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Does packing your kids’ lunches fill you with dread? It doesn’t have to! Check out these tips for easy school lunches.
My two oldest kids started school this year. I went from only worrying about my own lunch to being responsible for the three of us (full disclosure: J makes their lunches sometimes, too). I started the school year with big ideas about what I’d pack them and how I’d make the process easier. Some of those ideas panned out, some of them flopped, and some have been tweaked to create what I consider to be a pretty streamlined system.
Tips for Easy School Lunches
Prep for the Whole Week on Sunday
Maybe you can relate to this: Sunday night brings the best intentions regarding school lunches. You’re going to pack well-rounded meals every day. Monday goes well, and Tuesday isn’t bad either, but things go downhill. By Friday, you’re raiding the pantry for combination of items that won’t draw judgment from you kids’ teachers.
Here’s my best tip for overcoming that weekly slide: do as much prep work as possible on Sunday. This can include slicing cheese, making sandwiches, cooking a batch of chicken nuggets or pasta and portioning it into containers. Basically, do in advance anything you can. Not only does it take little additional time to make five sandwiches instead of one, you’ll also save yourself the headache of doing the same chore four more times during the week.
Turn to Ready-Made Treats
I’d say at least 80 percent of what I send in my kids’ lunches is prepared in our home. I’m not talking homegrown produce or from-scratch bread, but instead of prepackaged cheese and crackers, we buy a box of crackers and a brick of cheese. We do this to save money and to make sure our picky eaters get meals we know they’ll eat.
There are times I turn to store-bought snacks, though, because they’re convenient and because my kids love them. One of our favorites is TEDDY SOFT BAKED Filled Snacks. My kids love that they’re shaped like bears, and I love that they don’t contain artificial colors, artificial flavors, or high fructose corn syrup. They’re made with ingredients I’m familiar with, like eggs and milk (and, of course, chocolate!).
Don’t forget to use ibotta to earn cash back when you purchase TEDDY SOFT BAKED Filled Snacks. I grab them in the cracker/cookie aisle at Walmart when I’m stocking up on other school-lunch necessities. If you were there February 23, you might have noticed a fun demo featuring TEDDY SOFT BAKED Filled Snacks and GoGo Squeeze.
Use Your Freezer
A long time ago, before I had kids, I saw a tip about making and freezing peanut butter sandwiches. I thought it was ridiculous because peanut butter sandwiches are crazy easy to make. Then I had kids, and those kids started school, and I learned how naive I’d been. Sure, making a peanut butter sandwich may take two minutes, but that’s sometimes two minutes you don’t have.
Now, I buy a loaf or two of bread and use all the slices to make peanut butter sandwiches. I half them, freeze them, and pull them out one at a time as needed. I also use the freezer for berries purchased fresh in season and for pureed vegetables used to make our own pouches.
Limit What You Offer
There are plenty of ideas out there for creative school lunches; there are even sites and bloggers who can come up with enough variety that you don’t have to repeat a meal all year. I’m not that blogger, though, and I’m not that mom. I’ve found one of the best ways to make lunch-packing easy is to limit the variety of foods I pack for my kids.
We have about a dozen different foods we rotate through in various combinations. I don’t pack the same things every day (though I don’t think the kids would mind). Having a narrow selection means less food waste because I know they’ll eat what I pack. It means I don’t have to stress about keeping a ton of different foods in the pantry, either.
This tip might seem counter-intuitive to easy lunch-packing; wouldn’t it be easier to use disposable bags and juice pouches? Not to me. I find reusable containers easier for a few reasons:
- Reusable containers keep food intact, so my kids don’t end up with broken crackers or smashed sandwiches.
- We save money by using hard-sided juice boxes or reusable water bottles instead of more expensive pouches.
- We save money by buying large containers of things like pretzels, crackers, and applesauce.
There are times disposable products are more convenient and, as I mentioned earlier, we don’t shy away from using store-bought products on occasion. Overall, though, we stick with reusable.
What are your best tips for easy school lunches?
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