Announcing The Happiest Home’s "Lunch Box Challenge" with a GREAT Giveaway!

UPDATE! This contest is closed, and winners have been chosen. Check the bottom of the post for the winning comments.

After doing a lot of reading about school lunch programs (okay, and maybe after watching a couple seasons of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, too) I’ve felt more convicted than ever to make it a priority to send my children to school with home-packed lunches. Our school system’s lunch menus don’t seem too bad on the surface, but when you consider:

    • cost – our school lunches run about $200/month for four lunch-eating kids. For that money, I can pack really good lunches.
    • quality and nutrition – there are healthy options like a salad bar, but the kids tend to eat the not-so-great stuff on their plates, like breaded chicken and breaded cheese nuggets and bread sticks and breaded corn dogs and huge white-bread rolls, and if all that breading wasn’t bad enough, I am skeptical of the quality of ingredients overall;
    • taste – most of my kids don’t like school lunch, so they either just pick at it or,  in the case of the older boys, use their pocket cash to buy junk from the a la carte line;
    • waste – all that food the kids don’t like? Guess where it goes – the trash! Many (most?) schools don’t even have programs in place to recycle packaging and trays.

When I’m honest with myself, I know I have the time to pack a lunch just about every day. Even packing three or four at a time takes no longer than five or ten minutes. The biggest obstacles for me are preparation (having the foods I need and any other materials on hand), organization (knowing where everything is when I need it, and an established routine that makes lunch-packing just part of the day) and commitment.

That last one’s a biggie. When I don’t commit to something, it’s only too easy to believe that I “don’t have time” to do it…when the reality is that I just didn’t prepare, plan, or prioritize. The point of this challenge is to get us committed for one month – enough time to figure out time-saving strategies and put routines in place that can help make it much easier to continue once the challenge is over.

As somebody who’s turned to the ease and availability of the school-lunch program many times, I totally understand why packing a homemade lunch isn’t always a priority – or even when it is, often falls off a busy parent’s radar. But committing to packing my kids’ lunches this year is one thing I can do just a little bit better.

No guilt or pressure if you’re focusing on other things right now, but if you’re up for it, I hope you’ll join me over the next month for my Lunch Box Challenge. For us school starts on September 6, and my personal “challenge” will run through October 7. Along the way I’ll be posting every Saturday about how it’s going, how I’m simplifying and streamlining the process of packing lunches and what I’m learning along the way. I hope you will join in and share your experiences here in the comments or on Facebook or your own blog.

Some notes about the way I’m going to do school lunches “a little bit better” (rather than aiming for perfection):

  • I will still let my kids eat lunch at school a few times a month so I get a little break and they’ll get to eat their favorite school meals. We’ll look at the menus together, pick those days ahead of time and put them on the calendar.
  • My lunches will not be particularly creative. A lot of moms are into artistic Bento lunches, and I think that’s great! But while I may feel occasionally moved to draw a mustard smiley face on a turkey sandwich, pretty lunches are not a priority for me during this challenge. If you’re looking for more creative ideas than what I have to offer, check out the fabulous and inspired Wendolonia.
  • I’m not going for 100% natural, from-scratch, homemade food in these lunches. They’ll be a reflection of the way I feed my family in generalmostly whole, fresh foods, as many organics as possible, a lot of locally-sourced produce (while it lasts)…and some packaged and convenience food, too. For most families, real life includes making some small tradeoffs for a larger benefit, so let’s embrace “good enough” lunches during this challenge!

Okay, now the fun part. Several brands have offered to donate a selection of great products so that  two readers will win one really fantastic prize package that includes all of the following:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bento Boxes from EasyLunchBoxes.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • A set of bento lunchboxes from EasyLunchBoxes.com. I love these because unlike many Bento lunchboxes, they have plenty of room for a full-sized sandwich and the entire box closes with one lid that’s easy for small fingers to take on and off. A set includes four dishwasher-safe lunchboxes and lids, plus an insulated tote that carries up to two at a time. (I like that a set comes with FOUR boxes, because there are always plenty to rotate so you don’t have to wait for the evening dishes to be done before you can pack tomorrow’s lunch.)

and,

  • A Lunch Bundle from One Step Ahead, including:
      • BabySteps Multi-Slicer I find that cutting up fruit, cheese, etc. into chunks and slices is probably the most time-consuming part of packing a lunch. This tool (with two different blades for coring/slicing and cubing) makes the cutting part a snap and is great for after-school snacks, too.

