Chef Jona, the CEO of Cooked Chicago, who works on average 80 hours per week packs his kids lunches each day. Not long ago he proclaimed to us that he or his wife assembles the lunches each evenings, making three distinct healthy, organic, kid friendly lunches in 5 minutes or less. We had to know more– so we sat down with him to learn his tricks.
Jona: The key to success is having a method. What we recommend is-
- Buy a bento box style lunch box will organize you and save you time such as the Planetbox or another system.
A few years ago we decided to splurge and get stainless steel bento-box style lunch boxes. They were expensive, but they last! After two or three years, they look as good as new– for us at Cooked they were the ultimate example of “sustainable packaging” and they are an obvious choice over plastic materials that might only last one year and might have some chemical issues that are not ideal for kids.
- Ingredients are sufficient and healthy– kids often prefer things simple and alone, so keep it that way!
One we bought our boxes, we simply made a list of ideas– it was fun! We sat with the kids and though about what they liked: entrée, fruit, vegetable, snack. What makes lunch special, what do you dislike?
Once we had the lists done, it was a question of focusing on the ingredients that require the least preparation and that are, essentially, eaten as ingredients: grapes, cherries, baby carrots, olives, turkey slices with healthy crackers, hummus with pita all made the list. These are our staples on hard long days. On days when we are more ambitious, we cut! Oranges, apples, pears, cucumber sticks– we will make fruit kebabs or little pancakes. And then on occasion, we will notice that one of the kids isn’t eating something: turkey slices aren’t a hit anymore, we need to switch things up. Otherwise, keep it steady. Nothing throws off young kids as much as a new or unusual something in the lunchbox. Familiarity, quality, and consistency count for a lot!
And when all else fails– order from Cooked! We offer a rotation of kid friendly items, kids tested and parent approved.