When my oldest son started school 8 years ago one of my most exciting moments came when it dawned on me that I would get to start packing a lunch for him, buy school supplies and a back pack. Yes, I was happy that he was embarking on his educational journey as well, but for me it was all about the organization.
I am one of those odd ducks that accumulates little containers, loves to buy school and office supplies to bring it all home so I can organize things. So for me, packing a lunch every day was just an extension of my need for order and preparation.
All of these years later my seventh grader now likes to eat lunch at school occasionally and my third grader prefers that I pack his lunch. They are both at each end of the spectrum when it comes to food preferences so it is sometimes a little tricky to find a happy medium between the two.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that making lunches can be a little time consuming in the morning rush to get out the door each morning. It took a little trial and error to get lunch prep down to a science and now the food packing process is seamless.
The first thing I invested in was a sturdy, crush proof lunch box. I chose one from Lands End because it was very reasonably priced, easy to clean, insulated and would protect the food well. It also has a separate pocket to keep a small freezer pack which is necessary to keep food cold until lunch time.
I then bought a small arsenal of sandwich and snack bags along with small containers to hold small amounts of foods like pasta salads or fruit. You don’t have to make a huge investment but you need to decide if you want to go the disposable or reusable route. To tell you the truth, I initially started off with baggies as my son constantly threw my containers away by accident!
When it comes to selecting food for the lunch box, go with what you may feed your kids for lunch at home. Remember, they only have so much time to wait in line to get a drink if they have to, eat and have the social time that they really need. Try not to over pack, rather, send them off with small amounts that suit what their tastes are.
Some kids like a half sandwich, cup of applesauce, yogurt and a milk. Older eaters may need a little more protein to get them through the afternoon so they may opt for a larger ‘sub-style’ sandwich to tide them over. Either way, try to send a little variety that they like to keep them from trading lunches so they eat what you send them. Cut up veggies with a dip like hummus, or pieces of fruit dipped in a sweet cream cheese dip or their favorite dressing are 2 great side items that are quick to eat, nutritious and easy to prepare in bulk. My kids also like string cheese, with crackers, rolls of lunch meat like ham or turkey and applesauce cups. It’s easy to eat, simple and very economical.
A typical lunch for my youngest is a small wrap, pasta or fruit salad and a yogurt. Sometimes I like to freeze a juice box to keep the food extra cold. I know a favorite of his is cold tortellini salad with frozen grapes. They are still a little frosty at lunchtime and he says they are like little popsicles!
My 12 year old, when not eating a tray lunch, likes a heavily packed lunch. He eats several little meals to keep him going from school to swimming or cross country practice then home for dinner without feeling famished. He likes a sandwich, pasta or rice salad, fruit and a small bag of chips.
I have never bought a thermos, I am not sure why, but this is going to be the year I do. I know my kids would like to have a warm soup from home on a cold day or even better a nice cup of my Mac and Cheese. A thermal container really opens up the lunch possibilities . You can control the portions, pack some of their favorites and they may be more apt to eat all of their food.
I try to bag cut up veggies and fruit at the beginning of the week so I can just grab what I need quickly. Making sandwiches and wraps, freezing the juice boxes, making large amounts of a particular item they will be eating that week the night before are great time savers as well. I like to use tortillas or ‘wraps’ as my kids call them. Kids will eat almost anything that is wrapped in a tortilla. Turkey and cheddar, ham and Swiss, or veggies and a nice spreadable cheese. The possibilities are endless.
Here are of few of my family’s lunchtime favorites. Remember, your kids do not need a smorgasbord of choices in their lunchboxes. Just a few things that give them the fuel they need to finish the afternoon at school.
Tortellini Pasta Salad
This makes enough to last the week.
2 packages of frozen tortellini, cooked as per directions. Do not overcook.
1 small package of Feta cheese, or cheese of your choice
5 cups vegetables of your choice and tomatoes, cut into small pieces
salad dressing of your choice. I used Kraft Free Balsamic dressing.
*optional: 2 cups of chopped cooked meat like turkey, chicken or pepperoni*
In a large bowl with a tight fitting lid add the first 3 ingredients. Drizzle the salad dressing and toss until coated. Add meat, if desired. Put lid on tightly and refrigerate. I like to go ahead and portion this out into little containers so I can just grab what I need when packing the lunchbox.
Peanut Butter and Banana Wrap
This is a very simple ‘recipe’ that even your kids can make for themselves. This is also a great after school snack. This takes the traditional peanut butter and jelly and kicks it up a notch. This wrap is packed with protein and nutrients ,but don’t tell them. They will think they are getting a treat!
Tortillas of your choice. I like Flat Out Wraps
1 banana , peeled and split down the middle
a drizzle of honey or jelly
Lay out your tortilla. coat the side facing you with a thin layer of peanut butter. add the banana half, then a light drizzle of honey or jelly. Roll tightly and wrap with foil or cling wrap.
Banana Oatmeal Bars
1 1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 TB flax meal (for added protein, optional)
1/4 cup butter, softened at room temperature
1/4 cup applesauce
1 cup brown sugar
3 medium mashed bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup raw, quick-cooking oats
3/4 cup (total) chopped nuts,Craisins, or other dried fruits (optional)
Preheat oven to 425 F. Grease and flour 13×9 inch baking pan. Sift together: flour, salt, soda and spices, set aside. In large bowl, beat until light and fluffy: butter, sugar, egg. Add bananas and vanilla beat until smooth.
Gradually stir in flour mixture and oats until well combined. (If it seems to be getting a little thick, slowly add about 1/4 cup non-fat milk as needed.) Stir in nuts etc. Bake until golden (about 25 minutes)
|Have a great start to your school year!|