Packing a healthy lunch your child will enjoy is easier than you think!
Let's get started:I get a lot of questions from moms about what to pack in their children's lunches. Hence, my first post on packing a lunch your child will eat. I also get a lot of requests for menu plans. I have done menu plans in the past, but some of the problems I run into with menu plans for kids lunches are: your child might not like something my child likes, various allergies and sensitivities, wide ranges in grocery budgets, and the hit or miss of trying new recipes to name just a few.
Not to mention there are so many menu plans out there already which you can subscribe to that are being done so well! I don't like coming up with complex recipes and meal plans, I like to KISS: Keep It Simple Sweetie! The best way to pack a custom healthy lunch that YOUR child will enjoy is to first make a list of all the things your child will actually eat.
Remember, I said this is my first post, but I'll say it again: school lunchtime is not a time to introduce new foods! Second, take the list you have made and highlight all the veggie possibilities in green, highlight all the fruit possibilities in pink and all the protein possibilities in yellow! Or whatever colors you choose, but you get the idea, now own it!
Now, take this list when you go to the grocery store. I honestly do not even add these items to my grocery list, I do this mentally. When I am shopping I make sure I get at least 5 days worth of packable fruits, 5 days worth of packable veggies or carbs (carrots, cucumbers, gluten free crackers, are a few of our favorites) and of course the protein usually comes from leftovers, but I try to keep nut butter and jam on hand, as well as hummus.
If I make tacos on Tuesday, which I always do (see Taco Tuesday woes here) then on Wednesday, my son is sure to have some taco meat in his lunch box! When I make macaroni on Monday, I make sure to prepare extra because my daughter enjoys having it in her lunchbox the following day.
Always be thinking ahead, always be visualizing your lunch boxes! I know, I know, this sounds so crazy, but it will become second nature after a while. If you need to write it down on your grocery list, make a separate heading for “lunch box” and you can add 5 choices from each category. You could also do this using the sale paper so that you are purchasing things that will save you money!
I like to use a lunch box that helps me remember to pack a well balanced meal. For me a box with only three compartments makes this a breeze. That is why I use the planetbox “launch” *I am not an affiliate for Planet Box, I just LOVE their products. If you can't afford a stainless steel lunchbox (that lasts forever, by the way) then there are other options out there. However, I would just like to say, I've been using the same three Planetbox lunch boxes for over 2 years with no visible wear or tear. Hey, quality counts.
Here are a couple other options which I have not used but look good:
Happy Lunchboxes – Large 4-compartment Leak Proof Bento Lunch Box Containers for Adults
EasyLunchboxes 3-Compartment Bento Lunch Box Containers, Set of 4, Classic
These are fun to use inside lunchboxes to keep things from touching (a problem many children have with food): Pantry Elements Silicone Baking Cups / Cupcake Liners – 12 Vibrant Muffin Molds in Storage Container
When you return from the grocery store, if you can, make a special spot in your fridge and/or cabinets to keep your lunch box foods. You might have to make a sign in the beginning to keep hungry snackers out of your stash. My teenagers could literally burn through an entire weeks worth of lunch box goodies in one afternoon. Not even kidding. They have learned that they are not to take items off a certain shelf in my pantry, or out of the “snack” drawer in my fridge. But in the beginning, I hung this sign:
Now, on to packing… After you have shopped and put away your lunch box goodies, it's as simple as adding items from your stash to the boxes each morning (or night, I'm an early riser so I enjoy doing it in the morning, at night I run out of fuel so I don't feel like adding this to my nightly routine).
For a well balanced meal, I like to add a protein, a carb and/or veggie, and a fruit. Kudos to you if you can add extra veggies to your protein, such as in a wrap where you can combine meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, etc. (For some sneaky ideas on getting veggies in your kids diet check out Jessica Seinfeld's books Deceptively Delicious.)
Once you start “seeing” your lunch-boxes this way, you really don't need a menu. I rarely plan what will go in my kids lunchbox, I just wake up and pack…my brain just goes there. I've been doing it so long that I don't even think about it anymore. In the beginning, of course I had to think about it more.
The easiest way for me to shop and pack was just to get a mental image of the lunch box. On Friday's I try to add something that is more of a treat, something special, like a brownie or a home made cookie, but I do not send these every day of the week. (We actually don't even eat sweets every day of the week, I try to limit the sweets to the weekends just to keep their immune system up while they are at school.)
Here's a visual using two different lunch boxes I have in my cabinet:
Here is what my lunch packing station looks like:
It honestly takes me less than 30 minutes each morning to prepare a cooked breakfast and pack everyones lunch boxes. I start at 6 a.m. and I am sitting down to breakfast with my family at 6:30. If you do not like to add anything to your morning routine, you could easily pack lunches at night when you are putting away dinner leftovers!
Now, if you want to take it to the next level in SuperMomVille… spend an hour printing off some great jokes to slip into your kids lunch boxes! I like to find jokes that coincide with the closest holiday such as Valentine's Day Jokes, April Fools, or Christmas jokes. In November, I like to write a few things that I am thankful for and slip those in there. Sometimes, I will add a note about whatever is going on that day at school. “Good luck on the test” or “Don't forget your math corrections” or “I can't wait to see you this afternoon” always makes my kids feel special and it lets them know I am thinking of them and looking forward to our after school time.
If there's something we've been looking forward to I might add a little “countdown” note, like “Five more days till the horse-show!” The key is not to wait til you're packing to get these ready! I spend maybe half an hour once a month getting these notes ready. I keep them in my lunch box station area, which is a place only I go into.
You can get all fancy and cutesy if you want with adorable little egg molds, animal shaped forks, and washi tape, and other bento-style lunches but if you are just starting out, remember to KISS (Keep it Simple Sweetie!) Check out two of my favorite Pinterest boards Healthy Lunchbox and Bento!
My Lunchbox Series on Youtube might be a source of inspiration as well.
Follow That Organic's board Healthy Lunch Box on Pinterest.
What are your favorite tips for healthy lunches? Share your ideas and suggestions in the comments! Until next time, keep packing! Lunches, that is 😉
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