Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Peanut Butter Dilemma

One of the many questions I hear a lot is, "Why do you use Sunflower Butter?" I know that everyone has their own opinions and their own jar of something like this in the pantry. Whether it's Sunflower Butter, Almond Butter, Cashew Butter, or Peanut Butter this type of product has become a staple. Let's start off with the fact I initially had a jar of Jif in my cupboard. I did a direct comparison of my label to the Sunflower Butter and found that in nearly every aspect it was a healthier choice. I was also able to get a table together so that you could directly compare some labels too!

Creamy Peanut Butter 
MaraNatha All Natural Roasted Almond ButterMaraNatha All Natural Sunflower Seed Butter
Net Weight16 oz16 oz12 oz
Calories per serving size
(2 tbsp)
Total Fat16g16g12g
Saturated Fat2.5g1g1.5g
Trans Fat0g0g0g

Nutrition: I selected Sunflower butter because it had fewer ingredients, fewer calories, less fat, far less sodium, more fiber, less sugar, and more protein. 

Cost: I chose sunflower butter because it was rather comparable to peanut butter in cost. I find almond butter to be too expensive. 

Taste: I found that I prefer the taste of Sunflower Butter over Peanut Butter BAR NONE. I have always been a bit unhappy with the flavor of peanut butter, not much of a fan. When I tried sunflower butter I loved it! It's rich and creamy and doesn't have questionable ingredients. 

The best thing you can do when you are trying to eat healthier is look at the alternatives that are out there and compare them directly. For me it always comes down to nutrition, cost, and taste. I don't have the money to waste as a single mother with a very fixed income. So I felt for my buck, the sunflower butter was a good choice. I realize that every brand is different and has different labels, this is by no means meant to be the end all be all, feel free to check out the labels at your local store and see what works for you! 

I hope this helps!!

Happy Packing

*This was previously posted by me on my old blog, thought it would be useful to bring over*

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Best of 2012-2013 School Year!

Best of!

It's the beginning of a new school year. One of the things I really enjoy doing is looking over old menus and old pictures of lunches I made before. I decided that since I am now in a new location and my old entries aren't available to all of you, I should do a ''Best of'' entry! Here I will share with you all of my favorite lunches from last school year!


In this Lunch: Quesadilla, organic grape tomatoes, avocado, organic plum, organic tortilla chips, and a Juice Box. 

The tortillas were life balance. I have yet to find a tortilla that is perfectly healthy but these ones are fortified with 23 vitamins and minerals, are full of fiber, as much calcium as a glass of milk, and even have some omega 3's! The Cheese was a local brand which uses milk from cows that are hormone and unnecessary antibiotic free. The avocado was mashed with a little bit of lemon juice to keep it from browning. The containers and the silicon cups are both Dollar Tree finds! This lunch was a big hit with monkey! 


IN THIS LUNCH: "Brunch for Lunch" Two pancake muffins, sliced granny smith apple, 1/4 cup fat free cottage cheese, 2 Tbsp of Sunflower butter (for dipping apples), and a Fruit & Yogurt smoothie.

Pancake Muffins: Take your favorite pancake batter and throw in whatever fruit you have. Berries work really well! In here we have a raspberry w/ flaxseed and blackberry w/ flaxseed.  
*A little lemon juice prevents apple browning. 


IN THIS LUNCH: 'A'pricot preserve & sunflower butter 'A' shaped sammy, 'A'pplesauce, 'A'nnie's Cheddar Bunnies, 'A'nts on a log, and 'A'pple carrot juice.

Okay, I'll admit the cheddar bunnies were a stretch but hey sometimes you have to get creative! We always like to buy big jars of the unsweetened applesauce and portion it out. It's far less expensive than the individual packs! Monkey loves a little cinnamon on top of hers. 

I felt like this was a fun way to connect to her classroom. They spent that day learning all about 'A' so an 'A' lunch just seemed fun. 


IN THIS LUNCH: Pepperoni Pizza Pita, small salad w/ dressing, mixed fruit, a Chobani Champions Vanilla Chocolate Chunk yogurt, and an Apple & Eve Big Bird's Apple Juice Box. 

In our house we LOVE Chobani yogurt, especially the Chobani Champions and Chobani Tubes. They are delicious! The main part of the lunch is a small salad w/ french dressing. We were excited to try Italian Herb Pocket Thins for our Pizza Pita. Inside is organic tomato basil sauce, turkey pepperoni, a slice of ultra thin swiss and baby spinach.  

We like buying flats of berries and keeping them in our freezer. If packing lunch the night before they will often be defrosted by the next morning. If not then, by lunch. 


IN THIS LUNCH: Turkey 'ghost'which, organic grape tomatoes, sweet potato chips, and some frozen mixed fruit, and an organic valley chocolate milk.  

We use Dave's Killer 21 grain bread, we love it! This sandwich is turkey with mayo and the swiss cheese on top of the sandwich to make the ghost (we simply used cookie cutters, raisin eyes, and pepperoni mouth). 

When berries aren't in season (and I run out of my own frozen berries) I buy the pre-frozen varieties for smoothies on the frozen food aisle. This lunch was fast! Maybe 6 minutes to put together. 


IN THIS LUNCH: Mini Bagel sunflower butter and apricot preserve sammy w/ an adorable pumpkin pick, baby corn and grape tomatoes, "candy corn" parfait, and organic chocolate milk. 

This was our first use of the mini bagel! It has become a staple in our home. We really love them, not just as a way to spruce up a sandwich, but for their size. We also did cream cheese/pepperoni sandwiches on these bagels which are delicious! Anything you'd normally put on a sandwich you can use this little bagel for! The pumpkin pick was from the dollar store! 

One of my favorite things about this lunch is the candy corn parfait! It still sticks out to me as a favorite item that I made last school year. It was very simple! Peach segments, orange segments, and Chobani Champions Banana Honey greek yogurt for the top. The colors really brought to life the idea of ''candy corn'' and it was a nice little treat in her box! Much better for her than actual candy corn. LOL. 

LUNCH #26 

IN THIS LUNCH: Crackers, Turkey Pepperoni, Cheddar Cheese Pumpkin Patch, Organic Baby Carrots, Fat-Free Cottage Cheese, Gummy Spider, and Witch's Brew!

Our more direct ''lunchable'' creation. Pumpkin shaped cheese to celebrate Halloween. My monkey loves baby carrots so those were in there. We tossed in a gummy spider (just one) for some more Halloween fun. The drink was actually one of our favorite seasonal treats! Pumpkin eggnog! I added a couple drops of green to it, and voila ''Witch's Brew''. 


IN THIS LUNCH: Annie's Organic Crackers w/ ultra thin swiss bears, leftover lemon-herb chicken [from dinner], peas [from dinner], Nancy's Organic Yogurt [getting close to expiration date] w/ fun Halloween sprinkles, and Organic Valley Chocolate Milk. 

This was one of those leftovers sort of lunches. Never will I have to pack another lunchable! We love using our own crackers, cutting the cheese into fun shapes with our cutters, and using our own meat. She could choose to put it on the crackers or sometimes we would substitute with pepperoni, cut ham, etc.. My monkey LOVES peas! This is actually plain yogurt that was getting close to it's expiration I threw a few fun halloween sprinkles (purple, black, and ghosts!) on top for a little added sweetness and fun. My daughter isn't a big fan of plain yogurt, but she gobbled this down. 


IN THIS LUNCH:  "Banana Dog", Tomatoes, Ants on a log, Organic Cookies, and a V8 Fusion Juice Box.

My daughter had requested the use of hot dog buns in her lunches. Apparently the kids at school eat a lot of things on buns? She said she wanted to feel more like them. These are 100% Whole Wheat buns smeared with sunflower butter w/ a banana and a light drizzle of honey. She LOVED it. This is a very easy lunch and I bet your kids would be shocked to find this!

Sunburst tomatoes are always a hit in our house. 


IN THIS LUNCH: Bunnies in a meadow, an orange, blueberries, peas, carrot chips, hard boiled egg, Organic Fruit & yogurt smoothie pouch, and a 100% juice box. 

This actually wasn't a school lunch. She was off this day for a holiday, but it's still a favorite. I'd seen on Pinterest someone using rice cakes, blue cream cheese, and goldfish for fish on water. I thought it was super cute! Since we eat bunny crackers, I thought bunnies in the meadow would be a great alternative. We used soy crisps, cream cheese w/ green food coloring, and the organic bunnies. Used blueberries to make a ''sky'' and a peeled orange for a ''sun''. We also used an egg mold on the hard boiled egg to make it into a bunny (I'll include another pic), and carrots and peas because those are her favs! 

Egg molds are definitely more difficult to use than I imagined! Luckily I was able to get some really helpful tips from blogging friends that made this my best example of a molded egg (this was my 3rd try!). 

The secret, I'll share. My eggs were actually too small for the mold. You have to peel the eggs and get them into the mold while still warm! Also, we stuffed one side of the mold with a paper towel so that it would fill the entire mold, since our eggs were too small. Then submerge the entire mold in cold water and let it sit! 
Phew! Lots of work, but boy are they cute! 

LUNCH #100

IN THIS LUNCH: Turkey & Swiss Roll Ups, Pretzels, Deviled Egg, Cranberry Sauce w/ orange zest, and a Chocolate Almond Milk.

Monkey LOVED this lunch! The turkey and cheese roll ups are a great lunch alternative to the regular ole sandwich. I'll pack it with crackers or pretzels. 

This was definitely a head nod to Thanksgiving with the cranberry sauce and deviled eggs. Thanksgiving staples with our family and really easy and fun for lunches! Monkey was so excited to get deviled eggs her in lunch she actually squealed when I showed them to her before school (so she wouldn't shake her lunch up too much)!. 

