8 Tips For Packing Lunches!
If you have kids who are picky eaters, have food allergies, or perhaps attend a school where no hot lunch is served, you know what it's like to devote a good chunk of your morning getting lunches ready for the kids. You also know how frustrating is it when they come home at the end of the day with their sandwich only half-eaten with fruit languishing in the bottom of the lunch bag.
Whether you are sending kids to preschool, day care, or even just packing your own lunch to take to the office, here are 8 tips for packing lunches that will make it easier for you AND tastier too!
Tip #1. Take Down Orders in Advance
Every Sunday night, my kids and I will go through the hot lunch menu offerings at school for the coming week, and determine for each day who plans to buy and who plans to take a lunch from home. But we don't stop there — we then plan the main entree for each day, for each child that decides to take lunch in. It makes it so much easier on a Monday morning to simply look at the menu plan we made the night before and get things pulled together while the kids are eating breakfast.
Tip #2. Use Attractive Containers
What would you rather eat? A smushed sandwich out of a ziplock bag, or a lunch in a cute container offering a variety of kid-friendly, brightly-colored fruits and veggies along with a small serving of noodles, a sandwich cut into a fun shape or a stack-your-own turkey, cheese, and cracker combo?
A lunch that looks appealing is one that gets eaten!
And purchasing reusable containers that can be be washed and refilled daily really adds up to a cost savings in the long run, and is kinder to the environment than a bag and pre-made single-serving products. (Check out this post on Reusable Containers for Lunchtime Savings for more info!)
Tip #3. Have Kids Help with Prep the Night Before
Ideally, you want to get as much done the night before school as possible because typically, that time after dinner is somewhat less rushed than the early-morning-scramble-to-get-out-the-door time period. While you are cleaning up the kitchen (with help of course), take a few extra minutes to do some lunch prep.
But only prep those items that will keep nicely overnight without compromising food and taste quality. (I suggest leaving making sandwiches until the next morning!)
Kids can put together small containers of baby carrots, dips, grapes, or applesauce the night before. If your kids take reusable water bottles to school, those can be rinsed out, refilled, and placed into backpacks.
Tip #4. Make Sandwiches/Main Entree in the Morning
If you take care of the prep work for all of your lunch side items that night before, it is a matter of quick work to make the main course for the lunch. If you are preparing lunches for several kids, assembly-line style sandwich making works well. If you are packing something warm such as soup or hot pasta, be sure to use a double-walled thermos that will keep your hot meal at the right temperature, and fill it with boiling water and allow it to sit for a few minutes before pouring out the water and then adding your hot food. Warming the thermos first will help to maintain the temperature of your cooked entree.
Once you've made the main part of the meal, enlist the kids help to grab a napkin and place all of the items into his or her lunch bag, and then into the backpack.
Now that you have a system that makes lunch prep easier, here are some tips on what to put into your lunch …
Tip #5. Think Snack-Sized
When sitting at the lunch table chatting with friends, kids are much more likely to snack on smaller servings of several different items than digging into a large over-stuffed sandwich. Pita paired with hummus, matchstick carrots served with ranch dressing, cantaloupe chunks served with a toothpick “skewer”, or even an English muffin pizza sliced into smaller sized bites make it easy for kids to nosh while still being social!
Tip #6. Steal Some Inspiration from Breakfast
Maybe your little one isn't a big fan of sandwiches or soups or noodles. Lunch does not always need to follow the traditional form! Take a cue from what your child enjoys for breakfast. If they like muffins, then make a big batch of apple zucchini muffins — try this recipe, or this one too — they're packed with fiber and vitamins. If cereal is more their thing, then a good-sized serving of a healthy cereal choice, along with some sliced fruit is a great way to fuel a body for an afternoon of learning!
Tip #7. Don't Forget to Include a Treat!
Don't worry about whether or not it's the first thing they eat! The order of items isn't as important as is getting your child to eat everything that you packed together! (Remember Tip #5 about sticking with snack-sized portions!)
Tip #8. Don't Worry If They Prefer the Same Thing Over and Over
Ugh — I know … it starts to make me crazy too, when my son requests a turkey sandwich for the 27th day in a row! So I try to get creative my mixing up the sides so that he gets a variety of fruits and veggies from day to day. And since he is a good eater at both breakfast and dinner at home, I know that he is eating a healthy balanced diet as a whole. Even if I am telling him that he is going to start looking like a turkey sandwich one of these days!
How is your lunch packing routine going? What's your biggest challenge?Read More