The lunch box is limping to the finish line…

Easy lunch ideas: spicy peanut noodles with yellow bell pepper; a whole-grain waffle, cream cheese and ham sandwich; and watermelon.

I thought I was going to get out of it this year. Last year, after several months of cruising the web looking for just the right lunch box, I settled on this one. And I was convinced it would last several years.

I liked this box for several reasons. First, it is well insulated. Second, it has two compartments — a feature that makes it much easier to pack hot and cold items in the same lunch. Third, it was spacious enough that I rarely need to jam things in, yet it’s not so large that my little guy throws out his back hefting it to school.

I also liked that it is built like a tank and includes it’s own stainless steel silverware (and a pocket to store them in). All of which is why I figured I’d get two years out of it.

I’m stupid like that sometimes. I underestimated just how destructive and disgusting an 8-year-old boy can be.

Because after after an entire school year (and much of this summer) of:

  • being swung about like a weapon
  • being used as a chair
  • being catapulted across the school yard
  • having untold volumes of food sloshed and spilled in it
  • having its zippers yanked, pulled and tugged
  • being used — at least evidence suggests — to sometimes carry rocks
  • sometimes even being used to pack lunch

the lunch box seems to be ready to retire. No matter how many times I replace the zipper or spray it with disinfecting spray, it doesn’t seem ready to go on. This is Parker’s last week of summer camp and the lunch box is limping to the finish line.

In the interest of due diligence, I’m going to spend a little time researching whether something better has come along since last year. But barring that, I plan to order a new one of the same model. I’ll let you know what I find.

Speaking of lunch gear, for a full guide on back-to-school shopping for all your lunch packing needs, check out my post from earlier today over on Rachael Ray’s website.

Now, as for today’s lunch… I started out with a couple of toasted whole-grain waffles, which I used as “bread” for a ham and cream cheese sandwich.

Then I moved on to some peanut noodles. I used udon noodles (made from buckwheat flour), which cook up in just a couple minutes. This is so easy. Here’s how it works.

I bring a small saucepan of water to a boil and add the noodles. As the noodles cook, in a medium bowl I mix 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, 1 teaspoon vinegar, 1 teaspoon soy sauce and a splash of hot sauce. When the noodles are done, scoop out about 1/4 cup of the cooking water, then drain them and toss them in with the peanut sauce. Add the cooking water and keep tossing. Done. You can pack them warm, but I usually pack them room temp. And don’t hesitate to substitute any pasta for the udon noodles (though regular pasta will take longer to cook).

I topped today’s spicy peanut noodles with chopped peanuts and minced yellow bell pepper. Figured it was an easy way to get the veg in.

Finally, add some watermelon and we’re good!

By the way, all 50 of the free cookbooks have been claimed! Thanks so much! Hard to believe it’s just a few weeks until “Beating the Lunch Box Blues” is released. Thanks so much for all your support! If I can get the publisher of my last book to go along, I’ll try to extend the deal. Stay tuned.

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12 Responses to “The lunch box is limping to the finish line…”

  1. I’ve been wondering about what gear you used! And I like your waffle-as-sandwich idea. Now, if I could just get Baguette to eat a sandwich …

  2. Christina G says:

    We use Planetbox at our house. It’s an investment but they’ve lasted through the school year and various summer camps. Three years now and going strong!

    I don’t have any affiliation, I just love the money it’s saved me through the years.

  3. Eve says:

    A lunchbox is not as much fun if it doesn’t allow you to throw it, toss it, sit on it, bring back stuff in it and last but not least, carry your food. It’s a shame you have to replace it already… :(

    I have fond memories of carrying around a small hard plastic pink cooler. It was not perfect, but it was pretty much indestructable. I think it still sits in one of my parents’ basement somewhere :)

  4. Shari says:

    How in the world did my son’s lunch box last all 12 years(1st-12th) of my lunch packing duty? I have no clue. Guess you are not as lucky :)

    • J.M Hirsch says:

      Wow! Either you were blessed with a careful kid or they just don’t make lunch boxes like the used to. My kid destroys his by the end of the year. This year’s remained mostly structurally intact, but it has had so much food spilled into it, it’s just too gross to continue using (no matter how many times I clean it out).

  5. Becky says:

    You might try running it through the washing machine. I tried that with one of my son’s grungy old lunch bags as a last resort before throwing it away, and it came out looking almost new. I threw it in with a load of towels, some detergent, and a little oxygen bleach …

    • J.M Hirsch says:

      That’s a great idea. I will try that while we’re on vacation (and don’t need the lunch box). I don’t have high hopes, but you never know…

  6. Kathy C says:

    I just ordered the new lunch box/carriers from Lunchbots. Lets see how those work out with my 6 & 9 year old testers.