Saturday, August 14, 2010

How to Zoo Gluten Free: Packing a Lunch on the Go

Ask any one of my friends: I am a field trip mom. Every summer it's the same thing. I make a list of the things my kids (read: I) want to do while they're out of school, and then I try to be aware of when the half-price days or special offers are so we can all afford to go. It's my one little effort to feel like I'm saving any kind of money in the summer. That and the fact that I almost always will pack a lunch for us to eat while we are on our outings. It serves three purposes for me that make it worth the time and effort it takes before we go to prepare lunches for six people.

1. (Perhaps most important to me) I am guaranteed a gluten free lunch. Have you ever tried to peel the bun crumbs off of a pre-made hot dog at an amusement park or ball game? Not fun and definitely a contamination issue.

2. It is much more economical and healthy to pack food I know my children like and will eat than to buy a meal at a resort that they may not like or I don't want them to eat anyway. Case in point: chicken strips (attention, cafe owners: kids like nuggets!) and fries at anywhere's cafe. Talk about grease. I feel better about packing apples and carrots instead of fruit snacks and pop tarts, because my kids are definitely hungry whenever we go on an outing and I know that's when they'll eat the good stuff. So I try to bring healthy fruits and vegetables for them and make the kind of sandwiches they won't waste.

3. I like sitting and having a picnic with my kids. Selfish and mom-ish, I know, but that's the bottom line. I enjoy their company and like to talk with them. We have a chance to slow down for a few minutes and talk about wherever we are and what we want to while we're there. Priceless.

So here's what I did with my little travel cooler at our latest adventure at the zoo.

First of all, I packed water bottles for each person. It remedies the "I really want a soda because I'm thirsty but will you carry it?" conundrum. Also, it's very important on those really hot days to hydrate. Secondly, I packed everyone's sandwiches in a Ziploc bag with their name written on it in Sharpie marker. No guessing about whose crustless pb and whatkindofjamisthis, and everyone can get their own sandwich if I'm busy or in the bathroom with a 3 year old (again). I also packed myself a delicious gluten free chicken salad sandwich (minus the rice) with Udi's Whole Grain Gluten Free bread, because it doesn't fall apart and is big enough to hold onto a moist sandwich filling. Third, I packed an apple for everyone and Crunchy Cheeto's for three of us, because then I can share with the 3 year old who won't eat all of hers anyway and then I don't eat as many. Lastly, I packed myself three of Glutino's chocolate covered wafers, to boost myself into seeing all the animals and riding the carousel in less than two hours before everyone wilts. I put everything into my backpack-sized travel cooler, iced it down with three frozen gel packs, and put extra napkins and my cell phone, camera, wallet and keys into the front pouch so I wouldn't have to carry around two bags all day. I consider that to be quite a success. By the end of the day, the water was all gone, the bag was pretty light, and we had eaten pretty much all of that food. No one was hungry and I didn't get out my wallet once for refreshments. Summer bliss, I tell you, summer bliss.

Happy adventuring!

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