After packing 3-4 lunches per day for an entire year I feel well prepared to share with you some tips that we have found worked really well and helped us stay more organized and on top of lunches.
First thing is first, invest in a great Bento! We have used several systems over the years such as tiffins and individual containers, but in all honesty the Bento system works best for ease of packing and multiple lunches. Pieces are less likely to get lost and go missing and messes are less likely to happen.
Stainless steel is going to be your best bet for health wise, for the environment and for your budget. While the cost up front is higher you will save significantly in the long run when you NEVER have to replace your container. We have been using the same Lunchbots Cinco for 3 years now and have several of their containers that are well over 8 years old!
If you do the math our Lunchbot Cinco even over a 3 year span will only cost you a little over $20 per year (including taxes). WOW! What a deal.
Have a balanced day at your child's school? Consider sending two smaller lunchbots containers. The Quad and the Trio are perfect for snacks and the Duo and Uno are perfect for main meals and sandwiches.
Did you know about the safety concerns with plastics? Check out this article we posted in our local paper if you are not sure about the safety and sustainability of plastics on our planet: Hello Sustainable Future
Moving back to packing, consider investing in a few leak proof containers. We love the Kids Konserve Leak proof containers. The 5oz Kids Konserve fits perfectly in the Cinco (in one of the large compartments) and will hold all your wet foods - yogurt, apple sauce, watermelon, sauces, dips, etc. The larger Kids Konserve leak proof containers can house extra snacks you are sending or main meal components - salads, pasta, fruits, veggies, etc. The Kids Konserve Trio is great to have on hand and will not go wasted one bit (even if you sneak into your own lunch bag!).
- Get your kids involved as much as possible. Starting at 3-4 years of age kids can cut up veggies and fruit, pack dried fruits/nuts, make a basic sandwich (nut butter), fill their water bottle, pack their containers into their lunch bag, etc.
- Personally I don't like packing lunches the night before. For one, I am too tired and just want to take it easy in the evening. Second, I find that certain foods can go stale or loose their crunch when they are in an open container. That being said, if we have something for dinner that can easily be packed in individual containers for the next day I will often get those ready as tidy up for dinner (pizza is a good example and so is a potato salad).
- Create a meal plan for lunches. This will leave you with less stress and confusion during those rushed mornings. Example: Leftovers Monday, Rice Tuesday, Salad Wednesday, Sandwiches Thursday, Pizza Friday. I have this written on a chalkboard along with our meal plan for breakfasts and dinner that function the same way.
- Bake all your snack goods (muffins, granola bars, cookies, etc) on the weekend so that you don't have to worry about that in the morning or weekdays. Sunday is typically my meal prep day for the week. I get all my baked goods ready and make a meal plan for the week. If you want to prepare other lunch foods for the week this would be a good time to do it as well - precut veggies, divide up crackers, etc.
- Store your items in an accessible place for your kids - this will make it easier for them to help. We have our lunch containers on an open shelf underneath our counter. Our water bottles, thermal containers, stainless containers and snack bags are all store in close proximity. The kids lunch bags and backpacks are on a hook in the hallway close by (along with their jackets on the same hook). This makes morning easier for us when they all know where their lunch bag and backpack is.
- Pack your lunches first thing in the morning when you wake up. I promise you will thank me for this if you can get into this habit! The last thing you want to be doing is packing a lunch 5 minutes before you have to leave the house. Typically, we pack lunches and make breakfast at the same time. Now that I have a 10 year old and 8 year old (what?) we can get much more accomplished in the mornings because they can help with making breakfast and with packing lunches.
- Your ultimate goal should be to build independence in your children so that they can pack their own healthy lunches while you sit back and enjoy your coffee or tea!
1 x Lunchbots Cinco
2-3 x Litsie Snack Bags
In our next part of the series I will share some recipes and tips for Healthy Foods. We will also look at a sample menu plan for lunches.