Thanks to the Thermos :: The Unsung Hero of the Lunch Kit

When my boys were babies, I made all of their food. I loved steaming vegetables and busting out my food processor to introduce them to new things. As they got older, they continued to eat what was served, rarely turning anything away.

Then, they turned 5 or so, and thus began the boycotts.

First, it was beans. They went from eating any shape, color, or size bean you could put in front of them. It was awesome! A few years ago, though, they started rejecting them all, because “they didn’t like them.” We kept serving them, (though the amounts got smaller and smaller), and eventually, they didn’t make it to their plates anymore. We reintroduced them a couple of years ago, and now they’ll eat red beans and pinto beans without a problem, and the occasional white beans, but don’t go near them with black or lima. It ain’t happening. After that, it was potatoes. With the exception of fries for one of them, they reject potatoes in ALL FORMS. The kids who used to wolf down potato salad – and to whom we had to stop serving sweet potatoes after battling a diaper rash – now turn up their nose at them both. I don’t get it, but it is what it is. It comes in waves, and we’re still having them try their old favorites/current rejects here and there, but it’s certainly frustrating. Especially when they have opposing dislikes – one hates fries, the other hates tacos, one hates peas, the other hates corn. Though they both like green beans. For now. Thank God.

Which brought us to the issue of school lunch.

When they first got to preschool and kindergarten, they ate everything on the menu. It was never a real issue for several years. But this year, I got an email from one of their teachers that he was complaining of a stomach ache one afternoon and told her he was “SO HUNGRY.” Of course, I felt awful – I had no idea he didn’t like what was served that day! So I knew there would be days I had to break out the lunch boxes. I enjoyed packing them “cracker sandwiches” as they call them (basically Lunchables – cheese, meat, and crackers), and other things they liked. But I could tell they were getting bored when their meals would come home uneaten, and I knew they’d only eaten the snacks for lunch.

One evening, my son asked why Daddy got to bring leftovers for lunch, and he didn’t – and a light bulb went off.

My mom used to pack all sorts of things in a thermos for me as a kid. Leftovers, hot dogs, soup, you name it. I knew my kids liked whatever I made for dinner that night, so why not send it for lunch when they wouldn’t want what was served? So I got a couple of thermoses and did some brainstorming. What would I pack when leftovers weren’t an option? Anything!

A few ideas:

  • Pasta (leftovers, or make it the night before/the morning of if you’re an early bird!)
  • Rice and beans
  • Chicken nuggets (place a folded napkin or paper towel at the bottom to prevent the condensation from making them soggy)
  • Fish sticks (same deal with the napkin)
  • Soup
  • Chili
  • Hot dogs

Simply fill the thermos with hot water (I use my Keurig for this!) for at least 5 minutes – you can’t leave it too long, so no rush there – empty it and wipe it out, then fill it up and pack that lunch box. And if your kiddo likes cold things like salads (lettuce, pasta, tuna, chicken, whatever!) – the thermos is great for those as well. You don’t have to worry about an ice pack which, if your kid is anything like one of mine, will not make it home every time. You can even pack a yogurt parfait or smoothie. The possibilities are endless!

Be sure to tell them to ask for help if they can’t open it – the first day I sent it, one of mine brought it home full because he couldn’t open it. Don’t ask me why he didn’t ask his teacher to open it!

Thankfully, he asks now – mostly because he’s so excited to eat whatever is in there! We often like hot meals for lunch, so why not our kids? I’m not trying to create extra work for myself and I’m always looking for ways to save time and money, and this was a great way to keep them fed and waste less food. In our house, we LOVE our thermoses!

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Laura is a self-professed "Southern Belle, born and raised in NYC". Raised by musician parents, she developed her love of performing at an early age. A proud alum of The Boston Conservatory at Berklee, she spent her 20s performing in Off-Broadway musicals and touring the world with various bands. After a whirlwind courtship, she married her husband Stephen in 2012, and moved down to NOLA. They soon became proud parents to their now 6-year-old "twin tornadoes" - a pair of identical boys who keep everyone on their toes! They now reside in Madisonville, where she works in outside sales. She doesn't have as much time for music as she used to, but still loves singing and playing the piano any chance she gets. She also enjoys spending weekends at her family's camp in MS, and is determined to "smoke a buck" before her sons do. Her other hobbies include cooking, baking, crafting, reading, and watching reality TV.

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