BACK TO SCHOOL!
It’s that time again! The kids are going back to school! And while that means you will be hearing much less “I’m bored”, you might be dreading having to get back into the routine of packing lunches each day. I’m here to share with you what has worked for me the past couple of years when it comes to getting lunches ready for my four school-aged kids.
For starters, I used to do ALL the lunch packing myself. I made sure each kid had a well-balanced lunch to eat at school. As they got older, I started to have them pack lunches for themselves…until I randomly opened one of their lunchboxes and found the biggest sandwich baggie of Cheetos I have ever seen, a fruit roll-up, and a granola bar.
So it was back to square one and I was desperate to make the process as painless and simple as possible. I wanted them to learn to assemble healthy, well-balanced lunches that would give them energy and keep them full through the school day. Here’s what worked for us:
I started by purchasing several clear, hard-plastic containers for the refrigerator. (I do have a second refrigerator in our garage that is used for the kids’ lunch items and extra storage. If you do not have extra space, or you have less children to pack lunches for, start by dedicating one shelf or drawer in your refrigerator to weekday lunches for school.
I designate each container as follows:
Dairy (yogurt, cheese)
I also use vegetable crisper drawers to store drink options for them.
Next, I cleared out some space in the kitchen pantry for dry snacks such as chips, pretzels, granola bars, nuts, and seeds. I organized this space using bins labeled with the contents inside.
SHOP, PREP, PACK
I spend less about 45 minutes prepping lunches for the week. Since meal prepping is a regular Sunday deal around here, I just get the lunches for the kids out of the way at the same time. I do, however, make them put in the work alongside me. That usually starts with grocery shopping.
The kids can request in-season fruits and veggies of their choice and I pick them up on my weekly grocery shopping trip. I also give them a few options as far as what main entrée items they would like. When I give them options, they are less likely to complain about what is being sent with them in their lunches.
When its time to prep the refrigerator bins for the school week, each kid has a task. One or two of them will prep the main food items, another will wrap and label, and another will help me prep and package the fruits and veggies into appropriate serving sized containers or baggies.
Each of the prepped food items is stored in the designated bin and stored in the refrigerator.
LUNCH PREP GUIDELINES
When it comes time to pack lunches they pick ONE item from each bin. I have them pack their lunches the night before instead of the morning of, just to save a little extra time.
It is a seamless, and healthy way to make sure they are packing foods that are good for them and that will keep them full all day. Once an item is packed from each refrigerator bin, they have the option to pick from the pantry bin as well, but we typically save those items for their mid-day snack.