so that it would freeze into the right shape. I really didn't need the extra dairy, since I had cheese elephants, but this did double duty as an ice-pack, keeping her meat and cheese fresh until lunch time! Which was especially useful as it was a very hot, sunny day.
Everything fit perfectly in this 1-lb-sized clamshell.
I also tucked in an Emergen-C Kidz packet on top, to add to the mini bottle of water that I re-used from somewhere. (I filled it and put it in the fridge the night before, so it could start out cold.) These packets are my current dye-free alternative to drinks at restaurants and parties. Since I can't trust even lemonade without looking at a label (most restaurants use Minute Maid, which has fake yellow dye,) it's easier to just order water. Luckily, Z thinks this is the best, since it makes her water fizzy too, so it's like soda, which is a treat she almost never got before. I think these have 5g sugar per packet, and are meant for 4-6 ounces of water. I add them to 8-ounce mini bottles, and she rarely finishes one, so it's way better than soda, or even juice, in terms of sugar content. They do have vitamins in them, so you want to be careful not to overdo them, especially if your kiddo takes a daily vitamin as well.

Mama's Lunch:
Carrots and broccoli, mini Stroopwafel cookies, kiwi, hummus, SunButter cinnamon-raisin bagel

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I had my hummus in a disposable sauce cup left over from the ones I bought for the teacher appreciation lunches.Recently when Nana had come to stay for a weekend while Baby E was still new-ish and Hubby was out of town, she had brought a 4-pack of her flax muffins. When she ate the last one, I snapped up her container. It would be perfect for my upcoming zoo lunch! I had initially thought to do a salad, since the front compartment actually didn't have a divider in it. But the middle dividers weren't tall enough to make it worth while. But that same space was perfect for my bagel halves! I used parchment paper to keep the top half from sliding around inside, since the dividers were so low.
For my drink I re-used a full-sized plastic water bottle, and poured in the last of the Minty Green Tea Lemonade from her other teacher appreciation lunch. Yummmm. I stuck it in the freezer two days before, since I like my drinks ice cold! Then I moved it to the fridge the night before to start thawing. By lunch it was perfect and still chilly!
To house our lunches and drinks, I re-used a paper bag with handles (not pictured) that I had from buying myself some caramels at a chocolates shop. It was a thick enough paper that the condensation from our drinks didn't seep through and make the bottom of the bag rip open by lunchtime. And I didn't have to schlep out and buy some paper bags that wouldn't have fit my lunch "box" anyway.
Lunchables were the most popular lunch option brought by the kids (and some of the parents.) So I'm glad I went with an animal-shaped home-made version - check out Candy Girl"s (from Bent On Better Lunches) side-by-side comparison on the MOMables blog here! Z never so much as looked at another kid's lunch, she was so enchanted with her own. But she did get a couple of rubberneckers and looky-loos of her own!

You'll notice some of the kids brought re-usable lunchbags and water bottles, which we technically could have done, since I was there and could be in charge of hanging on to our stuff. But I wanted to follow the spirit of the idea. [And feel a little smarmy and self-satisfied while showing off my clearly superior lunches.] Plus the zoo had plastic recycling bins. Although I was sorely tempted to save them to use again.

I also could have had peanut butter in my lunch, since none of the kids in her class had allergies (although kids from other classes might have. But this was the only event at this school where siblings were welcome, so most parents came, so each chaperone/child "group" was on their own. So we didn't really hang out around any other kids, until lunch.) I'm also old enough to eat a sandwich without getting it all over my hands. And I'm old enough to wash my hands before touching anything. And at a public venue like this, there's no chance to prevent accidental exposure from random other people. But again, I wanted to honor the spirit of the thing. Cheers, Keeley!

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