    • A Wrap-N-Mat reusable sandwich wrap and placemat. If you’re like me, you hate the idea of throwing away baggies, but they aren’t always easy to get clean and you have to prop them all over your kitchen to make sure the insides dry properly. Here’s the genius solution – a re-useable mat you can wrap your child’s sandwich up in. Love. It.
    • A Mini Bites Crustless Sandwich Cutter. I had a round sandwich cutter at one point but always hated how much sandwich it left behind – I always felt like I had to pack two sandwiches to make up for the bread lost. This cool little device keeps a lot more of the sandwich and divides it up into four neat triangles while sealing the edges for less mess. As for the crusts left behind? Don’t worry, I eat ’em. I love crusts. (My kids actually like crusts too, but they get really excited over triangular sandwiches.)
    • Insulated Lunch Bag. the EasyLunchBoxes containers fit inside the lower half of this roomy bag, and there’s a compartment in the top half for a midday snack or drink. Options are good.
    • EZ Freeze sandwich container and EZ Freeze snack container. I often worryabout sending easily-perishable foods like tuna sandwiches, yogurt, or mayo to sit in my kids’ lockers all day, but had a hard time finding an easy way to keep them cold. These containers feature a built-in freezer pack so you don’t have to worry about separate gel packs or baggies full of ice (what, I’m the only one who’s tried that?)

    and,

  • A month’s worth of lunchbox snacks from Revolution Foods. Supplementing your lunch-packing efforts with healthy, organic packaged snacks makes it easy to do a little bit better without having to blend up veggie smoothies during the school-morning rush. My kids especially love the Yo’Drops – crunchy little balls made of 100% certified organic yogurt and fruit and natural flavorings.

 

 

The winners’ Revolution Foods Snack Kit will contain the following snacks, enough for lunches Monday through Friday for four weeks:

To enter, leave a comment on this post – I’d love to hear if you’re planning to try the lunch box challenge! Have you had plans in the past to pack lunches from home, but they fizzled? How can you overcome lunch burnout this year – will you set aside a specific time to make lunches, invest in certain tools, enlist your child’s help, etc?

For extra entries, you can do either or both of the following:

  • Share this post on Facebook and/or Twitter, then come back and leave a comment letting me know.
  • Post the badge above on your own blog (feel free to grab the code in the sidebar) with a link back to this post, and leave a comment letting me know.

The contest will close at 5:00 PM EST on Friday, September 9, and I’ll choose two winners randomly using the plugin “And The Winner Is.” Check back to next Saturday’s Lunch Box Challenge post for the winner! And I hope you’ll follow the challenge for the next month. Thanks, good luck, and happy packing!

The contest is closed! Two winning comments were randomly chosen:

Your Winner

Author: Martha (chi…@gmail.com)
Comment: permalink
After homeschooling for many years off to school go the youngest two. I am committed to pack lunches, and was successful for the first week. but I can see it getting harder and my kids are already asking to buy! but I hope by including them in the picking of food and the packing each day that we will succeed. Winning the prizes would be oh so fun!

Your Winner

Author: christina (c…@comcast.net)
Comment: permalink
School just started for us last week and my energy and creativity are high for making lunch. I HOPE I don’t fizzle out. Hopefully doing the challenge will keep me accountable.

Congratulations, Christina and Martha! Look for an email from me. If you’re just finding this giveaway and didn’t win, I hope you’ll follow along with the rest of the challenge – check back each Saturday for a new post and giveaway!

