Monday’s Menu – Back-to-School Lunches
Most parents and even a few children I know are excited about going back to school. However, as any parent who packs lunch bags can tell you, back-to-school can bring a certain amount of dread when it comes to planning for packed lunches.
Here are some of my favorite tips and hacks for packing school lunches:
- Variety – I find that my children eat better when the menu has lots a variety in it.
- “Automate” as much as possible – prep ahead as much as possible things like washing fruit and vegetables and packing them in individual servings.
- Prep the night before – plan lunch boxes the night before and prep as much as possible. It will help the morning run smoother.
- Enlist the children to help where age appropriate – having children take responsibility for prepping their lunches gives them an opportunity to take ownership and responsibility.
- Know the school guidelines on what is permissible to be packed – make sure there are no food allergies to take into consideration. Some classrooms do not permit nuts/nut products to ensure a safe environment for nut allergy children. Also, some teachers do not like “messy” food items.
- Pack nutritious, whole foods as much as possible, but give yourself the grace to use processed, packaged lunches on occasion when you need a little help.
- Protein is very important – protein gives children the long lasting energy they need to focus and make it through the day. May favorite sources of protein are: deli meats, cheeses (sticks, cubes, and slices), hard boiled eggs, nuts, grilled chicken, protein breakfast bars, and soups and chili in a hot thermos.
- Sandwich meat kabobs – take deli meat and roll it up like sushi and slice the roll into about six pieces. Place on 4” long bamboo skewers with fresh fruit like grapes or strawberries. These are a favorite of my children. We use all natural deli meat that does not have preservatives, so I have to be mindful of how quickly it expires once opened. I freeze uncut rolls individually. The morning of I pull them out of the freezer and slice them to make the skewers. By lunch time they are thawed and ready to eat.
- Veggies with hummus dip – my daughter loves veggies. So as a time saver, I make ahead “snacky bags.” I take fresh celery, cut carrot sticks, sugar snap peas, and sliced colored bell peppers and put them in individual serving snack bags. Sometimes I make fresh hummus, but we usually use the individual servings of hummus to go with them. Having the veggies preassembled and the individual grab-and-go hummus saves time packing the lunch the morning of.
- Soup – left over homemade soup or chili in a hot thermos is perfect for rainy and cold days. During the fall and winter months, I usually send soup once a week. The trick is to get the thermos hot before adding the hot soup. To heat the thermos I add hot water to the thermos and let it stand for a few minutes. Then I dump the hot water and add the hot soup.
- Leftovers that keep in a hot thermos like spaghetti, red beans & rice, soup, etc.
- Go Picnic Packs are healthier, more natural version of Lunchables. We usually have a couple of these stashed away for when we need to grab-and-go quickly.
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