Healthy Lunchbox Guest Post- Shirley Braden @ GFE–Gluten Free Easily

When I messaged my favorite bloggers and asked if they would be interested in joining me in a month-long series featuring healthy lunch box ideas, I was overwhelmed with gratitude at the positive response I received.

Sweet Shirley-GFE responded with a simple, “How did you know I would say yes?” 


My heart fluttered.


Earnestly, I still see myself as a small fish in a big pond. When more seasoned, well respected and very well known bloggers leave comments on my recipes, I am always filled with a sense of appreciation and astonishment.


I mean, really…they noticed ME?  AND they took the time to say something on my simple little page?  WOW!


Now to have them doing guest-posts, writing stories/recipes for my blog?  How blessed am I? 


If you are unfamiliar with Shirley-GFE, Gluten Free Easily, please take the time to visit her beautiful page now. Shirley is the queen of gluten-free living, educating the masses and
guiding the lost by making a gluten-free lifestyle, easy. 😉


Thank you, Shirley!





“The Cagey Old Bachelor” Philosophy … A Tapas Approach to School Lunches


Photo credit: Flickr daedrus (easily enough for two, but shows variety in tapas


I can always make a very pleasing meal for myself out of a combination of small—admittedly, sometimes even tiny—portions. A good friend and former office mate used to chuckle when he’d see my lunch “spreads.” He told me that I was like a “cagey old bachelor” making a meal out of just about anything. He went on to reference my “scraps” of food. “The Cagey Old Bachelor” is typically one who maximizes whatever food he has on hand … never throwing a scrap of food away—an approach that saves him from preparing more food, saves money, and also saves our earth. My lunches do fit the profile. A quarter of a slice of meat loaf, one chicken liver, a few bites of leftover vegetables, a potato cake (an already recycled food), some cucumber slices, a couple of almonds … you get the idea. I was surprised at my friend’s remarks and chuckled. I’d never thought of my way of eating in those terms, but I finally decided that I enjoyed the analogy and considered the label to be a compliment.


You can also think of this philosophy for lunches as sort of a tapas approach. The truth is I’ve always been a tapas kind of girl, long before I knew what tapas even were. Of course, I know that tapas are usually considered to be small Spanish dishes served with a cocktail (and that’s clearly not appropriate for school lunches) but I’m just talking about tapas in the sense that they are small bites.


Call this philosophy whatever you like, but the truth is that being gluten free lends itself well to this type of small-bite approach in general. There are times when a traditional “full” meal is not available. There are times when there’s a full meal, but most of it cannot be safely consumed by us. And certainly small bites work well for school lunches with all the cool containers and lunch boxes on the market today. Long before Son and I were gluten free, we used this approach for each of our lunches.


It’s a fact that children (and most adults, too) like little bites. The whole apple on the counter requires “work” and may not appeal. But half an apple sliced and ready to go; well, that’s irresistible!


It’s also more fun to have a virtual array of food than it is one or two large items. Therefore, some cheese on crackers, the sliced fruit, and a dollop of mom’s homemade yogurt look like a delightful smorgasbord compared to one honkin’ big sandwich.


Kids also like food presented a little differently. The following ideas also work well for the little bites approach. Roll-ups, fruit/veggie/meat skewers, cut outs, and the like. Zoe shared a wonderful post on food packaging and presentation for kids here as part of Diane’s 30 Days to Easy Gluten-Free Living series. Note that none of these ideas should be overly
complicated or add a lot of time to the lunch prep process.

Photo credit: flickr pigstubs (again more than enough for one, but


Unfortunately, it’s a fact that many children can be wasteful. They may not mean to be, but in life, especially at school with friends, there are lots of other distractions. And while we think our kids need a lot of food and shudder at the thought of them being hungry (even for a second), usually they don’t need as much as is typically sent to school with them. As a former elementary school teacher (and the sister of a current elementary school teacher), I know this firsthand. Our children definitely need sustenance, but most likely they don’t need a huge amount of food. (I could get into the fact that portion sizes have increased outrageously, but that’s another post.) When there’s only a bite or two of each food item, there’s much
less likely to be waste. Plus, it’s a known fact that satisfaction with food goes down the more we eat of it. That first bite or two of any food item is typically the most satisfying. Here’s a brief listing of some ideas, but really feel free to pull from your “pantry.”
Look for additional inspiration from my gfe’s tip sheets: 50 Foods You Can Eat Today, 50 Meals That Are GFE, 50 Sweet Treats, and The GFE Pantry.


This dish below would make a great tapas type lunch. Now obviously you’re not cooking meatballs and chicken wings, or making bacon-wrapped goodies daily. That’s when your freezer comes into play. You can either freeze such items right after you make them (spread on baking sheet, freeze, and then transfer to another freezer container for easy removal of as many as you like) or freeze leftovers in small amounts right away. (A sheet of paper attached to your freezer with a magnet can easily serve as your inventory and be updated by adding or removing items with a quick scrawl or strikethrough, respectively.)

Photo credit Flickr Archangeli


While I could come up with a listing of more lunch contents ideas and share them here, the main purpose of this post is to just introduce the tapas approach. I hope you’ll give it a try!

