Each June as the school year comes to a close, I meet the advent of summer with a mix of relief and trepidation. Relief that we are on an extended hiatus from schedules, homework and sports practices; trepidation knowing that the novelty of sleeping in will wear off only to be replaced by a chorus of “There’s nothing to do”, “He/She is bugging me” and my personal favorite, “I’m bored.”
I get a reality check the week after school ends when the kids are fighting and I need to get some work done – a curse and a blessing of working at home. And then I remember how important it is to strategize in order to make our summer as peaceful as possible. Add to that special diet requirements, and it’s a tall order.
So…strategies. If your kids are bound for day camp, you’ll be able to get more use out of their lunch boxes. Or, if you can manage it, buy them a new insulated lunch pouch for summer to change things up a bit. Whether you’re planning daily summer lunches, or if your child is home for the summer and you are planning for outings, here’s a few items that will make the food portion of your summer run smoothly:
¥ BPA Free food storage containers in a variety of sizes (from The Container Store)
¥ BPA Free water containers (Costco has a good supply)
¥ insulated lunch boxes
¥ small ice packs
¥ mid-sized canvas cooler
¥ large, rolling cooler with wheels (canvas or large durable plastic)
¥ blanket for picnics
¥ utensils – buy a cheap set just for your cooler or lunch boxes
¥ napkins or paper towels
¥ wipes for easy clean up and sticky hands
When you visit the zoo, beach, lake or grandparents, use these items to make the event convenient and easy. I personally like providing a separate lunch for each of my kids in their own individual lunch box or pouch. They like opening their little food containers which protect the food from being squished. Plus, that means they don’t have to share with one another which equals more peace for me. Toss everything into a large, rolling cooler complete with drinks, utensils, paper towels and wipes you’re ready to go anywhere.
Great items to tuck into all these storage containers range from your run of the mill sandwiches to the little snacks kids love, like Hardboiled Egg Spiders, Lettuce Wraps and Chocolate Puffed Rice Treats. The rule of thumb is to always bring more food than you think you’ll need. Corn chips, dill pickles and olives are fun, healthy snacks, along with all the fresh cut-up fruit you care to include. There’s fruit to always buy organic if you can, because they retain the highest levels of pesticide residue. You can get away with buying conventionally grown melons because the pesticides tend not to penetrate the tough, thick skin, but be sure to wash them thoroughly with a fruit and vegetable wash. If you slice through unwashed fruit, you can drag the pesticides through the flesh of your fruit with your knife.
And for a special occasional sweet treat, my kids love oogave organic soda, sweetened entirely with agave. Or stash a bottle of sparkling water along with individual cans of pineapple juice from Trader Joe’s for a Pineapple Fizz, because summer feels more like summer with a fizzy drink. Straws are always a hit, too.
Being prepared is key to enjoying your time with your kids. At the end of the day, if there’s nothing to do, they’re bugging one another or they’re bored, they can at least have tummies full of safe, healthy food.
Amy Waczek writes a gluten-free, casein and soy optional blog featuring a recipe index and resource guide at www.amysglutenfreepantry.com.
Amy’s Hard-Boiled Egg Spiders
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 20-45 minutes depending on method used for hard boiling eggs
Yield: 12 servings
Special equipment: egg cooker optional
Olives are a great way to replace calcium lost from a casein-free diet. Paired with a good source of protein like an egg, this is classic American fare with a fun twist your kids will love.
6 hard boiled eggs
1/4 c. mayonnaise
salt & pepper to taste
18 whole black olives
1. Cook eggs via egg cooker, per instructions. To cook on the stove top, place cold eggs (directly from the fridge) into a pot with cold water that reaches an inch above the top of the eggs. Place pot over high heat until the water comes to a full boil, then immediately remove pot from heat and cover with a tight fitting lid. Let the eggs sit in the hot water for 12 minutes for medium eggs, 15 minutes for large and 18 minutes for extra large. Drain eggs and fill pot with cold water to cool. Once completely cooled, they will be quite easy to peel.
2. Peel eggs and slice in half, length-wise. Remove the yolks to a bowl, setting white aside.
3. Add mayonnaise to yolks and smash with the back of a fork until well combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.
4. Spoon yolk mixture back into egg “cups.”
5. Slice all olives in half, lengthwise. Place an olive half upon filled egg. Slice two more halves into “legs” for each side of the spider, and arrange accordingly.