Ridiculously enough, the Super Target in Duluth (Minnesota, about 40 minutes North of us) has already cleared out their summer seasonal section and is in the process of building their back to school displays and stock. Last week’s ad already had back to college/school deals, even. It’s July for crying out loud! As cringe inducing as it may be, it’s almost time for a new school year to start. Not only does that mean buying school supplies and clothes but it also means, hopefully, coming up with ideas for lunches for your kids. With the new school lunch guidelines (unrealistic demands) firmly in place and making lunch miserable for the majority of schoolkids, it’s often better to feed kids a home lunch anyway. The school my kids go to is extremely small (only about 300 kids total and it’s PreK-12 in one building), so the lunch team makes a lot of their foods from scratch. Their hearts are certainly in the right place but, thanks to the aforementioned dictates, their food still isn’t my kids’ preference a lot of the time. To say the least, it’s a challenge to come up with interesting ideas sometimes; sending lunch 5 times a week can seem an impossible task. Thankfully, there are SO many easy, tasty ideas that can be packed into a lunchbox! One of the simplest lunchbox items out there are the infamous-yet-wildly-popular Uncrustables; the little round, crustless PB&J sandwiches that can be found lurking in the freezer section. These tiny sandwiches are chock full of unpronounceable ingredients- including high fructose corn syrup- and are insanely overpriced. With one simple gadget, your own ingredients, and about a minute and a half you can make your own homemade uncrustables! And they are every bit as tasty as the ones from the store- even more so because you can fill them with anything you want. PB&J or honey? Of course! But how about ham and cheese, turkey and guacamole, or even Nutella and strawberries? When you make your own you can get creative and end up with something WAY more interesting than what you can get pre-made and the price tag is far more manageable.
To get started, you’ll have to make a small investment: at least one pocket sandwich cutter (as opposed to cutters that just cut shapes). You’ve probably seen them at the store, jumping out at you from hangers in the condiment or bread aisles. Or perhaps you’ve seen them on bento or home chef sites. Here are the two I have:
The metal cutter is a gift from my BFF and will run anywhere from $4.00 (on EBay) to about $20 (from Pampered Chef on Amazon). This has lasted me about 3 years so far and I expect to be using this for years to come. The plastic square cutter was $1.00 from Dollar Tree. It works well, but is starting to curl along the edges from being pushed down to cut the crusts off of sandwiches. I use fairly sturdy wheat bread instead of mostly air white bread, so the cutter has some work to do. It will probably only last another year or two. It’s up to you which you use, but I would recommend getting the best quality cutter you can manage.
Let’s make some sandwiches! Zachariah is still staunchly against cold meat sandwiches, so he gets PB&J or PB&H. **This is important: if you’re going to make a PB&J or PB&H sandwich that’s going to have to sit for more than about 20 minutes, you need to put a protective layer on both slices of bread or the jelly or honey will seep through. That’s terribly unappetizing! You can use either a thin layer of peanut butter on the top slice or, even tastier, a thin layer of softened butter. (Trust me on this: try the butter!)
The classic Uncrustable combination:
Liliana & Gloriana love them some ham sammiches, but Liliana has to have cheese but no mayonnaise and Gloriana has to have hers with mayonnaise but no cheese. They’re twins but definitely their own people 🙂
To make pocket sandwiches of any kind you’ll have to be careful that you put all of the ingredients within the shape that will be made after you’ve used the cutter. If it helps, you can press the cutter very lightly into the bottom slice of bread to get a faint outline to use as a guide. Also, make sure you don’t over fill the sandwich or the top slice of bread will burst open when you press down on the cutter. As you can see, these sandwiches didn’t turn out perfect like they usually do. I tried a different brand of bread and it obviously isn’t going to work for these because it isn’t quite as soft as it needs to be. But that’s ok; you live and learn. I’ll go back to the bread I was using 🙂 Once you’ve made a few pocket sandwiches you’ll have a feeling for where things need to be placed and in what amounts.
These are just the super basic models; use whatever your kids love or get creative and have some fun. And happy new school year, ready or not!