Cloche Designs | Pack It Up, Pack It In, Let Lunch Begin!
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Pack It Up, Pack It In, Let Lunch Begin!

Written by: Laura Nell Burton
Photography by: Christin Gish

Dear Moms Across America,

We’re deep in the heart of the dog days of summer and, here in Texas, when August rolls around, even a day in the swimming pool is sweltering. I don’t know why I bother drying my hair or applying makeup. I can’t raise my hand if I’m sure. I’m in a sweaty, fatigued, hopeless war against the heat. My kids are tired of day camps but bored and grumpy at home. They whine and fight. Their toys are everywhere. I don’t know about you, but this is about the time I start counting the days until school starts…

To-dos begin to materialize…at first it’s just a few emails…I’ll just leave that in my in-box and read it when I feel like it. But they keep coming…from three different schools this year…bless my heart my blood pressure is rising even as I type. Each year in my eleven years of being a mom the moment always comes when I admit I can no longer ignore the nagging reality that the first day of school is upon me. This year that moment made its debut in a dream that woke me up on Saturday at 3 a.m. and shook me all night long…calendaring orientations, and auditing closets, and scheduling shopping trips for new shoes, clothes, backpacks and school supplies—oh my!

Did you know that back-to-school is the second biggest shopping season of the year touching 29 million households and accounting for $27 billion in sales in the US? Read all about it in the 2018 survey by Big Four accounting firm Deloitte.

My happy place in the midst of back-to-school chaos is getting my kitchen organized…

Merriam-Webster defines hospitality as the activity of providing food, drinks, etc. for people who are the guests or customers of an organization. By now you know that my love language is hospitality and for the purposes of this Love Letter my “guests or customers” are my #clochekids. Along these lines, I wake up a full 30 minutes earlier on school mornings to make lunch extra special from Mama’s kitchen. I have no shame in admitting that I absolutely, a bit obnoxiously, geek out over packing lunch! And I believe deep in my hospitable heart that if you curate your own cute portfolio of lunch box products, you’ll pull your chair up to join me at the nerd table. So, here’s some #upclocheandpersonal lunch box inspiration…

Let’s just say that after dating lots of lunch boxes, I met my soulmate in the leakproof, BPA-free Yumbox (right now offering 20% off with code TRY20). Martha Stewart agrees with me, having ranked Yumbox in her top 10 lunch boxes for Back To School (check out the full list here)!

Kids can select from a variety of mix and match exterior and interior boxes including colors, tray designs and sizes (MiniSnack, OriginalPanino and Tapas which is larger for tweens and teens). Perks include balance and portion control, the ability to see what was actually eaten, and for any who have kids with food sensory issues, Yumbox might be your new best friend. You’ll also need a tote, for best results one that allows Yumbox to lay completely flat (be sure to compare Yumbox with tote dimensions before buying).

Yumbox offers totes, but my favorites are made by 3 Sprouts. Yumboxes are dishwasher-safe on the top rack, but I prefer hand washing with super hot water and a scrub brush, then air drying all night. Before you pack, make sure all the leakproof crevices are dry using a paper towel (there’s nothing yuckier than a slightly soggy sandwich)!

Above are fun Yumbox ideas, with love from my kitchen to yours. Every product you see can be ordered online through the pins in our latest Pinterest board (be sure to follow us when you visit). One pin introduces you to a kid-friendly countertop muffin maker by Babycakes. There are lots of organic muffin mixes available at your local grocery store. I substitute coconut oil, often sneak in shredded zucchini (use a mini Cuisinart), and finish by slicing the baked muffins in half and filling with a spoonful of protein-packed peanut butter. All food products pictured were purchased at my neighborhood H-E-B. I shop using four simple guidelines:

1. Choose organic and whole grain wherever possible;
2. Minimize sugar;
3. Steer clear of preservatives and ingredients I can’t pronounce; and
4. Maximize protein.

Finally, I write each of my kids a quick love note on index cards kept handy in the kitchen. If I’m running late I use pre-printed cards from MamaZogDesigns. Each set contains 100 two-sided cards with a Bible verse on one side and an inspirational message on the back. My mother, who died when I was sixteen, wrote me wonderful notes and her voice lives on in the fragments of her handwriting. Inspired by her, attached to my kids’ lunch boxes are John Hart Chico bags where they store my notes throughout the year. When the school year ends, we tie a cute ribbon around the stack and store them away for a rainy day.

Pack it up, pack it in, let lunch begin!