Just when you are finally getting into the groove of summa-summa-summatime it is time to gear down and get ready for Back to School. The dreaded back to routines, back to getting up and out every day and (insert ominous music) the back to school lunch packing. Every. Single. Day. Five days a week. For 10 whole months.
I don’t know if those words send shivers down your spine like they do for me but I for one despise making lunches every day.
We have all seen those memes that show the difference between lunch making in the 70’s (a Twinkie, a bottle of juice and a white bread PBnJ) versus the lunches of today (organic, perfectly portioned food groups in cute little shapes) and we all laugh at them, yet we all also try to live up to the perfect lunch model of today’s parents. We set ourselves up for failure from day one. No one can keep that perfect lunch train going for 10 months, it’s just not possible! And for those parents that do keep to it then I applaud you (and secretly hate you) because you are a better lunch chef than I.
I have picky kids. The worst kind of picky kids. Two kids that don’t like the same things. One likes sandwiches, the other likes her ham on the side. One likes a variety of fruit, the other only eats apples. One can’t stand yoghurt, the other only likes one kind of yoghurt, and so on and so on. It is enough to drive a lady loony!!
So what is a lunch chef to do?!
As I venture into my 5th year of making school lunches I feel like maybe I might have a little bit of wisdom to pass on in terms of tips and tricks but who am I kidding, that is what Pinterest is for!
Sanity Saving Tip #1:
Take your kids grocery shopping with you!
Yes I know I am actually recommending that you give up solo shopping time but trust me, it will benefit you in the end. Let your kids be in control of their own eating destiny (to a point of course!). What cookies would they prefer, which apples look like the yummiest ones, ham or turkey – your choice. Usually if they are helping to select the products they will be more likely to eat them…..or at least you can threaten them with “you picked it, you eat it!” if all else fails
Sanity Saving Tip #2:
Make those little snackers help pack!
One trick I have learned over the years is to prep my food so that it is easily accessible without any work or thought. Wean Green’s containers are amazing for this! Buy a pint of strawberries, wash them and then separate them into little snack cubes for the perfect grab and go lunch item. Do this with 4 or 5 different items and you have a variety of food to choose from each morning (again, be in charge of your own meal destiny kiddos!)
I will do the same thing with the ‘recess treat’. Colibri snack bags are perfect for single portions of crackers, cookies or snack mixes. Have each kid pick 2-3 fresh items and 1-2 snack items and this will leave you way ahead of the game, which in my house is essential when I am waiting for my caffeine to kick in! The less thought at 7am the better!
Sanity Saving Tip #3:
Go container crazy!!
We have a schoolwide initiative to have “litterless lunches” which sounds fine and dandy until you are trying to shove a pizza pretzel into a container that is clearly meant for goldfish. Having a variety of sizes and shapes will save you a lot of searching and frustration.
Depending on how hungry of a hippo you have (and how often you get to your dishes) it is ideal to have 2-3 sandwich size containers, 5-6 snack size containers and a few segregated containers such as the Lunchbot Duo and Trio. A squeasy gear is amazing for any kids that eat applesauce or blended foods as well.
A thermos-style container such as the Skip Hop Insulated Food Jar is also a must, especially for those non-sandwich-eating children! Food Jar tip: fill the container up with hot (not boiling water) for 3-4 min before putting the food in. It will warm up the container so that the food stays hot longer.
Sanity Saving Tip #4:
Pinterest it up!!
When your little one tells you they didn’t like their lunch that day (and after you have taken a few deep breaths to calm down) get out your computer and Pinterest away! There are some pretty creative Mama’s out there and luckily they like to share their knowledge with us for these very moments. I love the Weelicious blog for new ideas as well as the go-to Huffington Post and of course we can’t forget about daycare lunches, Beaba’s blog is perfect for that!
Helen’s (Picky Kid approved) Sanity Saving Lunchtime Recipe ideas:
- Roll Up Ham & Cheese quesadillas cut into pinwheels to fit in a bento (cream cheese works in lieu of cheddar for any cheese-haters in the family)
- Cut up cucumber, carrots and snap peas with a small ranch dip
- Banana Chocolate chip muffin
- Apple (peeled and cut up if you live at my house!)
- Small container of grapes
- Ham sandwich (with or without cheese)
- Assortment of berries in a snack cube
- Banana chocolate chip muffin
- Orange slices
- Colibri or Skip Hop snack bag full of a mix of pretzels, yoghurt covered raisins and fish crackers
- Left over rice and meatballs in an insulated food jar
- Colibri snack pack of snap peas
- Banana chocolate chip muffin (yes I hear the groans kids, but I have a dozen muffins and you are going to eat them!)
- Apple (again, I can’t just chuck an apple in a bag, there is prep to be done!)
- Small container of yoghurt
- Roll Up PBnJ (or WowButter-n-J)
- Small container of grapes
- 2 Oreo cookies in a Colibri or Skip Hop bag (fine, I will give up on the muffins for a day!)
- Orange slices
- Cut up carrots and ranch dip
- Pasta Salad – any leftover ham/ lunch meat, cheese, snap peas, cucumber and tomatoes (if your kids eat them) make up a perfect pasta salad!
- Banana Muffin (now I am just messing with you)
- Any fruit or veg that is left in my fridge
Good luck Mama’s. Enjoy your last few weeks of food freedom before the fun begins!
Kids, Bikes, Laughter, Repeat. Helen Frost of West Coast Kids is brought to you by caffeine and chocolate and is sponsored by white wines everywhere.
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It’s the Back to School Event!
It’s time for the Back to School Event at West Coast Kids! We have lunch boxes by Boon, Herschel, Skip Hop, The Honest Co. and So Young. Plus more Back to School Must-Haves, like backpacks, Fall Fashion and Footwear.
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