January 31, 2014
It’s hard enough trying to figure out what to put in your own brown bag. When you’re packing lunch for kids every day, the problem is exponentially multiplied—especially if your children are picky eaters or have food allergies. Let’s get out of this school lunch rut and find ways to make a variety of healthy lunches that kids will actually eat.
Probably the worst part of making school lunches is just figuring out what the heck to pack. After your 100th packed lunch, both you and your child are probably bored sick of peanut butter and jelly.
Thankfully, there are lots of great sources for lunch ideas:
It sounds silly, but the kind of container you use to pack lunches canmake a big difference on your lunch-making Zen. Containers that have lost their covers and a shortage of plastic bags just add more obstacles to an already stressful morning.
The right lunch container, however, can make packing a school lunch almost enjoyable, like an art. (Literally, have you seen these crazy bento lunches?) In addition, lunch boxes like the PlanetBox shown above encourage you to offer a balanced meal with portion sizes that don’t overwhelm kids (prices from $ 35 to $ 75). There are other options: This set of four bento lunch containers ($ 14 but not leak-proof) and other kits on Amazon.
Especially if you have a picky eater, it helps to have a list of everything your kid likes (and try to expand options as they get older). Giving kids lots of choices can also ease the lunch making process.
Tip Junkie has a very smart Pick Your Lunch food checklist you can download and print (free site registration required) or you can create something similar based on your kids’ preferences.
I’m doing something similar with my daughter, creating a “menu book” with sections that flip over to switch up the main food, vegetable, fruit, and snack options. Take a spiral notebook and use an X-Acto knife to create the four sections. Paste in photos of foods and then you can flip through to create a meal. It’s still a work in progress, but the combination of photos plus having her do it with me might just work.
So basically we’re talking about good old planning ahead so you’re not scrambling, but too often we focus on dinner when lunch deserves more attention too. Some other things you can do to save time include creating grab-and-go snack stations in your fridge and pantry and making a week’s worth of lunches in one day.
Hopefully the tips and resources above will help you survive Operation Lunch until your kid is old enough to pack her own lunch. (So then you only have to worry about your own brown bag blahs.)
Here’s that infographic I mentioned earlier: