San Francisco is the city where I currently live, and I love it for having such diversity in food. I would even say that we’re in a foodie paradise, with restaurants at every corner, and access to fresh food from California or Mexico. As my co-founder and I build Teuko.com, the free lunchbox community for lunchbox packers, and place to share lunchbox ideas and tips, we are in touch with many friends all over the United States. The recurrent challenges some of the families shared with us is that they live in food deserts or that they can’t afford quality food.
One day I was coding, bringing the enhancements our Tueko community has asked for while listening to a live podcast. The guest of this particular podcast was Tina Sharkey, co-founder and CEO of Brandless. I loved the way she was talking about her mission at Brandless, making everyday products better, and accessible more people. She also mentioned that she wanted to build a community for Brandless, her talk still resonates with me. Indeed, after all, our mission at Teuko is to make lunch packing easy and fun, helping our community to be empowered with creativity and efficiency. So, while I was listening to the podcast, I had the idea: Would Tina and the Brandless team want to extend their mission to the Teuko community too? Would Brandless be a Teuko friend?
When I reached out to Brandless, Tina quickly saw that we shared the same passion, so she put me in contact with her social community team. Together we decided that it would be interesting and fun to solve the problem of packing lunch boxes with affordable and high quality products. This is how my kids (a 6-year-old and 9-year-old) and I experienced a week of lunch boxes with all Brandless products.
This Brandless experience was first and foremost about finding a creative way to help my Teuko Friends pack lunch boxes with high quality, yummy, AND affordable products. My lunch boxes usually cost an average of $5 per lunchbox in food. I wanted to see if it be possible to have a lunchbox that only cost $3? And, would the kids be fed correctly and be happy about their lunch boxes?
The answer is YES! This was how we did it…
I started by making a simple calculation: 5 (days) x 2 (kids) x 3 (dollars / lunchbox) = $30
I wanted to spend a total of $30 dollars for my kids’ lunch boxes in a week, so I would pick 10 food items from their selection of $3 products. I focused on vegetables, proteins, grains and fruits for the main course, as well as adding a dessert each day. Here is the meal planning and the grocery list made only with Brandless products, trying to make each lunchbox balanced and appetizing for kids at the same time.
Organic Dried Mango (x1)
Veggie Chips (x1)
Did you notice that 7 out of the 10 products are organic? This was already looking exciting and we were only in the planning phase!
The kids and I were excited about the coming week of lunch boxes, and to discover how the Brandless experience would turn out! Opening the Brandless box was very nice, like opening a Christmas gift, especially when finding cute stickers and this letter inside.
The menu: Fusilli pasta and chickpeas in tomato basil sauce. Dried mango for dessert.
Sounds gourmet, right? It was!
For packing two lunch boxes, I used half of the tomato sauce, half of one pasta bag (the pasta came in two big bags), one chickpeas can, and half of the dried mango bag.
I spent 20 minutes packing the lunch boxes: 10 minutes to boil the pasta, and (at the same time) 10-15 minutes for steaming the chickpeas. The rest was simply mixing and assembling.
For my 9-year-old, the lunchbox came home empty; and just a few chickpeas and two mango slices left in my 6-year-old’s lunchbox. Having just lost his front teeth, he told me the dried mango was super yummy but that it was a little bit difficult to chew. Next time, I think I’ll choose the organic raisins for him 🙂 Other than that, everyone was happy (including me). I had enough to pack my own lunchbox with the pasta dish, and I confirm, it was super tasty!
This day was scheduled as a “Fun Lunchbox Day” because the kids had the opportunity to have veggie chips, which rarely happens normally :).
The menu: teriyaki beef jerky, veggie chips, and applesauce for dessert.
I used half of the chips bag (it’s a super big bag!), the beef jerky bag, and half of the applesauce package (2 of the 4 applesauce pouches). The best part: all I had to do was throw it in the lunchbox, it only took 5 minutes!
As it was the first time ever my kids had beef jerky, and everything in this lunch was “packaged” food, I got a little nervous … Was it ok? Will they like the food? Will it be enough for the whole day at school? My worries grew as some other moms were suggesting to add fresh food, because for them it was not nutritious enough, and thought my kids would starve!
When I retrieved my kids as usual at school, I asked them: “Are you hungry?” They answered, “Not really, but we still want our snack time!” My kids have a morning snack and an afternoon snack. To complement our Brandless lunch week the kids had: carrot sticks, grapes, banana, cheese, strawberries, blueberries. I didn’t need to worry, everything was fine! My kids were happy about their lunch. They weren’t hungry. And I would add: these lunch boxes were fun!
The lesson: one lunchbox does not define your whole lunch packing experience. Keep on trying new experiences or new foods, don’t fear any judgmental comments (this is why I love the online community of lunchbox packers we build, Teuko.com, because this is a safe place where you can only receive love!), stay true to yourself and be happy! 🙂
For Wednesday we scheduled the following menu: butternut squash soup and roasted chickpeas (see the recipe here) for the main course, and chocolate chip cookies for dessert.
Preparing this lunchbox was super simple: once you put the garbanzo beans in the oven, do whatever you need to do during the 40-50 minutes of cooking, let the roasted garbanzo beans cool, and then, assemble!
The kids loved this lunchbox. My 6-year-old ate the soup and the chickpeas separately while my 9-year-old prefered having the chickpeas in her soup! She also said that the butternut squash soup was as delicious as my homemade soups!!!
The menu is slightly different from Day 1 as I used the fusilli pasta in tomato sauce (using the remaining pasta of the bag I opened on Monday, as well as the remaining tomato sauce) with tuna. The dessert was made up of the two remaining applesauce pouches.
Still a big hit: the kids ate everything 🙂
Were they hungry after school? Nope!
The last day of the week is all about using the leftovers in order to reduce food waste. So I reused the veggie chips, and puréed the last can of chickpeas for making a dip (that pairs pretty well with the chips and it’s fun for the kids).
For the dessert, I mixed the remaining dried mango with few chocolate cookies I could save during the week (they were so good that the kids wanted to have some with their snacks 🙂
Voilà! Another easy lunchbox to pack, with happy kids… what else could I want?
After the experience of packing lunch boxes for my kids during one whole week with only Brandless products, my kids shared with me that, except for the days when they had veggie chips (chips are an occasional treat normally), they hardly saw the difference with what I usually pack and they really liked the lunches! Had I chosen the organic green lentils instead of the veggie chips, they might not have noticed at all! That would definitely pair well with the teriyaki beef jerky, as it would make a very creative “petit salé” or a lentils-chickpeas salad for the last day.
All in all, I’m very happy to have discovered Brandless: The products are tasty, high quality, very often organic, and most importantly—affordable (an average of $3 per lunchbox!! And at the end of the week, I still had an entire bag of pasta to cook!).
Beyond the products, it’s amazing how Brandless is now a friend to the Teuko lunchbox community. I look forward to discovering what you’ll pack next in your lunch boxes! Share with us on Teuko.com (signup free!) or on social media with the tags #Brandless and #Teuko!
Happy lunch box packing!