In a perfect world, you could fix your kids a fresh lunch every day and share it with them. While that may be an option in the summer, during the school year you have to pack them food to take with them. You can only hope that lunch makes it to midday unsquashed and reasonably fresh. The next best thing to a fresh lunch is one that leaves home frozen and thaws by lunchtime.
Many healthy foods are great candidates for freezing and thawing into freshness. For best results, use packaging and containers with reliable seals. Pack frozen food in plastic bags to prevent the condensation from soaking through the bag or contaminating other items.
Although peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are the most popular freeze-ahead sandwiches, many other types also work well. Cheddar and cream cheese are good freezing choices, as are sliced lunchmeat, hard-cooked egg yolks and ground meat such as meatloaf. Ingredients such as lettuce, tomatoes, carrots and pickles in fillings release a lot of liquid when they thaw and become limp and soggy. Pack fresh vegetables and pickles separately in sealed plastic bags and have your child add them to the sandwich right before eating. To guard against sogginess in sandwich breads, lightly spread each slice of bread with butter to act as a moisture barrier. Add interest to sandwiches by using buns, bagels, pitas and tortillas instead of sandwich bread to hold the fillings.
For the easiest and quickest frozen sandwich option, keep a box of your kids’ favorite SMUCKER’S® Uncrustables® in the fridge. On hectic weeks, you won’t even have to think about prep work, just throw a frozen sandwich in your child’s lunchbox, and it will be thawed by lunch time!
Fruits and vegetables
Fill plastic, zipper-sealed bags with carrots and celery sticks and freeze the individual packages in a large freezer bag. Pop them in the freezer, place them into lunch bags in the morning and they’ll be cold and crisp for lunch. Freeze whole grapes and blueberries and sliced peaches, plums, strawberries and nectarines in containers for cold lunch treats. Freeze bananas with the skins left on to prevent discoloration.
Dips and toppings
Fresh vegetables and fruits taste better with dips and toppings. You can freeze yogurt-based dips in tiny containers. Flavor the vegetable dips with herbs and spices and use honey and maple syrup to jazz up the fruit dips. Salsa freezes well and makes a good lunch side dish when paired with a bag of baked pita or tortilla chips.
The next time you make burritos, prepare a few small portions and freeze them. Pack them in a lunch bag in the morning and they’ll be deliciously thawed by noon. Use the same technique for leftover fried rice, pasta salads and pizza. Frozen pudding or yogurt cups thaw to a perfect consistency between morning and lunchtime.
Designate a shelf in the freezer for frozen lunch items to make grabbing prepackaged lunches easy and convenient. Encourage kids to pick out balanced meals from the selection to teach them the importance of healthy eating.
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