It’s only the second week back at school and your resolve to make lunches for your kids everyday is disintegrating quicker than one of those paper lunch bags when they get wet. You’re SO over packing school lunches that you’re ready to send your kids to school with a package of marshmallows. BUT, you want them to eat healthy meals. It’s a conundrum and big pain. We. Hear. You.
Depends on the school, and the day, but most public school lunches are various degrees of awful. When there’s a lot of mouths to feed and not a lot of money or manpower to do it, processed, pre-packaged, and quick-fixes are simply a fact of life. Now I’m not against my kids (or I) having a gooey ‘cheese zombie’ and one of those mini cartons of chocolate milk every once in awhile, but there’s gotta be some sort of middle ground between daily cafeteria lunches and killing myself every morning to ship them off with something more nutritious.
The trade-off of, is, of course, organization. When you wake up and think, “What am I gonna give the kids for lunch today?” you are reacting, instead of being proactive. If you have to deal with scrambling for lunch while getting the kids ready in the morning it’s just asking for a mental breakdown. I should know, as for all the advice I am about to give I am a total hypocrite and frequently throw random crap in a bag for my kids’ lunches while simultaneously hunting for the lost shoe, and persuading everyone to eat breakfast instead of going back to bed. The goal (hey, we should all have them, right?) is to decide and prepare before the school week starts/the night before.
Tips for making healthy school lunches less of a chore:
Tip 1: Don’t make a different lunch every day.
Plan on making changes to the menu on a weekly (or less) basis instead of daily. This technique helps when buying the ingredients. Just decide what to go with (easy school lunch recipes here) and then prepare a week’s worth of school lunches ahead of time.
Tip 2: The freezer is your friend.
Have some room in your freezer? Put it to work! Put individual portions in freezer-safe (and labeled!) containers, and take them out as you need. Bonus: your frozen cookies or slice of lasagna will help keep the rest of the food nice and chilled until lunch time. Check to see if your kid has access to a microwave if the meal needs to be warmed up.
Tip 3: Put the kids to work.
Preparing in advance usually means there’s a big meal to cook. Depending on their age they may take more or less of a leadership role, but the upside is that this activity is productive and teaches organization at any age! While little kids need small tasks (“cut this, add that”) have the older kids decide on the recipe, buy the correct amount of ingredients, help prepare the meal, and portion it out into containers for the week. Can even incorporate budgeting lessons, too.
Tip 4: Invest in the infrastructure
Have plenty of meal-sized freezer/microwave friendly containers that *don’t leak* at the ready, and several smaller sides/snacks/sauces containers, too. Let’s face it, dishes don’t always get washed (or even get to the kitchen) on a daily basis, and if you put your containers in the freezer, what will you use? Have a good stock of these containers so that prepping school lunches goes a bit more smoothly.
So those are our tips! Some weeks will be more organized and everything will go smoothly, and some weeks will have you feel that you need to be committed to an asylum by Tuesday morning for stress and nerves. Our only wish is that you have more of the former. 😉