One night last week I was avoiding some kind of work (I don’t remember what; that’s not really the important part) with my favorite procrastination tool: Pinterest. As I scrolled down the page, stopping here and there for a yummy recipe or clever quote, I noticed a bunch of pins about school lunches.
“Oh, right,” I thought to myself. “It’s almost time for school to start.” AS IF I’D FORGOTTEN.
But while I might just be counting down the days until my shadow goes to kindergarten and tallying up the money we’ve already spent on tennis shoes and crayons, I hadn’t given much thought to school lunches. So I clicked on the pins.
Well. Apparently some mothers out there have more time or love their kids more or SOMETHING. Because those crustless PB&Js made to look like cartoon characters and those apple slices turned into butterflies? Are WAY BEYOND anything this mom is planning!
Suffice it to say, I won’t be buying special Bento boxes and subscribing to the blogs that show a new, creative lunch idea each day. However, I’m definitely up for simple, NORMAL ideas for making my kiddo’s lunch a little more interesting while still keeping it healthy.
Based on this Facebook conversation, I know I’m not alone in wanting new ideas that will make our kids happy and healthy, all without breaking the bank.
It just so happens that the day after I ranted and worried about school lunches, I participated in a webinar about shelf-safe milk.
(Which means that yes, this post is compensated. I’m happy to partner with Milk Unleashed and The Motherhood to share information about shelf-safe milk with you, but as usual, all opinions are my own.)
When I first heard about shelf-safe milk, my immediate reaction was, “Um, what? Milk? On the SHELF? As in, NOT IN THE FRIDGE???”
Why, yes, I am quite open to new things, thanks for noticing.
But after learning a little bit about shelf-safe milk, I realized three things.
1) It’s not weird. (More on that later.)
2) It’s super convenient. (More on that later.)
3) We’ve been using it and didn’t even know it!
Yep, that’s right. Those milk cartons you get at Chipotle or Panera? SHELF-SAFE MILK. They’ve just been refrigerated, so we didn’t know the difference! (Also, back when we were experimenting with non-dairy choices for our family [long story. We're not doing that anymore.], my mom bought us soy milk and organic [dairy] milk – both off the shelf, both safe and healthy options.)
Here’s the deal with shelf-safe milk:
- It’s the same healthy, from-a-cow milk that you’re used to buying in a [refrigerated] carton.
- The difference is the process in which it’s pasteurized (at ultra-high temps for a shorter timeframe) and packaged.
- The packaging is some kind of magic (or, you know, SCIENCE) – a sterile Tetra Pak shelf-safe carton that keeps out light, air and harmful contaminants. It’s recyclable and contains no BPA. And it keeps milk fresh for up to six months without refrigeration or preservatives. (Cool, right?)
- Once you open a carton of shelf-safe milk, it needs to be refrigerated and lasts about as long as a “regular” carton of milk.
- You can find shelf-safe milk (on the shelf, AHEM) in most grocery stores. Mine carries it in the juice aisle, as well as in the baking section.
So, what does this have to do with school lunches? Easy. Individual cartons of shelf-safe milk that can be stored in the pantry means one less item to run out of on a Sunday night!
Not to mention it’s an easy way to make sure my kiddo is drinking healthy milk with her lunch instead of sugary juice. (Because, let’s face it, those juice boxes might be full of The Bad Stuff, but they are super convenient! … Just like cartons of shelf-safe milk!)
Would you consider buying shelf-safe milk for your children’s school lunches? (Or to take to the park or on a picnic or on camping trips or to ball games or on road trips? Yeah, it really is ideal for tons of situations where we might otherwise end up slacking off and buying less-healthy drinks or just going thirsty!)
If you’re curious about shelf-safe milk, I highly recommend checking out the Milk Unleashed website. It has tons of great info and answers any questions you might have about it! You can also follow Milk Unleashed on Facebook or Twitter for more tips, ideas and insider information!
Now, back to the school lunch discussion! After stumbling onto those posts and articles about fancy-schmancy school lunches – and remembering that I am neither all that creative nor motivated – I kept clicking around, determined to find “real” ideas for lunches.
- grilled chicken strips
- ham and cheese roll-ups
- spicy string cheese
- cups of applesauce
- tubes of yogurt
- fresh fruit – all kinds!
- veggies and dip
- apples and peanut butter
- boxes of raisins
- peeled mandarin oranges
- crackers, cheese and meat
- tortillas and hummus
- mini Oreos
- animal crackers
- mini water bottles
- cartons of shelf-safe chocolate milk
I love that most of these ideas can be made from non-processed food (we’re taking baby steps toward that direction at our house) and can be bought in bulk, then individually wrapped at home to save money.
(And what a great way to get our kids involved. My plan is to have Annalyn help me bag up her pretzels, fruit and veggie sticks on the weekends, then she can grab and pack her own lunch each morning. That’s the PLAN, at least…)
So, what do YOU pack in your kids’ lunch?
And have you ever tried shelf-safe milk?