About The Author

481 Comments

  1. Ginger
  2. Kate
  3. Angie
  4. Abby Emanuelson
  5. Meredith
  6. Meredith
  7. Megan
  8. Megan
  9. Abby
  10. Amanda Stallman
  11. Amanda Stallman
  12. sue v
  13. STEPHANIE
  14. becky
  15. Carrie C. in VA
  16. Kris erickson
  17. erp
  18. Shelli (@shellipants)
  19. Jennifer
  20. Jennifer
  21. SusanP
    • Meagan Francis
      • SusanP
    • Jessica
  22. Andrea Ginsberg
  23. Andrea Ginsberg
  24. Caitlin
  25. Kris Underwood
  26. Kris Henderson
  27. Renata
  28. Adventures In Babywearing
  29. Tara
  30. MelissaS
  31. Alison B
  32. Kat
    • StephJ
  33. Michelle
  34. Angela
  35. Sarah Paturalski
  36. Amy A
  37. Amy A
  38. nopinkhere
  39. Chrissy
  40. Kim
  41. Ashley
  42. Ashley
  43. Sara
  44. Hillary Grace
  45. Alison Alfredson
  46. Stephanie
  47. Kelly
  48. Catharine
  49. suburbancorrespondent
  50. Leah
  51. Sarah
  52. Priscilla Cavalca
  53. Gwen
  54. Z
  55. Karen K
  56. Angela S.
  57. Calee
    • Mari
  58. Calee
  59. stacy
  60. Elizabeth
  61. Betsy C.
  62. lindsay
  63. Sabine
  64. Deborah
  65. Susan M
  66. Susan M
  67. Susan M
  68. sara
  69. sara
  70. deb
  71. Sheila
  72. Michelle
  73. Christine Long
  74. Southern Gal
  75. Cath in Ottawa
  76. Martha
  77. Martha
  78. Marie
  79. Leighann
  80. Krista
  81. Krista
  82. Stephanie Williams
  83. Cate
  84. Elana Lederman
  85. Theresa
  86. Brittany
  87. thordora
  88. jeannett
  89. jeannett
  90. Heather
  91. Argyllmac
  92. Zee S
  93. Kris
  94. Leigh
  95. Argyllmac
  96. Misty
  97. Laura
  98. Rebekka
  99. Kelley
  100. Christine
  101. Erin
  102. Carrie
  103. Miranda
  104. Jennifer Zeisse
  105. Mandi
  106. JJ
  107. Lynette
  108. Kristen M.
  109. Jennifer
  110. Jennifer
  111. Janel
  112. Janel
  113. Janel
  114. Krissa
  115. Christy
  116. MemeGRL
  117. MemeGRL
  118. Katie
  119. Katharine
  120. Lisa
  121. Jen
  122. cagey (Kelli Oliver George)
  123. Erika
  124. Blh
  125. Lynn
  126. Heather C
  127. Stephanie Sikorski
  128. Cathy R
  129. Kristi
  130. Stephanie Sikorski
  131. Tristen
  132. Julie
  133. Jessica Davenport
  134. Maria
  135. StephJ
  136. Andi
  137. Katie
  138. Andi
  139. Alissa H.
  140. Choe
  141. Carrie Rudolph
  142. Laurie
  143. Heather
  144. Tara
  145. Leigh
  146. erin
  147. Rookiemom heather
  148. Jackie R
  149. Melissa K.
  150. Aprille Tenorio
  151. Jaime
  152. MemeGRL
  153. Tracey
  154. Tracey
  155. sarah may
  156. Maleka
  157. holley
  158. Elizabeth
  159. Elizabeth
  160. Ledys
  161. Jennifer B
  162. Sue
  163. kristin
  164. Donna A
  165. Kristin
  166. Bonnie P
  167. Elizabeth
  168. Elizabeth
  169. Mandy
  170. Laura
  171. Trena
  172. Laura
  173. Sarah
  174. Karyn Hostetter
  175. DeeT
  176. Emily
  177. Nicole
  178. Mary G
  179. Amanda Smith
  180. Sarah
  181. Amanda Smith
  182. Allison
  183. Emily
  184. christina
  185. Sarah
  186. Judie M.
  187. Judie M.
  188. Jessicah
  189. Abbie
  190. Marie
  191. Sara
  192. Amanda
  193. Sonia
  194. Viki
  195. Viki
  196. tina
  197. Sonia
  198. Amy miller
  199. Idaho Jill
  200. Jamie
  201. Christine S
  202. Patty
  203. Meredith
    • Jessica
  204. Sarah C.
  205. Karmen
  206. Katie
  207. Ceejay
  208. Ceejay
  209. Wendy
  210. Meredith
  211. Meredith
  212. Thayer
  213. Valerie
  214. Ginny
  215. Jessica Michaud
  216. Ginny
  217. Jessica Michaud
  218. Lisa
  219. Sommer Emery
  220. Sommer Emery
  221. Diane Bortle
  222. Ali hinshaw
  223. Jen
  224. Tracy Owens
  225. cheryl
  226. Emily Fairchild
  227. Jessica
  228. Denise P.
  229. Catherine
  230. emily Fairchild
  231. Kim
  232. jessica
  233. Venia
  234. JoAnn
  235. Tanya
