Back in the day when I was writing a column about being thrifty (as opposed to now writing a column about family finances) I reviewed a product called Easy Lunch Boxes. They consisted of reusable heavy duty bento-style lunch boxes that even had their own carriers.
We tested them in our family.
I loved these lunch boxes, as did my kids (the foods didn’t get mixed together which meant that lunch was more than just a sandwich.) Each box had 3 compartments, 1 large enough for a sandwich (or salad) the other 2 for sides.
I still use these boxes when I need to pack a lunch and the absolute best thing about them is that they force to reflect on what it is you are going to put in your body. There are 2 small compartments – gee, maybe I’ll put carrots in one, or some leftover rice from last night. These lunch boxes force you to diversify your meal and to think before you eat. Not a bad thing, not a bad thing at all.
So imagine my delight when the inventor of these boxes, Kelly Lester came out with a cookbook on ways to pack lunches. It’s called Cooking with Trader Joe’s Cookbook: Easy Lunch Boxes and it includes easy ideas using the good food from Trader Joe’s and what you have around the house.
It’s more than just a cookbook though, using Trader Joe’s products, it’s also a fantastic idea book. For example, one suggestion is to use Trader Joe’s Mac and cheese balls for the main dish and then strips of bell peppers and ranch dipping sauce in the other 2 containers. A quick, easy, and healthy lunch that even I would like.
Kelly works at presentation and balance and she shows how it really doesn’t take a lot of effort to pack a healthy lunch that is appealing. (Compare her approach to some of the commercial “lunches in a box” from the grocery store and you’ll see what I mean – soda and a candy bar is not the way to make a lunch appealing.) Those of us who are constantly fighting the good battle of feeding our kids healthy food while trying to keep them away from the temptations of all the junk food out there fully appreciate this approach.
Here are some of Kelly’s ideas:
And the best, best thing about her ideas for lunches? She even includes the world’s greatest chicken sandwich (complete with Jellybean eggs) along with striped “egg” apples.
Seriously, how could you not love anyone, who makes lunch this fun?
About the book
Cooking with Trader Joe’s Cookbook – Easy Lunch Boxes is a delightfully different cookbook, born from social media. Through the online network that grew around her EasyLunchboxes products, Kelly discovered a world of bloggers and parents whose ideas for attention-grabbing, healthy food matched her own ingenuity – so she brought them together for this book. Among the book’s 32 contributors are popular food bloggers Marla Meridith (the book’s food stylist and photographer), Aviva Goldfarb, Leslie Durso, and Lisa Leake, with a foreword by food activist Bettina Elias Siegel. The cookbook offers options for the entire family, including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free offerings.