The rush to get out the door each morning leaves little time to make school lunches for your kids. But with good planning and preparation strategies, though, you can give your child an appetizing lunch without leaving late.
Remember, easy doesn’t have to mean peanut butter and jelly every day. A balance of healthy, simple, and child-friendly creates a lunch suitable for your growing child.
Set aside a block of time on Sunday afternoon to tackle school lunch prep work. Gather all containers and utensils used for the lunches. Side dishes and snacks are easy to portion out for the entire week. Place a serving of baby carrots, grapes, berries, crackers, cereal, granola and other snacks in small containers at the beginning of the week. Then, when you’re packing your child’s lunch, you simply grab the containers and toss them in the lunchbox for quick assembly.
Obviously some items don’t last long enough to portion out ahead of time, so wait on things like apple slices that will brown or get mushy. You can, of course, give them a whole apple, or cut those apples up the night before and give the slices a quick dip in a bath of half lemon juice, half water to prevent browning. Make sure they go back in the fridge until it’s time to leave for school, though. It will still save you time in the morning.
The same food items in your child’s lunchbox makes preparation easier, but it also gets boring for your child. Write a list of school lunch menus as a reference. Include lists of main dishes and side dishes so you can mix and match the components. If your child isn’t picky, write out a school lunch menu for the month. This allows you to vary the lunches throughout the month.
If your child likes more control, let her pick the items from the list that go in her lunch each day. If a microwave is available for them at school, you might even work out which nights you will have enough leftovers to pack for lunch the next day.
All school-age children are able to help with at least some aspects of the lunch prep. Let your child portion out the snacks and put them into the containers. Older kids can handle sandwich-making and other food-prep tasks.
Ask your child to gather and pack all the food and utensils he needs as one of his chores. This saves you time and gives him a sense of responsibility. A child who prepares his own lunch is often more likely to eat the food. That being said, as they get older, put them in charge of writing up the list of menu options they can choose from.
Sandwiches are obvious. Thankfully there are many options to mix up this common course. However, don’t overlook the beauty of the Thermos. Even if your kids don’t have a microwave at their disposal, you can pack hot soup, pasta, or leftover stew in their Thermos, and it will still be warm at lunch time. If a microwave is available, you might even forgo the Thermos and pack dinner leftovers in a plastic container that will survive.
Water or non-fat milk are the best options for lunches. Juice and soda have too much sugar. Coconut water adds a bit of flare to your child’s lunch while providing extra hydration. We love Taste Nirvana for an easy to grab and nutritious option.
Extras and Snacks
The side dishes finish off the school lunch. Chips, cookies, fruit, and vegetables are standard lunch options, but don’t be afraid to get creative!
For something different, try hard-boiled eggs, popcorn with a dash of seasoning, pasta salad, homemade sweet potato chips, and plain Greek yogurt with stir-in options like granola, cereal, or fresh fruit.
Do you have any school lunch tips to add to this list?