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6 Supersmart Tips for Kids' Lunches

Beating the Lunch Box Blues

Beating the Lunch Box Blues Courtesy of J.M. Hirsch

By day, J.M. Hirsch is the food editor for the Associated Press, but each morning, he embraces his unofficial gig as an expert lunch packer. After years of making delicious, easy and fun meals to-go for his son, Parker (like a Star Wars–themed egg sandwich, the Obi Wan-wich), Hirsch is sharing his wisdom in a book called Beating the Lunch Box Blues, which hits shelves September 3. Based on his blog LunchBoxBlues.com, Hirsch’s book (he calls it an “un-cookbook”) features great ideas for superfast boxed lunches, gorgeous annotated photographs and 30 fast dinner recipes that yield strategic leftovers. Here are six of the brilliant tips from his book.

Compartmentalize
“Lunch boxes once were just that—boxes. Today, most are modeled at least in part after Japanese bento boxes, which have multiple containers and compartments. Search these out.”

Keep Sandwiches Crisp
“To keep bread from getting soggy: First, toast it. Second, put a layer of fat between it and the other ingredients.”

Always Cook Too Much
“Leftovers make packing lunch so much easier. This is true when making breakfast, too. Extra pancakes and waffles make great ‘bread’ for sandwiches.”

Pack Real Utensils
“[Lunch] is not the time to break out the good silverware. But I’m also not a fan of disposable plastic, which breaks easily and has a lousy eco footprint. Instead, grab some inexpensive stainless-steel utensils at the bargain or secondhand shop.”

Stick It
“Remember, for fun eating, food on a stick always trumps food not on a stick.”

Involve the Rugrats
Including Parker in the cooking process eventually paid educational dividends: “Parker’s third-grade class was studying vertebrates and invertebrates, and for homework, he needed to classify a list of animals, indicating whether or not each had a backbone. ‘The chicken is easy,’ he told me. ‘I know they have backbones.’ ‘How do you know that?’ ‘Because I’ve watched you spank-cock them.’ Something may have gotten lost in the translation on that one. But it’s worth it either way.”

Related: Kid-Friendly Recipes
Lunch Box Recipes
School Lunch, Reinvented

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