It's Christmas time, and Christmas time means lots of gift exchanges.
Gift exchanges can be stressful, intimidating and sometimes downright scary.
What do I get?
What if they don't like it?
Will it fit?
What if they already have it?
Last week we had a department meeting at work and my boss explained all the ins and outs of the Christmas gift exchange to our new employees.
To be honest, the whole discussion pretty much revolved around my gift. Because....our gift exchange revolves around my gift.
The first year I took this gift, I wasn't really sure how it would go over. After all it was very unusual and so different from anything anyone else had ever done.
It is the time of year that everyone is more than ready for summer break. The kids are burnt out on the school work and burnt out on the boring lunch box. It is just the same old thing that they have been eating for months and months.
This year as I am planting the garden, I am specifically thinking about things that I can preserve to go into lunch boxes next fall. We have found several items that work really well for us and are planning on trying some new things this year.
My kids never pack potato chips any I try not to buy any pre-packaged food items for them. While pre-packaged items are quick and convenient, they just don't have much nutritional content. All the kids at school think that my kids are weird, but I think we have come up with some pretty good alternatives to pack in their lunch boxes.
Canned Fruit is pretty easy to pack. I always have applesauce on hand and when we have good years, we have canned pears from the trees in our yard. Invest is some small, reusable containers with well fitting lids. Open a quart of applesauce on Monday and it should last all week.
We had a bumper crop of cucumbers last year so we have many types of pickles in our pantry. The boys favorite is the sweet pickle slices. It is hard to get them to pack the pickles in their lunches because they stand at the table and won't stop eating them out of the jar. We also have dill pickle spears that are great finger food. By the end of the cucumber cycle, I was so sick of slicing pickles that I decided to make some whole dills. It turns out that the whole pickles are a huge hit and really fill them up. I cheat and just use Mrs. Wages pickle seasonings. Why mess with the best?
We were invited over to a friends house for dinner last year and she pulled out a can of dilly beans. Dilly beans are just pickled green beans. My boys forgot all their manners and made pigs of themselves. I didn't really have the right beans, but I went ahead and canned a bunch of dilly beans anyway. Dilly beans are great for those nights that you don't have time to make a vegetable. Just run over to the pantry, pop the lid and plop the jar on the table. Finger food at its best...which also makes it great for the lunch box. No preparation, no refrigeration...just a crunchy, healthy snack.
This year we are going to try pickled cherry tomatoes. That is, if I can keep Walker out of the garden. We typically don't have a problem with the need to preserve the cherry tomatoes because they are usually all gone before I even get out to the garden each night. I am going to plant an abundance of cherry tomato plants. This will also be a great snack and vegetable for lunches.
I am not a fan of sandwiches. I think my dislike for sandwiches began in Kindergarten when my mom packed peanut butter and jelly every single day. My teacher used to stand over me to make sure that I ate my sandwich. I still won't eat peanut butter and I am not a much bigger fan of a lunch meat sandwich.
We are a bread loving family. We had to put rules in place because all that Walker cares about is the bread. When the boys were really little, we would buy a $1 hot dog at the fair and have them split it. We quickly learned that the best way to split the hot dog was to give Isaac the dog and Walker the bun. Everyone was happy (maybe not healthy...but happy).
A couple of years ago we realized that we needed to cut down on the amount of bread items that we were eating. One of the easiest ways that we found to cut down on bread was to not pack sandwiches for lunch. This frees us from guilt when we indulge in the really good homemade bread and our weekly pizza splurge. The boys pack deer bologna with hot pepper cheese already mixed in it for lunch most days. There is no need to add a piece of bread to the meat. Just grab a slice and eat it.
In the spring, when the chickens are laying well, we almost always have times that our refrigerator is overflowing with eggs. I grab the oldest 2 dozen (so that they peel better) and make pickled eggs. They need to pickle for 2 weeks, so I try to do a bunch at a time. We have found the pickled eggs to be a great break from the deer bologna while providing the needed protein to get them through the day. They are also a great snack to grab on the way out to do evening chores or for breakfast on the go.
It has taken some trial and error, planning and an open mind, but we have been able to mix up the lunch box with some healthy alternatives. Besides, it is always fun to open that lunch box and know that it is all a product of your hard work.
Hello! I am Heather... the city girl turned mom to manure loving country boys. My husband and I both grew up in the city, but spent weekends visiting grandparents in the country. We are first generation farmers who learn best by almost always doing things the hard way. I hope you enjoy following along with our adventures down on the farm.