Lunch Lessons: Quick Tips to Make Packing {a little} Less Awful

Lunch. It’s the bane of mom-existence. If you’re anything like me, you dread making lunches for your child(ren). Not only is it difficult finding foods to send (I’d classify mine as semi-picky eaters), but it’s also a challenge to find foods that they can eat during their short lunch period.

My soon-to-be first grader has 20 minutes to eat lunch. Factor in finding a seat, cleanup and the inevitable goofing around with friends, my best guess is that he has about 13 minutes to eat whatever I send. Not an easy feat.Here are a few tips I have to help streamline lunch making (and eating) and hopefully take at least a bit of the dread out of making them.

  1. Find a good thermos and send a thermos meal once a week. I like these from Thermos. They are the perfect portion and fit in a standard lunchbox. (Mom tip: fill the thermos with boiling water for a few minutes. Then dry and fill with hot food, it helps keep it warm longer!)
  2. Find a single container that can accommodate all the food you send. This way your child can open one thing and have all their food at their fingertips. If you want to Bento, go ahead. I use these affordable ones from Happy Lunchboxes that I got on Amazon. It is easier to “swallow” when one gets thrown away.
  3. Pick a few themes that you can vary for the main course. One day might be a sandwich; Another may be a cracker stack (think homemade Lunchables) as the bulk of the meal. Another idea is roll-ups. If you take these basic ideas and vary them day-to-day, it’s easy to plan and things don’t get boring.
  4. Let your child buy lunch once a week. I know I’m going to get some backlash on this because let’s face it, school lunch is gross. But my son LOVES it. And one slice of pizza each week isn’t going to kill him. Most schools also offer salads if you can convince your kid to buy those (haha!)
  5. If your kid isn’t super keen on what you send, incentivize it with a treat. (Mom tip: If you offer a treat beforehand, it’s incentive. If you offer it after they say no, it’s a bribe.) So on days when my kid doesn’t want a turkey roll-up, I send a jello or small cookies and tell him if he eats the roll-up, he can have the treat. Luckily, he’s honest and does it.

Okay so now you’ve got your containers and your ideas, it’s time to make it happen. I wish I could say I send protein, carbs, fruit, and vegetables for every lunch, but, I don’t. I try for protein and carbs, and one fruit or veggie. Here are some of our favorites:

Thermos Favorites 

  • Macaroni and Cheese with carrots and hard-boiled egg
  • Spinach/cheese tortellini in sauce with applesauce and jello (see tip No. 5)
  • Chicken nuggets (thermos) with Ritz crackers and Cutie oranges

Sandwich Lunch

  • Ham and cheese with Miracle Whip; Cucumbers and a few chips
  • Peanut butter (or sun butter) and jelly; Cutie oranges and carrots
  • Salami and cheese; Green pepper chunks and yogurt

Wrap Lunch (“wrapped” and cut in circles like sushi)

  • Tortilla with refried beans and shredded cheese; Grapes and strawberries on the side
  • Tortilla with diced chicken strips and cheese; Grape tomatoes and pudding on the side (see Tip #5)
  • Tortilla with cream cheese and jelly; A hard-boiled egg and carrots on the side, with a tootsie roll

Assemble Yourself Lunch (aka homemade Lunchable)

  • Ritz crackers, turkey pepperoni, and chunk cheese squares; Veggie straws and blueberries
  • Naan bread strips, ham strips, and string cheese (cut in half); Cantaloupe on the side
  • Tortilla triangles, salami triangles, and cheese triangles; Blueberries and strawberries on the side

What are your (and your kid’s) favorite packed lunches? Happy lunch-packing!!

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