Alright guys, that's it for my favorite lunches of 2012-2013. They weren't always pretty but they were always delicious! I'm looking forward to using some of these ideas again in the coming school year as well as adapting them to try out some new concepts! I hope you can take away some lunch packing inspiration! 

Happy Packing! 

Getting Excited

School is just around the corner! I don't know about you all but I am getting super excited to start lunch packing again! My daughter starts Kindergarten on September 9th. I've already mapped out the lunches for September and October and I am dying to get started!

I've had a few friends call on me for lunch advice this year. I've been more than willing to help and I hope that my lunch packing rules and these couple tips can help all of you!

Lunch Packing Rules

1. Drinks will be 100% juice, Milk, or Water (excluding the occasional treat, like smoothies or eggnog!)
         - Drinks are one of those things can be a great part of a lunch or empty calories. I have no problem at all with the occasional treats. Eggnog, Cocoa, Smoothies...they're all fun things to share with our kids. Smoothies especially can be full of great nutrients! I want to make sure that I am helping to power up my daughter with her lunches.

2. Grain, Protein, Fruit, Veggies, and Dairy will ALL be present.
           - One thing I noticed when reviewing my old lunches and lunch menus... sometimes there would be fruit and sometimes veggies, but rarely both! At the time I wasn't feeling issues with that, but now that I have reflected on it, I want her to have BOTH veggies and fruits in each lunch (unless I am out of course lol).

3. Try using leftovers and portioning yourself.
          - A common misconception is that packing your child's lunch will be more expensive than letting them eat school food. Not true! With a little bit of planning it doesn't have to be more expensive. Especially if you don't rely on individually packaged foods for your children's meals. In general I like to buy larger containers of things like yogurt, applesauce, fig newtons, etc... and then portion them out myself. You get more for the money every time! Leftovers are GREAT material for packing lunches. I try not to use them the very next day, but wait a day or two so that my daughter doesn't feel like she's eating the same thing over and over (I hate doing it) and it's never an issue!

4. Quantity Control
         - One thing that I noticed was that occasionally some of the portions got a little large. I plan to keep food in better portion sizes this year! I think this was partially because of the large main space in the container that I for some reason felt needed to be full. Lol, negative space is okay!

 5. Try to keep it fun!
           - Lunch packing can be a chore or it can be something to look forward to. By doing it the night before and letting yourself get creative, lunch packing can be fun...and something you child looks forward to eating and showing off!
Lunch Packing Tips:

1. Prep as much as you can ahead of time. Try washing and cutting up fruits and veggies after you bring them home and it saves you time when you're in the moment of lunch packing. In general, I try to pack lunches the night before so they have a chance to get nice and frosty cold in the fridge overnight and then I can toss in the ice packs in the morning. I also ''prep'' by making myself a calender for the month. I like to do it for dinners as well so I can coordinate leftovers for lunches. I don't have to stick to the plan, but it's nice to have a go-to guide there so I don't have to come up with something in the heat of the moment! Lol.

2. Make a list of what you know your child WILL eat. I take a piece of paper and make columns for: Grains/Carbs, Fruits, Veggies, Protein, Dairy. Then go through and write down what you know your child likes. I also like to write down things they MIGHT eat. I try not to include foods I know she hates unless I know I can think of a way to present it that she'll enjoy. Once you have made your lists, you have all you need to start mixing and matching and coming up with your meals!

3. It doesn't always have to be pretty. Sometimes just having packed a lunch is more than enough! I know for myself I get wrapped up in the cute shapes, picks, cutters, skewers, and molds people use! I get totally jealous of how cute their lunches are and feel like mine are lacking because they aren't the beautiful masterpieces I see other people posting. I've finally been able to accept that they don't always have to be the belle of the ball!

Monday, August 26, 2013

The New and IMPROVED Blog.

I am so excited to be back to posting lunch blogs! I spent all last year posting and making lunches under a name that I came to find out was already someone else's! I was devastated at the thought of starting over initially, then, I realized it was a great opportunity. After much thought the whole concept of Monkey Munchables came into place. My daughter, my sweet little monkey, is my whole world and this blog is really in essence all about her. I am now feeling to excited and refreshed with my new start and new blog!

I have to take a moment to give a special shout out to my dear friend Jeana @ Tiny Princess Lunch Box. Without her all of this would have been impossible. Her kind heart, talents, and intense generosity is the only reason this blog is now available to all of you! You can find a link to her blog on the right side of the page or you can simply click here. She is such a beautiful person and she makes such fantastic lunches. Please do take the time to check out her blog.

In addition to this fantastic site I have also gotten a few other things going! You can find me in several locations!




I've done a lot of planning for the upcoming school year and I am eager to share all of it with all of you. I welcome any dedicated readers from the old blog as well as any new readers! This blog would be me talking to myself without all of you. Please feel free to email or leave comments here! That's all for now. 

Happy Packing!