A Mom’s Guide to Packing School Lunches

Let’s start with 2 simple things to keep in mind:

How much time do they have for lunch? It’s like this becomes a game of  “What can they eat in 15 min? Wait let’s try 10.” Let’s make it as easy as we can for the kids.

How much space to store lunch box/thermos, etc.? Some of those lunch bags do not fit well in lockers or backpacks and the kids have to play locker tetris to fit it all in.

First and foremost, you know what your children like and will actually eat, although we all know that changes frequently or they fixate on one food, you know their likes. If you’re struggling with ideas, take a minute and write down what you know they eat, involve the kids. This way you have a list to sort thru for reference. (This works well for meal planning also)

Fun idea: a few weeks or so before school, do a tasting table, introduce new recipes or foods and find out what your kids go for. You might find out that your kids have a broader palette than you think. Ever notice how they eat foods at friends but turn their noses at when home? Usually, it’s not that they don’t like it, it’s simply a flavor difference or presentation.

Keep a Schedule

One option is to go with subjects for the days, like Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Wrap Wednesday, and nothing rhymes with Thursday so I’m doing whatever. Fresh Friday, salads are a great option. Have you tried a Dorito Taco Salad? Come on, kids and Doritos, yes! Numerous recipes may be found online. Give it a try and find out for yourself.  

Before planning for the week, review kids schedule, field trips, etc.

One way to make it easier is to use a simple chart. (Sample idea) plus drink or change to buy it.

DAY OF THE WEEK MAIN ENTREE SIDE, VEGGIE AND/OR FRUIT
Monday Wrap Cucumber slices
Tuesday Sandwich/pita Carrots and celery
Wednesday Wrap Berry medley, or orange slices
Thursday Salad Applesauce
Friday Pasta hot or cold Cheese sticks

You can expand this chart to add a treat if you choose yet don’t lose sight of nutritionally sound lunches, the habits developed when they are young good or bad have an impact. Planning and prepping are your best friends when putting together school lunches.

Change Up the Regulars

Roll-ups or wraps are one of the easiest to make and are, actually, quite versatile. For the younger ones, slicing them into small pieces is generally more appealing.

Chicken salad can be changed with minimal effort to taste completely different for a couple days in a row. Regular chicken salad, Chicken Cesar, Tex Mex, BBQ, Chinese, Buffalo etc., there are so many options once you start pondering it! Then you can change up what you “wrap” it in, wrap, pita, bread or lettuce or serve with crackers. This same idea works for lunch meat wraps, ham slices or turkey slices then add different flavored fillings and cheese. The idea is to take what food your kids regularly eat and add to that.

Think Finger-foods

Always have on hand an assortment of chopped/sliced fruits & veggies, that way it’s easy to put together. Have the non-refrigerated items all together like granola bars, chips, crackers. Same for refrigerated items, keep in an area of the fridge or use clear bins. Put a little time and effort into prepping will make things so much smoother for everyone.

Think finger foods or small bites, kids are more likely to eat their lunch if its finger-friendly, or small bites. Lunchtime seems to always be a rushed thing, so make it easy to eat even if it’s while walking, like a walking taco, ground beef/turkey in a thermos and the rest in the lunch box or bag.

Keep It Organized

Bento box style lunch boxes are life-savers!

The lunchbox choices are never-ending, those alone could be another post entirely. Take a peek at Amazon! 

Also get a cheap tub at the dollar store and put out on the counter for the kids to put the empty containers in to get washed and not forgotten, we all have found one of those containers much, much later and it is not pretty at all! I will admit to simply throwing it out as I could not face it.

The idea is to take what you know your kids eat, and expand that, then rotate those ideas. I know we all have Pinterest-perfect visions of how school lunches should be, let’s not do that to ourselves, Pinterest is a great resource but that’s it, get some ideas and then do what works for you and your family, don’t make it into something more than it really is, simply lunch.

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