It’s officially two weeks from the first day of school and my kids are not too thrilled (yet!). It has been a great summer with a good mix of activity but also days of wearing pajamas until noon. The one thing my kids all get excited about is their new school supplies, back packs and lunch boxes! There is something about starting the year with these new things that brings comfort (for all of us) and nostalgia (for me!). Today, I am linking up with Erika and Shay for How We Do Wednesdays and this month’s theme is on tips for packing school lunches. As with most things, my approach to packing lunches is all about EASY and SIMPLE!
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Determine Favorite Lunch Items
The best way to come up with lunch ideas is to ASK THE KIDS! I used to struggle with coming up with ideas for lunches until I started asking the kids what they really wanted. Now I can take some of the pressure of me and have the kids be stumped with what they want to eat. Ha ha! Let’s be honest though, if we want our kids to eat their lunches (and not trade with their friends), it has got to be a lunch they like to eat!
Last year, my daughter and I came up with a big list of items she liked to eat in each category (protein, snack item, fruit, veggie and dairy). Each week when I was making my shopping list, I would have her go over the list and provide me a few of her favorites.
If my kids are stumped on ideas, then we look at Pinterest (I have a whole board on easy lunch ideas).
My kids don’t request a ton of variety, so once we find things we like we tend to stick to them!
Make Ahead Snacks and Sides
If you have been following me for a while, you know that I love to make ahead snacks, whether it is for a road trip or a busy week ahead! During the school, I try to make ahead some of the lunch sides as much as possible. So, while I am chopping up fruits and veggies for dinner, I set some of the extras aside for lunches the next day!
Sometimes we divide up snacks on the weekend for lunches during the week. Any type of prepping you can do ahead of time will save time in the long run!
So here is my number one BEST tip to making school lunch time prep easier–ENLIST HELPERS! This last school year I started having the kids prepare their own lunches and let me tell you this was a game changer!! I don’t know why I held on to this responsibility for as long as I did! The kids (at 3rd and 5th grade) were more than capable of packing their own meals. I can honestly say that they do not complain about this chore (one of the few they don’t!).
I am certainly willing to help them when needed or if they are running behind (I am not going to let them go hungry). But 99% of the time, they are in charge! I encourage them to get as much of the packing done the night before to save time in the morning. Then, in the mornings, they add in anything hot or items they didn’t want to sit in the refrigerator all night. I think sometimes parents struggle with handing over this job to the kids because they worry the kids won’t pack healthy things! The key is to have healthy items on hand and to work with the kids to make good choices. You can come up with a list of items the kids can choose from and then leave the individual choices up to them.
A simple starting list can be:
Protein (Peanut Butter, Turkey, egg, etc)
Whole Grain (Bread, pretzels, waffles, bagel, crackers)
Beverage (milk, water)
Now that my littlest is starting school this year –half day kindergarten–I will start with having him help me get his snack ready. So depending on the ages of the kids, the helpers might be more of assistants. Start them young and they will be ready to take over the reigns soon enough!
Invest in Good Lunch Containers
We’ve gone through several different types of lunch storage containers and these are some of our favorites!
I just ordered these new Bento boxes for the kids so I can’t give a full review yet. However, I have heard GREAT things about these containers! I like that each section isn’t too big. So it will provide opportunities for smaller portions and a lot of variety. Plus, the divided container comes out of the bigger container for easy cleaning!
We love these Resuable snack and sandwich bags for snack breaks. Or we use these bags if we are packing the lunch with just a thermos and smaller items. They wash up great and are an awesome way to be more eco-friendly!
Sistema containers are also a FAVORITE! We usually purchase a few new ones each year at Marshalls or TJ Maxx. Although this is a better deal. These containers are great for snacks especially with hummus or dressing. We have had no issues with leaking and they are dishwasher safe!
Another favorite– these Thermos containers are AWESOME for warm/hot meals. My son loves oatmeal in the Thermos. My daughter likes soup or warmed up mac and cheese. These containers are so durable and so far have lasted several years!
We have several of these containers too! These are great for lunches with all dry ingredients. I am trying Bento boxes because you can use the containers for yogurt and dips. However, we will use these divided containers throughout the year too. These are less bulky than Bento boxes so you can fit a drink or another item on top of the box. You can put these in the dishwasher and they hold up great! They are an inexpensive option!
TIP: Keep all of the lunch containers and beverage containers in a one cabinet or drawer! It makes it easy for the kids and parents to grab everything they need from one spot!
School Lunch Box Essentials
Make it Fun (But don’t stress about all the details!)
I try to send notes in the kids’ lunches each day but it doesn’t always happen. And that is okay! Lunches don’t have to look Pinterest or Instagram worthy! The point is for the kids to be well fed and filled up enough to be able to focus the rest of the school day. My mom friends and I laugh about the efforts we make for our kids’ lunches when the reality is that growing up we lived on PB & J and bologna sandwiches:)
For more easy ideas on transitioning back to school, I shared my back to school post over here!
What are some of your back to school lunch tips?