Back to school.
I love back to school. Buying new crayons, markers, backpacks, clothes, and lunchboxes.
Lunchboxes. Oh, crap. Now I also have to start thinking about SCHOOL LUNCH.
Why is creating lunches to take to school so FREAKIN’ hard? It is a tricky, tricky meal, man.
Eat at school? Eat a sack lunch? Pack the right things and kiddos clean their plates. Pack the wrong things and half the lunch ends up in the trash. The worst part? You have no way of knowing for sure what’s going on, because you have to to rely on what your kids tell you. (And those punks have been known to lie. Remember the “I’ve brushed my teeth incident.”)
As a mom of two who pack their lunches, I’ve finally mastered making lunches to take to school (without losing my mind).
Quit fighting the mountain. If your kids are constantly begging for school lunch, pick your battles and give in. That doesn’t mean EVERY meal is school lunch, but maybe it’s two per week and the rest of the time they brown bag it. (Or wave the white flag, get out your checkbook, quit reading this post, and choose another battle. There is no judgement; your kids are eating and that is the most important thing.)
Invest in good lunch equipment. Before you roll your eyes, I’m not talking about bento boxes. I’m talking about small, leak-proof containers for fruit/dips, sandwich containers, a good stainless-steel thermos, utensils, etc. Having a good arsenal of equipment allows you to try new and different recipes without worry that everything will explode all over your kid’s lunchbox.
Have your kids make their own. A reader left me this tip. She just dedicates a shelf in her fridge to “approved” food items and lets her girls make their lunches every day. They decide what they’re in the mood for and it eliminates the “you never asked me what I wanted” excuse.
Don’t get stuck in a rut. Nothing will have your kid begging for school lunch (or a Lunchable, for that matter) more than packing the same…thing…every…single…day. Sure, your kids love that brand of crunchy granola bar. After a month of the same bar, not so much. It’s okay to try new things or rotate favorites in and out of the schedule. Plus, you don’t want to be the reason your kid will never eat ham again. (True story.)
Don’t worry about being the most creative; worry about your kids eating. Pinterest is great for ideas, but if your kiddo isn’t eating lunch, who cares if your carrots and celery created a sculpted tree of life? It’s about eating, not winning awards.
Look at old standbys with a twist. Our kids love peanut butter and jelly, but too much will create burnout. So we take an extra few seconds and make peanut butter and jelly roll-ups. Same ingredients, new lunch item.
Sack lunch does not mean cold lunch. (See above about good equipment.) Remember the thermos? It was standard in my lunchbox, filled with ice cold water, warm soup, or hot chocolate. Kids love warm options for their sack lunches, too…spaghetti and meatballs, noodle soup, chicken and rice are all great and easy ideas.
Embrace the freezer. Most kids who sack their lunches cannot store anything in a refrigerator. And that can mean room temperature yogurt, cheese or drinks for those with later lunch periods. We freeze sandwiches, yogurt, cheese and other items to make sure they are cold when our kids are eating their lunch. Plus, it allows easy prep because we can put everything together on the weekend and pull it out during the week.
Make it easy. If planning, making and packing sack lunches becomes a pain, you are less likely to continue. Find five to seven great recipes for main entrees and supplement with pre-packaged items. The goals is to create a healthy lunch that your child will eat and you will be able to pack.
If you’re looking for some recipe inspiration, follow my School Lunch Ideas Pinterest Board.
What about you? Do you have any tips or tricks to master making lunches to take to school? Leave a comment and let us know.