With my youngest entering JK and my oldest in grade 2, I am now tasked with providing healthy (nut free) lunches for two children, five days a week. In addition, our school is on a balanced day which means my kids get two 20 minute breaks in which to eat - not really all that much time if you ask me. Now if my children enjoyed processed food I would have it so much easier - just pop open a can of Chef Boy-ar-dee like my mom did and voila!- instant lunch. My children also are not fond of sandwiches -except peanut butter for the younger one which for obvious reasons is a no-go & tuna for the older one which is a good choice. So what is a mom to do?
So far here is what I've found works (thanks to all those bloggers & articles that gave me great tips)
- Pack small portions of everything.
- Make sure food is ready to eat (ie: pre-peel oranges, cereal bars out of the wrapper, etc) - this also helps with the litter free lunch initiative.
- Make staples ahead and freeze in portion sizes (plain pasta, shepherd's pie, etc)
- Make your own "lunchables" with cheese, crackers & kielbasa
Some things my kids really enjoy in their lunches include:
- bagel with cream cheese - I buy the PC thin bagels which are a better portion size
- sushi - wish I could make this but once in a while we buy some to go in their lunch
- fruits & veggies - just cut up and plain (lucky me!)
- cheese quesadilla
- tortillas (I sneak in whole wheat ones) and salsa
I found some great containers at IKEA that were cheap (since we usually lose a few a year) and in good sizes - the whole package retailed for under $6.00 and we use the bigger containers at home.
I also picked up the re-usable bags that come in a package with two sizes (sandwich & snack). I really like the snack size, it is bigger than most but smaller than a sandwich bag - just right for some plain popcorn.
This year we also found some great lunch bags at Target. They have a hard shell inside which keeps them from getting squished and makes them easy to wipe out. They are large enough to hold lots of food items and at about $12, so far they've been worth every penny.
Of course we always grab some personalized Mabel's Labels to tag everything. Many schools and daycares have fundraising efforts through Mabel's and if yours doesn't you might want to start one.
The one item I wish I could find is an insulated sandwich sized container that would keep foods hot (like ribs and chicken fingers) so that I don't have to try to cram them into a cylindrical thermos container. If you know where I can get one of these please let me know.
I am always on the lookout for other great lunch ideas that are quick and easy to make (as I am not the cook in our family) so please comment and share your lunch lessons.
Have a great school year!