Making lunch for the kids might be one of the more stressful routines parents have to face every morning. We strive for a combination of nutritious food, convenience, and foods we know will get eaten. We are not always as creative as we’d like to be, but getting to school on time sometimes trumps creativity!
Here's how to take the stress out of packing lunches
One of the keys to our success is advanced planning. Below are a few tips to help you plan ahead for a more zen-like morning:
- Advance food prep: cut up fruits and vegetables at the beginning of the week and put them in individual, reusable containers in the fridge. You can also make homemade snack mixes in bulk—dried fruits, seeds, etc.—and then divvy up into individual servings. In the mornings, you can just pop the smaller containers into lunchboxes. Frozen yoghurt sticks, cheeses, and hardboiled eggs are other items you can make or portion out ahead of time.
- No time to make homemade snacks? Many of the healthier organic snacks come in smaller packets. They’re more expensive, but they may be worth it for you and your family.
- If the same old fruits and veggies are getting boring, try packing them up in different combinations—berries and bananas, broccoli and carrots, pineapple and blueberries. Pairing them with dips like sunflower butter, hummus, guacamole, or yoghurt helps, as well. Cutting vegetables in different shapes can be a nice surprise, too! For a TGIF dessert treat, slip chocolate morsels in raspberries—yum.
- Leftovers from dinner the night before can perk up a predictable lunch routine. Just follow these food safety tips: 1) check that your refrigerator temperature is set to 40 degrees or below and 2) make sure you get your leftovers into the fridge within two hours. Leftover chicken? Add some lettuce and roll into a wrap. Grilled vegetables? Slip them in a pita pocket with a dab of hummus. Pasta salad makes a nice side at lunch, or how about a slice of quiche or pizza?
- Investigate Weelicious for make-ahead recipes using wholesome ingredients that are appealing to kids.
- Does your school serve lunch? Use it as your safety net when it's just too much.
Don't underestimate the importance of the right container!
- Standardize your containers. Invest in multiple small containers, all the same size with the same-sized lids, so you are not hunting for covers that fit at 6:00 am. Have enough on hand for the week so that you never run out during the morning rush.
- Don’t want to fiddle with all those containers? Try Planet Box lunchboxes or lunchbot containers. While they’re pricey, they really hold up. And, they’re reusable (good for the environment), dishwasher-safe (easy to clean), divided (kid-friendly) stainless steel containers. They don't off-gas the way plastic does, and they are super easy to use. Young children like them because they have separate compartments: the food looks more inviting to them.
- Nothing is worse than opening up a lunchbox in the morning only to find leftovers from the previous day that you have to clean out. Create a new routine: have the kids clean out their lunchboxes when they get home from school or do it in the evening.
We'd like to hear from you!
Have you cracked the code? Do you know how to manage making school lunch that actually gets eaten? Have you mastered scrumptious lunches for more than one child? Is the picky eater no match for you? Or are you the model of efficiency, taming your week to whip up lunches that your kids actually like?
Tell us your secrets... or share how you're getting it done even if you're amazed that you're pulling it off week after week. Teach us by sharing your tips, wins, and misses. Tips on packing lunches for children with allergies, other dietary restrictions, or alternate diets also welcome!