In a perfect world, it would be lovely to be able to create three gourmet meals per day for our kids. Meals they’d actually eat, no less. Still, despite our busy lives, we can still put together some fun and nutritious school lunches, even if they’re not quite up to Cordon Bleu standards.
The key is to use the right tricks and hacks to save time, stay organized and never forget that the whole point is to make sure the lunches are actually getting eaten. Here are a few of those awesome tips to keep you on track and make you feel like a lunchtime master chef.
- Make batches of lunches you can freeze – Once you find a moment to make some school lunches, use the time to its fullest potential and prep several instead of just one. That way, you can store them in the freezer. Sandwiches like peanut butter and jelly freeze very well, for example. That way, you can just reach into the freezer in the morning and pack one. It will stay cool all morning and be thawed by lunchtime. These will keep in the freezer for 4 to 6 weeks. Just be sure to date your batches so you know which ones to use first.
- Make extra portions of favorite dinners – Whenever you make a dinner your kid really likes, prepare a couple of extra portions. That way, you can freeze them and provide a yummy alternative to sandwiches without any extra effort. Rice and pasta meals tend to work well. In the morning, just reheat them and pack them in a heat insulated container so they will still be warm at lunchtime.
- Make lunches in the evening, not the morning – Making lunches the night before will save you a world of grief. Find the time when it best fits into your own schedule. Is it when you’re preparing dinner? After you’ve eaten and have cleaned up the dishes, but before leaving the kitchen? Whenever it is, you’ll be much less stressed and less pressed for time if you do it the night before than in the whirlwind you face every morning.
- Freeze drinks overnight for double use as an ice pack – When you’re sending a lunch that is best kept cold, a freezer pack will do a great job, but it also takes up a lot of room. Real estate within a lunch box or lunch bag is limited. Instead, freeze the drink you’re sending so it will keep the lunch cold and will also be nice and chilled to drink by lunchtime.
- Let your kids pack their own lunches – Once your children are old enough, they can start taking part in their own lunch prep. This can mean packing the foods you’d prepared for them the night before, or selecting their own fruit and snack from among pre-defined choices (from a fruit bowl in the fridge and a snack bin on the counter, for example). Added bonus: kids who make their own selections tend to be more likely to eat what they’ve chosen
- Don’t be hard on yourself – If your kid ends up eating PB&J two or three times in a week, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. As long as your child has a balanced meal with fruits, veggies, proteins and starches – and possibly a fun snack or dessert – you’re doing just fine. Many kids love peanut butter sandwiches and would happily eat them every day. Sure, it’s great to be able to give added variety throughout the week, but there are times when you’ll be busy and as long as you’re sending a complete meal, a few repetitions won’t hurt anyone.