Here are some other terrific resources that can help you decide what you’ll include in your kids’ lunches when using the tapas approach:


Kim’s Printable List of 50 Allergy-Friendly Lunchbox Ideas


Heidi’s Gluten-Free and Allergen-Free School Lunch and Snack Ideas (Plus More)


Wendy’s Sending Your Gluten-Free Kid Back to School includes multiple resources including many lunch ideas


Ali’s Printable Chart that teaches children to pack their own lunches


Jules Back-to-School E-Boook including lunch and snack ideas


  1. Wow Shirley!
    This is a great post! I’m a huge fan of leftover dinner for lunch, but using the freezer to save leftovers and eat them for lunches at another date when they wont be “more of the same” is a great idea for school lunches and for those of us that may be a little bit older than school age too. 🙂


  2. What a GREAT series you are doing Sunny! I love all the fresh new ideas.

    Shirley, Luke paid you to write this post on his behalf, didn’t he? He NEVER eats all the food I send, but then again, I pack enough for at least 2 children. I always worry something will be happen and there will be nothing for him to eat (such as Mike getting carried away in a flash flood while driving him home from school…hey, it could happen, we live in the dessert and we’re not well equipped for the rain!). 😀

    I’m a big fan of tapas style meals, I’m a grazer and I like to sample lots of different foods and I agree with you, the first bite or two are definitely the most satisfying.


    • Thank you, Heidi! I hope that even you (the queen of healthy lunchboxes), can find some great ideas here as well.

      So happy you stopped by.


  3. Boy, you were right when you said, “Shirley is the queen of gluten-free living.” No doubt about that! Love this post and I will admit to the small bits and pieces style of eating as well. I love that! A half an organic heirloom tomato, a few high-end olives, several flax crackers, a Colorado-grown peach, some cucumber slices and a couple of chunks of dark chocolate. What more could you ask for? I love eating like that.

    Great post and it’s so nice to “meet” you! I love being introduced to blogs I didn’t know about. Shirley is the queen of that, too (e-introductions via blog posts). Thank you, girls!


  4. I’m a Tapas gal for sure. I love this approach for lunch and of course anything with bacon will have me sitting down in no time flat. Great information and thank you so much for including me.

  5. I love tapas, too, and often bring little bits of leftovers from dinner or the previous day’s lunch with me to work. Great idea for packable lunches!

  6. I love Shirley’s ideas and adore the concept of doing tapas for lunch. I’ll have to see if that flies with the husband. Though I must say, that plate is definitely only enough for one in our house! I’d need double that and maybe more for the both of us (minus the cheese of course!). Thanks for the great post filled with more food to trial.

  7. Shirley, Miss Queen of gluten-free living… ;0) Love that!! Anyway, as I wholeheartedly agree with that statement, I love this post. I live by sort of a tapas mantra for my kids lunches. SInce they are at a Montessori school, they get to take parts of their lunches whenever they want. So i like to make sure there are easy snacks to grab from it. This way they can graze all day, if they wanted to.
    Sunny, thank you for sharing Shirley here. She really is our Queen Bee…in more ways than one!

    • My oldest biological child was in Montesorri for several years. I love Montessori schools, though I have never before heard that they could bring part of their lunch. What a great idea!

      🙂 I think we have found Shirley’s new title. Now we simply need to find a crown suitable for our gluten-free royalty. 😉

      Thank you for stopping by, Kim!


  8. First of all one of the things I am most grateful is that my lunch packing days are behind me:) It would have been easier to do with all this great inspiration! Love the tapas for lunch idea!

  9. Love this! I often bring a motley crew of random leftovers for lunch, but never thought to elevate their status to “tapas”! I rather enjoy eating that way. Great ideas, Shirley.

  10. I NEED this series right now. ; ) My first just started school and already I realize how much creativity it can take. Tapas ideas are great. Now to find the right lunch box with a “cooler”, insulated, whatever to keep it all chilly. And Shirley, so true, we think we need to pack a feast, but really, do we? Trying to find the balance there, too. : )

    • 🙂 The first year is by far the most difficult, Lexie! Did you see the post from Paleo Parents? Stacy offers several great suggestions for kid-friendly, BPA free lunch boxes, and even gives ways to save on those, too.

      So happy you are enjoying the series.


  11. You guys are all super, super sweet and generous with your words–thanks so very much! Doesn’t planning little bites and calling them tapas make lunch much more fun? It truly works for all ages. 🙂

    Sunny–We are all just normal gf folks sharing the love and gf goodness, and yes, you’re right there with us!!! So glad that I was able to introduce you to others and vice versa. 😉 Thanks again for allowing me to guest post!


  12. Gluten free cooking is easier than a lot of people think. I have a few recipes on my site. I love the recipes and I’m not even a celiac. 🙂

  13. Thanks for the shout-out, Shirley! 🙂 I think, if I were to do that post again, I would simplify it a little more. Maybe I’ll have a 2.0 version? Lovely and informative post as always, I often take little bites, too, and generally eat lightly. I haven’t been called the cagey old bachelor(ette) but I have been said to eat like a bird. I can make a meal last for ages because I often eat slowly, whether I’m with company (also meaning talking, usually) or not.

    I’ve never visited your site before, Sunny, though I have seen you on Twitter. I’ll be back! 🙂

  14. Debra Shuster says:

    Hi…I’m new to the whole gluten free diet and I want to say thank you for the support! This makes me feel like I can do it!


  1. […] series, I hesitated. As she well knew, I had participated in her series last year with my post on The Cagey Bachelor Philosophy … A Tapas Approach to School Lunches. I told Sunny that I didn’t know what more I could offer. But then I kept thinking about the […]

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