The dog days of summer are nearly complete which means that back to school is just around the corner. What’s our first challenge as we prepare for parent-teacher conferences and report cards? School supplies. We’ll claw through mounds of 3-ring binders and pocket folders.
But while you’re checking off the annual school supply list and double checking the bus route schedule, don’t forget to spend a few minutes thinking about lunch.
No, not your lunch, the amazing, delicious and healthy school lunches you’ll pack for your entire brood each and every day. What? What’s that?
You don’t have time to pack your child’s lunch?
Just the thought of packing your child’s lunch stresses you out?
Getting your kid to eat a healthy school lunch is like trying to lick your elbow? Hold up, don’t worry. You can do this. Here’s how:
If You Pack It, They Will Eat It: 4 Tips for Becoming the School Lunch Master
Gather School Lunch Ideas Before the First of School
I have a hard enough time just figuring out what shoes to wear every day and I don’t exactly have hours to brainstorm school lunch ideas. If only there was a tool that allowed people with this uber-secret super power to share their wonderful, magical lists of amazing school lunches with the world. But, wait! There is!
A quick Pinterest search for school lunch ideas will give you more ideas than you can shake a stick at.
Worst-case scenario, Google “school lunch ideas,” but whatever you do, don’t feel like you have to reinvent the wheel. Learn from those who have already mastered the art of the school lunch.
Quick Tip: If your kids are old enough, let them help you find ideas for lunch. Recent research shows kids involved in food prep often eat better. Plus it’s a great opportunity to talk about what’s healthy and why eating right is so important.
Get the Right Tool for the Job
Now that you’ve pinned enough school lunch ideas to feed your kid until he’s 21, it’s time to gather all of the nifty tools that make packing all of those lunches a breeze. Keep things like sandwich and snack-size food storage bags on hand at all times. Better yet, your budget and the environment will thank you for the purchase of reusable compartment containers.
Check your local Exchange and if you can, invest in several reusable compartment containers so you can pack more than one lunch at a time. Search for containers that are easy to open, easy to clean, and are dishwasher/microwave safe. Oh, and don’t forget the cold packs.
Quick Tip: Want to buy those reusable containers, but have a kid who is notorious for losing them? Try a reward system. A small daily or weekly reward (could be a quarter, could be a peanut butter cup in their lunch at the end of the week) can help remind them to bring their lunch containers home. Plus it’s a great opportunity to talk about being responsible for their things.
Prep Instead of Panic
Nothing can send me into a panic like waking up late on a school day. The easiest thing to fall by the wayside in a moment of fight or miss the school bus? Yep, lunch.
Eliminate the stress and strain (and the temptation to toss a handful of pretzels and an over-brown banana in her lunch box) by prepping school lunches the night before.
Quick Tip: Carve out an hour or so each weekend to prep things for lunches during the week. Boil a few eggs, cut carrots and celery into easy-to-pack sticks, pre-load small containers with peanut butter, hummus or ranch dressing for easy packing.
Don’t forget to get the kids involved. If your children are older, let them chop veggies. Younger kids can help wash fruit or put stuff in storage bags.
Think Beyond the Sandwich When Thinking About School Lunch
Remember all of those amazing lunch recipes you pinned? I’d wager to say that most of them didn’t involve slapping a little PB&J between 2 pieces of white bread.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good PB&J, especially with a few sour cream and onion potato chips squished flat in the middle (I know it’s strange, don’t judge!), but a lot of kids get bored with the same thing day after day after day.
The key to making things perfect for school lunches is keeping everything bite-sized. No kid wants to bust out with a fork and knife, trust me. Try skipping the bread all together. Substitute cucumber slices, tortilla wedges or even mini waffles to mix things up.
Quick Tip: Prepare an extra dinner serving each night. Pan roasted sausage slices with a little barbecue sauce, meatballs with marinara, caprese salad, and sticky rice balls all make great sandwich-free lunch options.