6 Tips for Easy School Lunches

school lunch wrap with thermos of milk

If you’ve spent any time at all at this parenting gig and take a minute to calculate the meals you’ve made, you might land on a staggering number. It’s no wonder we can all get a little tuckered out, particularly when it comes to packing school lunches. For many, it’s the least favorite among a long list of back-to-school chores. To help ease your way into the coming school year, here are six tips that have proven useful to me along the way. Perhaps they will be handy for you, too.

school lunch with sandwich, lunch box, and cupcake

1. Think Ahead

• Pre-pack snacks and sides in re-usable storage containers for the week so you can “grab and go” on school days. Sorting and packing your own sides is more economical and eco-friendly than buying pre-packaged single serving items.
• When you come home from the market, clean, chop and store fruit and veggie sides right away.
• Make a game plan on weekends as to what lunch will be each day.
• If the weekend is too far out, do it the night before and get much of the packing done ahead of time.
• If you are a “morning of” kind of person, wake up early to avoid the mayhem.

2. Involve the Kids in Planning

• Brainstorm lunch ideas with your kids. The more involved they are, the more likely to eat their lunches.
• Find out their likes and dislikes. Having a peek at what comes home uneaten each day can help.
• Get their input when you are writing out a shopping list.
• Try a new sandwich or other food item together on non-school days to see if it’s a winner.
• Let them have some control: they get to choose snacks, sides or sandwiches.

3. Make Use of Leftovers for Lunch

• Turn leftover rice or noodles into a lunchbox main course by adding veggies to create a one-dish lunch.
• During dinner prep make enough extra to set aside for lunches.
• When putting food away after dinner, package up leftovers for school lunch; one less thing to do in the morning.
• Invest in a good wide mouth thermos to keep leftovers warm.

4. Enlist some Helpers

• Get the kids involved in preparing lunches to help promote independence and lighten your load.
• Given some parameters, older kids can do the job themselves, younger ones can pitch in.
• Ask kids to empty reusable containers when they come home from school. Older kids can clean lunchboxes and wash containers themselves.

5. Make Lunch Packing Fun

• Get creative to make the process more interesting for everyone.
• Try cookie cutters to create interesting sandwich shapes.
• Use bento box style lunch containers for a variation on the norm.
• Include a little note reminding your child how much you love them.

6. “Try it on Tuesdays”

• Pack foods you know are safe bets every day of the week except Tuesday.
• Take Tuesdays to get a little adventurous with the lunchbox, experimenting with new menu items.
• Get the kids involved in deciding what the next “try it on Tuesday” is going to be.
• Incorporate new foods that go over well into the weekly rotation.

(This one I lifted directly from one clever commenter…you know who you are, so thank you for the idea!)

For more school lunch inspiration you might like:

How to Pack a Lunch Box Apple

12 Alternatives to a Sandwich

Kid-Friendly Lunch Box Salad

Best Lunch Box Ever cookbook

15 Fun Ideas for Lunch Boxes from Real Mom Nutrition

Comments

08.17.2011 at 12:19 PM #

Portia

These are really handy tips. My toddler (21 months) is headed to nursery school for the first time on Monday and I’ve been fretting about packing his little snack. Also, I have to share that after reading your post on Greek yogurt I introduced my son to it and he LOVES it! I sweeten it with either a bit of homemade peach jam (a new hobby of mine) or honey. His eyes lit up when I gave it to him. It’s always great when you find something a toddler will actually eat!

08.17.2011 at 12:19 PM #

katiemorford

That’s great. Greek yogurt has double the protein of regular yogurt, making it extra nourishing for the little ones. Adding your own homemade peach jam is brilliant…of course he loves it!

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