Some foods go well together. Chocolate and peanut butter create their own little slice of heaven when combined. Some foods just plain antagonize each other, and should never be mixed.
Keeping food separate in a lunch box is pretty easy if you have an individual container for each lunch component. If you're using a larger container, like a bento box, then baking cups come in handy.
Miss Mads is a berry fiend, but the pea puffs I packed in her lunch can shed little bits of pea puff dust, and I couldn't imagine that a blackberry with a pea puff coating would be particularly tasty. So, to separate out the berries and to provide a bit of visual pizzazz, I put the berries in a festively colored baking cup.
There are two types of baking cups I tend to use - paper and silicone.
Above are two examples of each. The blue cups are silicone, the multicolored ones are paper. Both kinds have advantages and disadvantages.
Reusable - It's cheaper in the long run, and the same cup that was used in your lunch can later be used to bake a cupcake
Liquid-proof - If you use it to hold something that's a little bit wetter than the rest of your lunch, like orange slices, you don't have to worry about the liquid seeping through the cup
More variance in shape - One of the blue cups is square shaped; there are tons of other shapes out there, like hearts
More expensive - While they aren't as expensive as they used to be, the per cup cost of a silicone cup is significantly higher than a paper one.
Cheaper - A single paper cup is a fraction of the cost of a single silicone cup
More variance in color and pattern - It's much easier to find brightly colored paper cups, and packs of cups will often include 3 or more colors and/or designs
More malleable - If you're trying to squish something in, paper cups can be folded and bent
Can be leaky - Not so much of an issue if you're packing nuts, but wetter foods can leak through
Not as sturdy - If you look above, you can see that one of the paper cups is a bit squished. Paper cups need a little more care in storing; some of mine had something lean up against them at some point
Not reusable - These are usually one use only.
I ended up going with the paper cups for Miss Mads' lunch, mainly because I'm not sure I can trust her not to accidentally throw away the silicone cups.
The other favorite lunch of Miss Mads is the eternal lunchbox favorite (barring allergy restrictions): the Peanut Butter Sandwich. It's been eclipsed as her go-to meal request, but has otherwise stayed strong in the number 2 spot.
When I ask Miss Mads what she would like to eat for lunch, 70% of the time she will answer "cheese and crackers".
So, she eats a lot of cheese and crackers.
What you see above:
4 cracker-sized slices of cheese
4 Ritz Crackers
A small handful of pea puffs
1 cup of yogurt
1 packet of applesauce
As Miss Mads is still fairly small, this is enough of a lunch for her. Someday, when she manages to top 36 pounds, she may need a bit more.
The Hello Kitty yogurt was a bit of a treat - usually I pack something with less sugar - but as far as lunchbox treats go, that's probably one of the more innocuous ones. I hope.
Is this the worst lunch in the world? No. There's some protein, some veggies, and some fruit. Most of the time she will eat it all. It's also pretty quick to put together. My main concern is the frequency in which it appears in the lunch rotation. In other words, she eats something similar to this 2-3 times a week on average.
There was a time when I had time to think of and plan creative bento. Excited about what I had created, I shared a few pictures with my mother. She, in turn, shared those pictures with her sister.
My aunt's comment? It's obvious she doesn't have kids. The implication there, of course, is that while she appreciated the aesthetics, there was an obvious sign that I had time to burn.
She was right, to a point, but only for a period of time. The time I had to spare for spending 30 minutes on a lunch disappeared once life changes occurred. We bought a house, changed jobs, and had a kid.
Then, the kid got older, as they do tend to do. Now that she's older and a little more responsible (and I know they won't be placed in a microwave by a well meaning school assistant), my assortment of boxes has found renewed use. My stash of food ideas, however, has been met with a new challenge.
The picky eating of a 4.5 year old.
Currently, we rotate through 2 standard lunches. My challenge? To shake up the lunches, while still staying within the blurriest of categories: what my daughter will actually eat!