When I was little, there was a formula for school lunches: main course, fruit, and a Third Thing. Bento boxes and the expanding palates of modern children have challenged the status quo, and lunch looks different these days. On a busy week, though, we fall back on the formula for our three boys, making a sandwich for each one and letting them choose a piece of fruit and a Third Thing on their own.
As an aside, the Third Thing has always annoyed me a little. At home, we rarely offer more for lunch than one plate of food, perhaps a piece of fruit if they crave something sweet after the meal. But the Third Thing? Strictly for the brown bag.
In a pinch, these are some lunch bag bonuses we can always make.
- Homemade trail mix. The advantage to this one is that it uses little bits of things left in the pantry that can't be used for anything else — a few raisins, a handful of sunflower seeds, or banana chips — and the children can mix it themselves from ingredients I leave on the counter.
- An artichoke. Baby artichokes are ideal, because they don’t have a prickly choke in the middle, and children aren’t allowed to have knives at school, a good thing, in my book.
- Bite-size homemade peanut butter and cheese crackers. This was one of my favorites when I was little, consolation since my mother refused to buy the pre-made, packaged version. They are much, much better than the pre-made packaged version.
- Another piece of fruit, because gosh darnit, you can never have too much fruit!
- Homemade cereal bars. You can put these together in minutes the night before, tossing in whatever you like in terms of nuts and dried fruit. I don’t use a recipe, but this is more or less what I do. I vary the nut butter, the sweetener, and the add-ins, depending on what's in the pantry.
Do you add a "third thing" to your lunch or your little ones' lunches? What kind of snacks do you like in your lunchbox?
Related: 15 Homemade Snacks for the Lunchbox
(Images: Anne Postic)