  236. Claire
  237. Claire
  238. Laura butts
  239. Sara
  240. Jenny
  241. Jessica
  242. Becky O.
  243. Tiffany Jones
  244. Judi
  245. Candice Kingston
  246. Leann J.
  247. Margaret
  248. Amanda C.
  249. Kim pham
  250. Theresa Garcia-Taylor
  251. Meghan
  252. Theresa Garcia-Taylor
  253. Meghan
  254. Jennifer
  255. Jill C.
  256. Elizabee
  257. carey
  258. carey
  259. Tricia Tanner
  260. kristy
  261. Aimee Mulligan
  262. Mrs Q
  263. Hannah
  264. Erin
  265. Lisa Powell
  266. Rachel
  267. andrea y.
  268. Randi
  269. Lucy
  270. MrsH
  271. Brooke
  272. Angie
  273. Shannon Owens
  274. Paige Woodruff
  275. Thuy
  276. maryeliz88
  277. Karen
  278. heather
  279. Nikki
  280. Cheryl
  281. MomofTwoPreciousGirls
  282. Sunny
  283. RLR
  284. RLR
  285. Dashtb
  286. RLR
  287. Dashtb
  288. Trish
  289. Leanne
  290. Allison
  291. Julie Holland
  292. Lisa
  293. Nico
  294. abcndlaw
  295. Jenna
  296. Tara
  297. Carla
  298. Kristen M.
  299. Cindi C.
  300. Camille
  301. Lisa P
  302. Ellen
  303. sarah
  304. Michelle
  305. Laura
  306. Maria
  307. Rachel
  308. Lee W.
  309. Sharon
  310. Vina
  311. Rhea
  312. Pamela
  313. Pamela
  314. Angie Cooley
  315. Susan
  316. Linda
  317. Susan
  318. Dani
  319. Laura Heitland
  320. Bernadette
  321. Cori
  322. Gail at Gail's Scoop
  323. Gail at Gail's Scoop
  324. Gail at Gail's Scoop
  325. Kimberle gamble
  326. Dominie White
  327. Jocelyn
  328. Cynthia Crowell
  329. Monia K.
  330. Haidee
  331. Cynthia Crowell
  332. Cheryl Spofford
  333. Nora
  334. Becca
  335. Amber H.
  336. Tragic Sandwich
  337. Anne
  338. Bernie
  339. Ziva
  340. Mary
  341. tara
  342. BreannaS
  343. Cindee
  344. Maureen
  345. Betsy
  346. Jessica
  347. Jessica
  348. Mom24@4evermom
  349. Lisa
  350. Sarah
  351. Mbranme
  352. Natalie M.
  353. Natalie M.
  354. Jeannine
  355. Michelle
  356. Briana
  357. Susan
  358. Susan
  359. Bethany
  360. Lorryn
  361. Heather
  362. Lorryn
  363. mom3boys
  364. mom3boys
  365. Erin(findingmysanity)
  366. Maureen
  367. Tracy C
  368. tracy
  369. Emily
  370. Michelle
  371. phebe
  372. Meagan
  373. Julie H
  374. Ellen Frank
  375. laura
  376. Kendri
  377. Nicole C.
  378. Nicole C.
  379. Debra
  380. Cee
  381. Karin
  382. Mary
  383. Diane
  384. Shannon Smith
  385. Denise
  386. Hands Free Mama
  387. Jessica
    • Meagan Francis
  388. Lindsey
  389. Melanie
  390. Nora
  391. Angela O
  392. Angela O
  393. choosy
  394. Dana Boyd
  395. Angela
  396. Erin
  397. jessica
  398. Tragic Sandwich
  399. Shannon
  400. meghan
  401. Melissa
  402. Janet
  403. Anne
  404. Ashley
  405. ellen
  406. Angela O
  407. Angela O
  408. Nena
  409. Lesley Billy
  410. Lesley Billy
  411. Amy MacKellar
  412. Kristin
  413. Kristin
  414. Amber
  415. Michelle
  416. Christa
  417. beth
  418. Julie
  419. Stef Daniel
  420. Christine M.
  421. Jeannie
  422. Olivia
  423. Christine
  424. KellyH
  425. Jacquelyn
  426. Kathleen
  427. Clover
  428. Kathy
  429. Kathy
  430. Natalie
  431. Chhaya
  432. Annie~Savor This Moment
  433. Margot
  434. Margot
  435. Jessica Weiss
  436. Jessica Weiss
  437. Wendy
  438. Margot
  439. mudmama
  440. mudmama
  441. Aimee in Or.
  442. jennfurr
  443. jennfurr
  444. Kim
  445. Summer Fike
  446. Gisaco
  447. Kat
  448. Kat
  449. Adrienne
  450. Cary
  451. Laura
  452. Heather
  453. Sylvia
  454. Barbara
  455. Jessica
  456. Lesismore
  457. Jessica
  458. beth
  459. Julie
  460. Lindsay
  461. Chris Beirne
  462. Jenni
  463. Sarah
  464. Natalie Anthony
  465. Natalie Anthony
  466. Sara
  467. Amy
  468. danielle
  469. danielle
  470. kelly mcknight
  471. bets