On the first day of school I made an big effort with packed lunch for our girls and gave it to them saying ‘ enjoy this- it will be the best lunch you get all year”. Time will tell but that may be the truth! The reality is making lunches get tedious and coming up with creative and healthy ideas on a regular basis is tough when your focus is just trying to get everyone out the door.
With the start of school comes that busier, more hectic morning of trying to get your kids fed dressed and out the door, hopefully with a decent lunch to see them through the day. I believe the person who truly solves this will win an international award! A packed lunch for kids means a healthier lunch that costs less than a purchased one. With lunch periods getting shorter and shorter, a packed lunch also allows for more time to eat and relax with friends. I have checked around and found a few tricks I think will make things a bit easier. I’d love to hear YOUR tricks for getting lunches together, please comment on this post and let me know.
Start with Containers
While items like the Planet Box or other lunch box systems are amazing, if your children are like most. these will almost never be clean when you need them and children will tire of them quickly. Stock a variety of pint and half pint sized containers for proteins, starches and salads and smaller containers for dressings and sauces. Small thermal containers are great for soup or warm food. Get kids into the habit from day one of putting containers into the sink to be cleaned for the following day (for littles) or washing them and setting them next to the sink to be filled for the next day as soon as they come home. This will also prevent the discovery of a 3 day-old crusty container in a backpack! Assigning a specific bag to each child for toting lunches and keeping those bags near the lunch prep area in the kitchen will insure that they get emptied each day and are ready to be filled in the morning.
Pack lunches at dinner
This sounds like adding work but it isn’t – while doing dinner prep chop extra vegetables to create a salad or snack-sized serving of veg to be eaten with hummus, sun butter or salad dressing. You can also set aside some of the evening’s protein (like chicken or fish) to be eaten with salad the next day. Extra rice or pasta can be frozen in single serving bags for up to one month (mark the date on the bags and heat them on the day you use them to defrost)
Let the children help
Make it a practice to have kids help pack lunches the night before- there are tons of lists online that you can print and put on the refrigerator as a guide. The basic categories are:
With little ones you may want to pre-pack small snack-sized bags of fruits and veg and purchase small yogurts, cottage cheeses, protein bars and separate them in containers so they can easily choose something from each category. Organize smaller bags in containers or “drawers” (larger containers that can be pulled out of the fridge and replaced) for each category. This works especially well for small snack-sized items which may get lost.
Add lunch items in a specific category to your shopping list
Keeping lunch item categories in mind and separate on your shopping list will help remind you to keep snack sized-portions and things like baby carrots, small yogurts and hummus on hand.