Out of the Lunch Box

Out of the (Lunch) Box

Read the tips below before you fill another brown bag or lunchbox.

Spread a very light layer of whipped cream cheese on bread before putting in a mayonnaise-based filling like tuna or chicken salad. This prevents the salad from "weeping" into the bread. No more soggy sandwiches! If you are pressed for time in the morning, use this trick to make sandwiches the night before that will stay fresh. —Jan Pardue, Naples, Florida

Years ago, I was given a food sealer as a gift, and now I make individual packets of food for my kids' lunches. When I am in a baking mood, I bake up a big batch of something. Then, using my food sealer, I seal individual sized servings and put these packets in a large bucket in the freezer. In the mornings when I am making lunches, I select a different dessert item each day. The pail usually contains all sorts of items, giving the kids a good variety. I have also done lots of snack foods this way. If it can be sealed and frozen, it qualifies! The ideas are endless! —Sandra Linton, Spruce Grove, Alberta

When you are putting a piece of sheet cake in a lunch box, cut it in half horizontally, then put the top half upside down on the bottom half. This puts the icing in the middle, so you don't lose it. —Wanda Hannan, Burlington, Kentucky

I packed lunches for my 2 young nephews with a baseball theme. I glued baseball cards on both sides of each lunch sack then filled them with their favorite sandwich, fruits, etc. I made sugar cookies in the shape of baseball bats and mitts, and I tucked in a pack of baseball cards with a note attached that read, "Good for one ice cream cone and a round of baseball at Aunt Nell's house." —Nella Parker, Hersey, Michigan

I have been including a word of the day in my daughters' lunches for years. I choose a word from dictionary.com and print it off. As first, my daughters gave me the "Oh, Mom!" look, but now they and their friends look forward to improving their vocabularies and having a little fun at lunch. They even have friends approach them as ask what the word of the day is! —Robin Garske, Saginaw, Michigan

I have three busy boys to feed, so lunch boxes are a must in our home. One thing that I do to make their lunch special is to make their favorite sandwich, cut it into a circle using a sandwich or biscuit cutter, and then paint the tops of the sandwiches. I take a very small cup and mix a drop or two of food coloring with a few drops of water. Then I stir with a paintbrush used only for this purpose, and I paint the bread. I have painted hearts, Christmas trees, and letters of the alphabet, their names, shamrocks, smiley faces and more. These sandwiches are always the talk of the lunchroom and definitely won't be traded! —Tina Belock, Corpus Christi, Texas

Napkins are often a forgotten essential in the lunchbox. Each day, I put a different decorated paper napkin in the kids' lunchboxes. They appreciate it and love watching for new designs. I pick up a pack whenever I see a sale, so I always have a few packs on hand! For holidays, I tuck in a cute matching plate! —Cindy Harrell, Dallas, Georgia

I buy a gallon of chocolate milk each week and fill 12-ounce bottles half full and freeze them. Then every morning, my 13 year-old son pulls one out of the freezer and fills it up the rest of the way. The milk stays cold until lunchtime. My son loves the chocolate milk, and I feel confident that he's getting a healthy lunch! —Ginger Clausen, Portland, Oregon

To provide me with a hot lunch, my mother would nearly fill a thermos bottle with hot soup then add a hotdog. She would put a hotdog bun in my lunch bucket. When it was time for lunch, I had a hotdog and soup lunch along with a couple of cookies. —Guy Copeman, Billings, Montana

My husband works long hours as a sales manager for a local car dealership, so he doesn't get to see our 10-month-old daughter as often as he would like. In the mornings, I take a quick snapshot with our digital camera of our daughter playing or doing something funny. Then I print it out and include it in his lunch with a note that says something like, "Hurry home, Daddy." He loves being surprised with a new picture each day and has started a collection of his "paper bag photos." This way, he gets to see her all day long. —Brittani Kistner, Columbia, South Carolina

I have packed a lunch for my husband for most of the 29 years we have been married. I search our newspaper and save comics and short articles that pertain to our lives. Each day, he receives a note of encouragement plus a comic or short article about sports, health issues, finances, vacation ideas, etc. —Lynne Lande, Auburn, Washington

My husband packed my lunch for work when I was teaching with all of my favorite childhood lunch treats. It made my day when I opened the bag and discovered a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Cheetos, a Twinkie and a sweet love note. It was so special that he remembered such a small detail about my childhood. —Angela Ellett, Branson, Missouri

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