7 Tips For Making Back-to-School Lunches
7 Tips for Making School Lunches
Believe it or not, the person in our family who has been dreading the start of the school year the most is me. When school starts, there are no more lazy mornings. Back-to-School means back-to-making lunches.
My kids have to be out the door before 8 am, with school clothes on, teeth brushed, homework done, breakfast in their bellies, and a nutritious lunch in their backpacks.
Just thinking about getting back into the routine has made me start moaning: Why can’t summer vacation last longer? Why can’t school start later? Why can’t the food just make itself?
Enough complaining. We all know there are worse things than making lunches.
Lately I’ve been re-thinking my attitude toward school lunches. Yes, it can take a little extra work, but in the big picture, it’s really a gift you are giving to your kids. Plus, they’re only going to be in school for so long. So enjoy the time, have some fun with the process, and make it easier on everyone by following these 7 Tips for Making School Lunches.
1) Plan ahead. Do whatever you can ahead of time so that you don’t have to do it at 7:59 on a school morning. This means peeling and chopping fruit the night before, hard-boiling some eggs on the weekend, cutting up carrot sticks and storing them in water in the fridge, and generally being stocked up and ready to go.
2) Think big – Make or buy big quantities of foods whenever you can. Making soup? Double the recipe and have some for Thermoses. Popping popcorn? Pop a little extra and bag it up for lunches. Even though it sounds counter-intuitive, don’t rely on those individual snack packages – they’re more costly, wasteful, and generally less nutritious.
3) Go nutty – As long as you don’t have food allergies in your family or food restrictions at school, nuts and nut products are great for lunches because they’re packed with protein and generally don’t need to be refrigerated. Make a high-powered snack mix of peanuts and dried cranberries or cherries – then throw in a few chunks of dark chocolate, and your kids will be sold.
4) Go beyond bread – Sandwiches on bread can get so boring. Think outside the box by wrapping cheese or meats in whole-grain tortillas, or serving chunks of cheese with whole-grain crackers. You can also make a big batch of muffins or cornbread (don’t forget add-ins like nuts, grains, fruits, or veggies) to make tasty lunchbox treats. We baked corn dog muffins with a hot dog surprise inside.
5) Freeze it – Toss small containers of applesauce or yogurt in the freezer; then pop them in the lunch bag in the morning. By the time lunch rolls around, they’ll be defrosted (and they’ll have kept the rest of the lunch cold in the meantime).
6) Recycle dinner – If you had chicken and pasta for dinner, for example, you can make it into an entirely different meal by the next day’s lunch. Chop up the chicken and add it to the pasta with veggies for a pasta salad for lunch.
7) Put kids to work – That’s right, if they’re not helping to make their own lunches, they should be. Even if they’re just in preschool, they can help you put fruit in containers or put snacks in baggies. You could even make it seem like it’s…fun?
Now go get those lunches packed. And don’t forget to give your kids an extra hug before they walk out the door.
Jeanne Ponessa Fratello writes about kids’ nutrition at The Jolly Tomato.