The back to school sales have started. And while that’s a light at the end of the tunnel for many of us who have kids who are bored out of their skulls, it also means that we have to start thinking about back to school issues.
For our family that would mean getting the kids to cram those summer reading books into their last few weeks of vacation, battling over back to school clothing (man, those hems keep getting shorter), and getting the kids to bed at a reasonable hour to prepare for their normal school year bedtime routines.
But the thing that strikes fear in my heart the most is the darn lunch box. On the last day of school last year I did a happy dance to celebrate no longer having to make school lunches. I plum ran out of inspiration.
Give me algebra equations, times table drills, and solar system projects any day of the week. Because I find packing that lunch bag infinitely more difficult.
You see, my husband, myself, and my two teen sons are carbivores. My daughters? They are the anti-carbs. No bread. No potatoes. No pasta. No fun. And while this will serve them well as they get older, it makes packing their lunch a real nightmare.
Whether or not your kids love carbs, packing an interesting, varied, and healthy school lunch is a trifecta that seems impossible when you are fumbling around incoherently at 6:00am.
Trust me, I know. I’m not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination. So making something interesting, healthy and appealing is a real challenge pre-dawn when all I want to do is either crawl back into bed or snuggle up to a hot cuppa joe.
But the kids have got to eat. And buying school lunch every day for four kids is just not an option for our family. So, I thought I’d share some ideas with you on how to make this whole lunch packing thing a little more tolerable.
- On Sundays I prep individual portions of produce, cheese and meats, which I store in a small plastic basket in the fridge that no one is allowed to touch unless they are placing it in their lunch bag. Or else.
- Also on Sundays, I hard boil eggs and pre-cook plain pasta (for my sons). The great thing about pre-cooking pasta is that my sons can have a cold pasta salad with veggies and a protein or hot pasta with sauce in their thermos. Cooked pasta keeps very well if you toss it in your freezer and also holds up well in your fridge for a few days.
- In another basket I keep napkins, plastic utensils, and a baggie of change for milk money and other incidentals, which I store in my pantry. This eliminates the need to hunt for change in couch cushions, the bottom of my purse and the floor of my car. Been there. Done that. Not fun at 6:00am.
- In this house lunch isn’t complete without dessert. So, yet another basket is filled with prepackaged treats like granola bars, cookies, trail mix, Teddy Grahams, and other sweet nothings. But the rule in this house is that there is no dessert unless the kids choose something from the produce selection. No exceptions.
What about the stuff that needs to stay hot or cold? I use the tried and true Thermos for all things hot. I’m partial to the Thermos brand because in all of my seventeen years of parenting, Thermos has been reliable.
For the cold stuff I really like Fit N Fresh. The set above I found at BJ’s Wholesale, but it’s also sold in most major retailers including Amazon.
I love that Fit N Fresh has snap on ice packs that keep the food cold for hours. The stuff is built to last. And if you can keep your kids from losing the pieces, it’s well worth the investment. Not that my kids have ever lost the pieces, ahem.
I think half of the battle with school lunches is organization. The tips I’ve shared with you in this post make my mornings go smoother and also make packing lunches less painful. And this is good because with four kids, I need to reserve as much mental energy as I can for those solar system projects. Even though they kicked Pluto out of the lineup, that’s still a lot of Styrofoam balls to paint!
What are your tips for packing school lunches? Do you struggle with this too?