You know those packaged assemble-your-own pizza lunch kits they sell at the grocer? The ones with the lousy ingredients and hefty price tag? The ones your kids want even more because you say “no”?
No matter how much you dislike them for any number of totally legit reasons, chances are good your kids covet them every time they see their friends eating them at school.
It’s not their fault. The companies that make these lunches are brilliant. They’ve tapped into everything that appeals to kid — kid-sized portions; bright colors; bold, but familiar flavors; and a serious dose of DIY.
I may despise these lunch kits, but I totally respect the marketing prowess of the companies that make them.
The good news is, it’s easy to steal their ideas. If they can cut food into kid-sized portions, so can we. If they can create DIY lunches that let the kids assemble their own food, so can we.
The difference is, we can do it for a lot less money and with much better food.
Today, let’s do a pizza kit. Because as lunches go, pizza ranks pretty high on the kid-appeal scale. It’s also inexpensive, packs well, can be prepped ahead of time, and can be customized for even the pickiest eater.
Come to think of it, most of those traits rank pizza pretty high on the parent appeal scale, too. And it doesn’t hurt that pizza is easy to do in totally nutritious ways.
Like so many great lunches, the easiest way to start this one is at dinner the night before. Make it a have-it-your-way pizza night.
Buy some balls of whole-wheat pizza dough at the grocer (or if you have a favorite, most pizza shops will sell you a ball of their dough for a couple bucks), a jar of sauce and whatever veg, meat and cheese toppings do it for your family.
But here’s the catch — buy extra dough and toppings.
At dinner, cut and roll out most of the dough for individual pizzas. Top them and bake them like normal.
While you’re at it, roll out the extra dough. Now grab a round cookie or biscuit cutter (about 2 inches is a good size) and cut rounds out of the dough. When you’re done making the pizzas for dinner, arrange the dough rounds on a baking sheet, giving them a squirt of cooking spray, then bake them until puffed and lightly browned – 5 to 8 minutes should be plenty. Let the crust rounds cool, then pack them on their own.
Now comes the customization part. Pack individual containers of whatever toppings your kid prefers. Some possibilities include:
- Shredded cheeses
- Sliced turkey or chicken breast
- Leftover chopped cooked chicken tossed with barbecue sauce
- Bell pepper strips
- Sliced olives
- Sliced leftover cooked steak
- Leftover grilled hamburgers (crumbled)
- Cooked bacon
The final step is the sauce (and it’s the only step you need to do in the morning). Just nuke some in the microwave and pop it in a thermos.
At lunch, your kids can spoon warm sauce onto the crusts (or just dunk them), then top them however they like.
Next week, a DIY dessert pizza kit! [Here's Part 2!]
Keep the lunchtimes rollin’ and try:
[Top image reproduced with permission by J.M. Hirsch, photo by Matthew Mead]