Tuesday, March 29, 2016

How to Batch Process Lunches


Despite the fact that people got really upset about how much money I intended to spend on purchasing 10 eco-friendly, health-friendly lunch containers in order to make my busy life a little easier, I wanted to share an update about how it's going for us. 

I started by purchasing two of these, based on a recommendation from my friend who says she has used hers for years, in addition to the many positive reviews on Amazon. 

Once I realized they worked for our family, I purchased eight more of them. On Sundays, I set aside 1-2 hours to prep as much food as possible for the week. Last week, it took Henry and me two hours to:
  • Make ten school lunches
  • Chop broccoli and mushrooms and shred cheese for a vegetarian pizza on naan bread
  • Make a healthy carrot and cauliflower soup with cumin
  • Bake a loaf of fresh bread using the recipe from the book that Kylie, Angie, and I made
  • Chop broccoli and juice/zest lemon for a whole wheat penne pasta one-pot meal
The lunch containers (you could do the same thing with a much cheaper plastic version) stack really easily in our fridge and don't take up much space in our fridge all week. It's incredibly fast to lay these out and populate them with healthy, balanced things (the little container is applesauce).  

Prepping as many ingredients as possible for our weekly dinners means that I only need to spend about 15-20 minutes pulling together dinner each night. It's the only way we have time for playing, eating together as a family, bath time, books, story time, and bed time. 

It's a stressful time of life, but we're making it work!

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Audrey said...

Wow - people really cared about you buying those lunch boxes! If you were being commercial it was totally lost on me, sorry haha

I find it incredibly interesting how you balance it all and these posts (mundane tasks to some maybe) are why I read your blog. I literally just spent 3 months researching and looking at lunch boxes for my 4 year old. I finally settled on plastic, but from a brand I trust. The stainless steel was oh-so-high on my list!

Can I ask whether that is chicken pieces in the picture? How do you manage the protein bit of lunch, does it go in at the start of the week or fresh every day? My two generally take some sort of meat, so I would think I would have to pull it out of the freezer of a morning and pop it in (kinda what I do now, although I am chopping up the veg etc each night/morning).

aeep said...

Got really upset? I reread the comments and everyone seemed to understand why you needed a solution but didn't get the solution you were settling on and giving feedback.

Kristy said...

I need to do more meal prep on Sundays. I'm a huge fan of 10-20 minute healthy meals on week nights. I'm also interested in hearing about how the lunches keep over the week. I usually throw something together for my boys each morning and it is a definite time stealer.

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Audrey! I feed Henry grilled chicken strips from Applegate Farms. I put them in the lunchboxes on Sunday. The boxes have a lid, so it seems similar to keeping the chicken in tupperware all week. I've been doing it for a couple of weeks, and Henry hasn't had any stomach problems.

Hi, Aeep! People seemed upset to me. It's hard to read tone sometimes. I felt judged for spending so much money on stainless steel containers.

Hi, Kristy! The lunches keep okay through Friday. The cheese is a little hard, the chickpeas are a little flavorless, and the cucumbers have looked better, but my boys don't complain. I'm going with it for now!

Jill Kovacs said...

Thanks for posting the budget option for those of us who don't have $400 to spend on lunchboxes (that's a weeks pay for us:). Glad it's working for you all! Batch Processing rocks.

mamaschlick said...

Does this mean they eat the same lunch every day for the whole week?

mamaschlick said...

Does this mean they eat the same lunch every day for the whole week?

beneg said...

Terrific idea, but I just wanted to highlight the food safety risks with preparing lunches this far in advance (i.e. five days).

Rice for example, should never be kept in the fridge for more than a day (since it contains Bacillus cereus - a bacterium that causes food poisoning). Potatoes and pasta are also best eaten within two days!

Cooked food should be thoroughly reheated. Pieces of cooked poultry shouldn't be kept in the fridge for more than a couple of days without being reheated.

Just something to keep in mind when preparing lunches in advance.

WHO's has some good resources on food safety http://www.who.int/foodsafety/en/

And the FDA has a good food storage chart

irinapopina said...

Most of the people might still connect you with the original idea to spend less than 2k on a wedding. So that could be part of why shelling out 400 $ for lunchboxes feels strange to some readers, especially when there are chaper options as you were pointed to.

mamaschlick said...

Rice for one day in fridge? Wow. Some of those rules sound ridiculous and I've never had problems with that stuff. America is so obsessed with "food safety" yet if you eat at a restaurant you're likely violating a number of food poisoning safety rules. I also thought people got upset with Sara and I actually find it funny that everyone is so quick to comment on her containers or her food being prepped in advance. I think it's great she's working to find solutions even if they're not what I'd choose. Anyone who is in charge of cooking for their kids knows how hard it can be. Batch cooking and prepping is extremely common and the containers she chose are fine. Maybe she wanted to splurge on them or she just liked them. Either way, I'm not gonna give her a hard time just because she tries to save or live her life ethically, I think it's great she strives for it. So few people even try and it's pretty hard in society today to not "mess up" somehow, whether by buying stuff from amazon (and then wondering where all the independent stores went) or spending too much on eating in restaurants. We're all doing what we can.

Sara E. Cotner said...

That makes sense, irinapopina. Thanks for sharing.

I guess for me life is always about competing priorities. Matt and I had to have an inexpensive wedding because we wanted to pay for it all ourselves, we were both living on teacher salaries at the time, and we wanted to save up every last penny for a downpayment on our first house. Because we only spent $2,000, we had to sacrifice some of our values. For example, I bought a $15 dress but it wasn't an eco-friendly option. It was mass-produced in a sweat-shop. We also bought some of our food at Costco, instead of buying organic food. Given where we were in our lives, our frugality value trumped our eco-friendliness value.

Now that we have two full-time salaries (after having been in the same field for 16+ years), I was able to prioritize my eco-friendly and health values above my frugality value. I wanted to avoid using plastic because of the harmful chemicals that leach into food over time. It doesn't mean I don't still value frugality; it just means I'm sometimes able to prioritize other values over frugality.

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