Packing school lunches can be a dreaded or happy experience for parents. Personally, I have a love hate relationship with packing lunches. At the beginning of the year I am pumped, stoked and over the moon excited about packing lunches. After about 2 to 3 months of packing lunches I begin to slowly dislike the process and run out of creative, fun ideas.
With that in mind I want to share some tips to help your lunch packing experience be more joyful, purposeful or successful - whichever you want it to be!
1) Sing while you pack. Just kidding. But really, you can definitely add some music to your lunch packing routine and I promise it will bring more joy. We often pack 6 lunches at a time so I need all the motivation I can get.
2) Keep it simple. With Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook it can be really easy to get overwhelmed and feel like a failure with many ideas of what a good lunch is supposed to be. I promise you, none of my lunches are pinterst "worthy". They are basic, simple and filled with healthy options. No fancy lunches, heart shaped sandwiches and colourful fruit rainbows in our boxes.
3) Prepare in advance. I find lunch packing works much more smoothly if I have a prep day. Sundays are my prep day for the week. I will bake bread, make muffins, bake granola bars, cook puddings, make jello, etc. I get it all done on the weekend so I don't have to worry about it during the week. The last thing I want to do at the end of a busy weekday is spend my evening in the kitchen making snacks.
4) Pack when it is most convenient for you. Some people pack at night before they go to bed while others pack in the morning. Pack when it is most convenient for you. I prefer packing in the morning so I get up early enough to allow myself time. I give myself 20 minutes to pack the lunches.
5) Consider easy to eat foods and easy to prepare foods. No need to bake fresh pumpkin puree muffins in the morning. Fingers foods work wonderfully in a child's lunch and are easy for the kids too!
6) Be prepared with the right gear. Packing is much easier if you have everything you need and it is all easy to use! It makes it easier for the kids too. Check out our 5 Back to School Essentials to learn what we recommend.
Here are examples of food we send our children - nothing fancy, I promise you.
Snacks - Dried Fruits (raisins, dates, figs, cranberries), nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts, hazelnuts), chopped and cut up fruits and veggies (any and all, sometimes with dip, most often without), crackers, cheese (swiss, cheddar, mozzarella), cured & deli meats, muffins (I always use the same muffin recipe. No fancy muffins from me. They are plain old flax muffins with the addition of chocolate chips), banana bread, zucchini bread, granola bars, hard boiled eggs, pickles, popcorn.
Main Meals - Rice (with various sauces and options - plain, with butter, with soy sauce, with ginger, with veggies and meat stir fry style), leftovers, oatmeal, pasta salad, sandwiches, wraps, pancakes/waffles, noodles, tortilla chips & salsa. Though to be fair most often we pack rice because it is easiest to prepare. Probably 4 out of 5 days per week.
Drinks - Always water. We don't send juice or milk. We only send water. I want my kids well hydrated and filled with the least amount of sugar. Both juice and milk have sugar (milk has a decent amount of naturally occurring sugar in it - 1 cup can up to 3 teaspoons!).
Just remember: the key to making the lunch packing process easy is to minimize and simplify! The more work you have to do the harder it will be. No fancy pants lunches around here. Just healthy, wholesome, good for you lunches.