It’s baaaaccckkk. Yep, you know what I’m talking about: school. At this point everyone is refreshed, refocused and ready to have a successful year. But there’s one thing that I don’t particularly love about going back to school. I love the homework, don’t mind organizing our schedules, but I LOATHE making lunches. So thankfully I have come up with some easy lunch box solutions that work for both kids AND parents (talk about two birds with one stone, eh?):
LUNCH SOLUTION #1: BENTO BOXES
Don’t get me wrong, I love Instagram and Pinterest (I mean, if you aren’t already following me, you’re missing out!), but I have been super skeptical about the whole Bento Box thing. I mean, I’m not the mom who is going to cut sandwiches into cute shapes if it takes more than five minutes. I’m just not. But I love the fact that I can quickly pack both of my boys lunches, ensure that I am including a wide variety of options, and being as “green” as possible with bento boxes.
After a bit of research, I have found these Bento Box winners:
For younger kiddos, there are tons of great options for food and snack storage over at the Baby Cubby. Our favorites? The Re-Play Bulk Snack Set is a great way to store multiple snacks for when you are on the go with your kiddos, and the iPlay Fresh Baby Food Unbreakable Cubes are great if you are making your own baby food.
LUNCH SOLUTION #2: MEAL IDEAS
Have a picky eater on your hands? I have been there and I know how stressful it can be. How did we overcome it? With time, persistence, and oh so much patience which you can read about here.
I have found that one of the best ways to keep lunch both healthy and interesting throughout the school year (I mean, we are talking about around 200 school lunches!) is through variety. But since I am not interested in reinventing the wheel when I have a business and home to run, I keep the variety as simple as possible.
Put it on a stick
As long as you can trust your kids to not start a fencing tournament in the lunch room, think outside the sandwich and instead put lunch on a stick. BLTs with spinach, chunks of bacon, and cherry tomatoes aren’t only great for cocktail parties! Chicken and veggies can adorn a stick together, or put mozzarella balls together with cantaloupe for a yummy and refreshing lunch. You can also put your child in charge of creating his or her own kabob for lunch the next day so they get exactly what they want and you get a break from all of the lunch packing!
Dip it in something
Kids absolutely LOVE dipping their food into sauces, so scoop up a few extra sauces from your local fast food joint and pack them into your lunch box. Some of our favorite sauces? BBQ, ketchup, honey mustard, sweet and sour, and soy make a great dip for cubed chicken, pork, or turkey. We also like to include dips for veggies, such as traditional ranch, hummus, or those adorable little Wholly Guacamole containers to ensure that every veggie that is packed for lunch is actually eaten.
Think outside the bread
Trying to think of a way to spice up sandwiches? Re-think the bread that you use. Use pita pockets, naan, bagels, English muffins, tortillas…the options are endless!
Have a hot lunch
When I was growing up, I hated school lunch because it was ALWAYS cold. ALWAYS. So my goal as a mom was to figure out a way to keep mac and cheese and ravioli warm enough for them to enjoy at lunch time. My trick? An awesome thermos with a tight seal and filling the thermos with boiling HOT water for five minutes before emptying it out and filling the thermos with whatever warm lunch my kids want. My soup lover tends to ask for chicken noodle or minestrone soup often so all I have to do is include a side of bread, a piece of fruit, and I’m done! All hail the thermos hot water trick!
LUNCH SOLUTION #3: HOW TO KEEP IT CREATIVE
As I mentioned earlier, I’m not going to cut food into fun shapes and arrange them in “ocean themed” lunches and whatnot (but props to those who do–I always give you a double tap on Instagram!) but I love using sandwich cutters and other fun hacks to make lunches feel a little bit special. I stock up on colorful and fun napkins from my local dollar store, as well as notepads and stickers to put a little hug inside a lunch box on days when I know my little guys need it. If I have extra time and patience after stocking up at the grocery store, I will even try to have an all green meal (pesto pasta salad, cucumbers, grapes for example) or a much easier all orange meal (mac n’ cheese, goldfish, orange slices). It’s just a simple way to keep things creative when you are on the 187th school lunch.
LUNCH SOLUTION #4: SHARING LUNCH DUTY
If your kids are still too young to pack their own lunch, you can still get them involved with filling water bottles, putting lunch boxes in backpacks, and whatnot. Also, look to your partner to help you with lunch packing duty. It might not be the most romantic thing in the world, but opening up a bottle of wine, playing some music, and packing a week full of lunches on a Sunday night is a great way to reconnect with your partner.
Looking for other slam dunk recipes? Check out my recipes page.