Freezer stash bento lunches
Contents of preschooler lunch: Mini burger patties made from meatloaf mix, roasted asparagus and a lemon wedge, cherry tomato, mini pudding cup (shelf-stable Kiku Petit Pudding, found here online and at Cost Plus World Market’s retail stores in the U.S.), home fries with garlic and rosemary, ketchup for dipping, and blueberries. (Click any photo for a larger view.)
Morning prep time: 7 minutes, using leftovers and little burger patties I’d previously made, fried up and frozen (then stored in my freezer basket of bento food for easy access). In the morning I filled a lidded sauce cup with ketchup for the burgers and fries, cut the tips off of the asparagus (my preschooler’s not a fan), and arranged the rest.
Speed tip: Building up a freezer stash with individual portions of different foods can save you on busy mornings. Make a little extra when you’re cooking dinner, portion it out in baking cups or freezer bags, and pop it into the freezer. Think of it as a pain-free time investment for fast lunches. My freezer basket for packed lunches currently holds rice & onigiri rice balls, waffles, edible ice packs, unsauced pasta, , inarizushi stuffed sushi, ginger, green onions in plastic drink bottles, and chopped herbs. Remember to cycle through freezer items quickly to avoid freezer burn, and figure out a way to keep track of what you’ve got in your freezer (such as homemade magnets, a whiteboard, paper lists, etc.). See the Top Speed Tips page for more ideas.
Verdict: So-so. Bug gave the little hamburger patties a thumbs down, which was not that surprising as I wound up overcooking them. Surprisingly, he left the pudding cup until after school, eating it as a snack at the park.
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Contents of preschooler lunch: Spinach and cheese spanakopita, cherries, broiled asparagus with lemon, and grapes. It’s very simple lunch using frozen phyllo spinach pies (Costco’s spanakopita, reviewed here), an easy way to add variety to a meal. (See also my earlier post on using world appetizers in bento lunches, and a full list of products I’ve reviewed)
Morning prep time: 16 minutes, mostly inactive prep time waiting for the frozen spanakopita to cook in my convection toaster oven and cool. The asparagus was leftover from dinner, so in the morning I just toasted the spanakopita and cut up the asparagus. I cooled the spanakopita on my mini cooling rack from Daiso, but I realized that toaster oven baking pans (found at stores like Amazon, Target or Bed Bath & Beyond) are only slightly larger and can be used for the same thing. Win-win!
Verdict: Big thumbs up. Bug ate everything at preschool, no leftovers.
- A list of all products reviewed on Lunch in a Box (food, gear, equipment and stores)
- Biggie’s list of top speed tips, tutorials and equipment reviews