Ah, another impending trip to the grocery store. It involves the usual chores of checking the fridge, the pantry, the freezer and the opinions of other household members (the cat's request was that Grandma and Grandpa's dog be removed from the house and returned to wherever she came from...apparently, he wants to go back to eating on the floor and hanging out in the big play room during daycare time...In a few days, Emmy, it will all be back to normal, and you can run away from the lego cars to your heart's content...In the meantime, go back to enjoying your newfound Cat-tertainment of the fish swimming in the aquarium)...But I digress...
When it comes to packing lunches, in our house, we try and take a "litterless" approach whenever possible. Sandwich boxes (I like the Lunchbots stainless steel ones), thermoses, containers for yogurt and cookies, carrot sticks and dip, water bottles. You know the drill. We have some great sandwich containers: beyond the stainless steel Lunchbots, we also have Tupperware sandwich boxes, and some snackTAXI's. They are great when you need to take your lunch, but don't want to carry around the bulky box afterwards. They are fabric velcro closing snack or sandwich bags (2 sizes), that have a nylon easy-to-clean lining. All great gear for saving on garbage creation and for saving money. Saving money, because we all know that it is cheaper to make your own snacks and pack them than it is to let someone else pack them and sell them to you prewrapped and then boxed up in groups of 5 or 6 or 24! However, while I stand firm on the pre-packaged "Lunchables" or lean cuisine type meals, I do give in and stock (both for their enjoyment and my sanity) cheese strings or Babybels, applesauce, granola bars and small yogurts (the deal being that the yogurt and applesauce containers have to only be used for lunches and that the empty containers come home to be washed and used for daycare paints, glue or other craft helper uses).
So, I did a little homework this week and investigated where you get the best value for your dollar (and your nutrition) when buying the standard lunchbox fillers. The yogurt was the easy one: watch for the sales, as long as you have a few different brands that your family will eat, and aim not to pay more than 0.50 per serving. Most yogurts are the same, when you compare similar fat contents.That and the sugar content, those are the decisions that you have to make for your family. The ideal being about 2% mf (for younger children or teens who are maintaining a healthy weight, go 1% or no fat for adults), and the lower the sugar the better, staying away from artificial stuff. Best is creating your own: plain yogurt and adding your own fresh or frozen fruit, and using honey or maple syrup as your sweetener (if you brought back a bottle of vanilla extract from your last trip to Mexico, add that too! Mmmmm!). Bottom line, the less ingredients in your yogurt, the better, both health-wise and taste-wise. However, if your family will only eat somebody's 2% fruity yogurt, go for it and feel good that they are eating yogurt. Yogurt (plain or fruit filled) will give your loved one a serving of dairy (and for your kids, that means you are only looking for one or two more servings to meet the RDA).
Granola bars is another one: we buy Nature Valley crunchy ones or the Kashi chewy ones (altho these are probably the most expensive if you go regular price). Comparing sizes and prices and nutrition values, Kashi gives you the best bang for your buck. The key? The same as the yogurt: the fewer ingredients on the list, the better. And the Kashi ones had no added palm oil, and I could pronounce and recognize everything on the ingredient list. However, regular price around here, they go for 4.99 a box (so 6 bars), when you compare with other store brands, you can get the same number of bars for half the price. The Nature Valley crunchy bars (the ones in the green package containing 2 bars), sell at reg price around here for 3.99 a box, but regularly go on sale for 2 for 5.00 or even 1.99 a box. They too have a reasonable ingredient list (pronounceable and recognizeable), and average about 4g of fat per bar (so 8 per package). My suggestion? Buy what your kids will eat (because it's no deal if it goes in the garbage), but stay away from long ingredient lists (and I won't mention the one big name that I left off of here, that tends to be a big seller because they advertise that they have "Peanut Free" bars...they are filled with puffed rice and all kinds of other ingredients...their bars are smaller than both the other brands I mentioned earlier and when you compare same size servings, they have more fat and sugar, and less fibre).
The third and last item I compared was Applesauce...Unsweetened (albeit they make a variety of mixed flavours like berry apple and peach apple etc)...Motts, Presidents choice and Compliments (owned by Sobeys) were the three brands of applesauce cups I compared, all unsweetened, and all offered similar nutritional information. The big thing for me was that as far as I could tell, both Presidents Choice and Compliments are really Leahy (available some places as Applesnax). Mott's is a US company that began in New York State as a Cider company. It has been through a variety of changes over the 100 plus years of existance and is now owned by Cadbury-Schweppes out of England. See their website for more info http://motts.com/
Leahy is a Canadian company, based in Franklin, Quebec. Growing up in the Chateauguay Valley, Franklin was (and still is) "Apple Country", and therefore close to my heart. Leahy offers both organic and regular unsweetened apple products (both of which are available as Compliments and Presidents Choice across Canada), and are made with Canadian apples. Price-wise, both of the store brands are slightly less expensive than the name brand, altho Motts is the one available at Costco. Both of the store brands are availabe in larger jars (700ml) and if you go to Zellers, you can find Applesnax (Leahy) in both organic and regular unsweetened varieties in the large jars.
So, while Motts may be the name brand on the shelves, in this case my heart is with the store brands, and my daughter's taste buds are too.
To read more about Leahy, http://applesnax.com/EN-CA/index.html
The Leahy company is also Apple Boost another interesting concept:
Now, to get back to that grocery list! But first, take Grandma and Grandpa's doggy for a walk!