I’ve been a champion of the packed school lunch ever since the day I was frightened by a fish stick in first grade. Seriously, it was gross. I don’t think anyone could get me to eat a fish stick until, oh…college? Back then, I loved bringing my lunch because it meant I got sweet tea and Twinkies, not white milk and peas.
But as a 21st century mom, packing my kids a lunch is less about the love, and more about the time. Ok, it’s about the love too.
Like a lot of schools, our district is facing a scheduling crisis. They need the kids in, eating and OUT. When I discovered my kid spent most of his lunch period in line waiting for a tray, I renewed my love of the lunch box and have been packing EVERY DAY. Kids who bring their lunch bypass the cafeteria line and sit right down to eat. Well, and talk…you can’t stop that. At least I know my kids have a little more time to eat.
A little business first: Bloggers need to disclose when we get free stuff, so I’m letting you know that this post includes products that were given to me for review. No, I didn’t get paid. These items were tasty and fit nice in a blog post. I received apples from LilSnappers, which are cute kid sized fruits, just right for the lunch box. They’re good, and there’s nothing faster than grabbing a bag of apples as you sprint through the produce aisle. You can find them in St. Louis at Schnucks. The other sample was from Pirate’s Booty, which are baked snacky poofs with no artificial colors or flavors . Quiet honestly, I was asked to show off the individual bags of “back to school” snacks–but Mitch and Ryan ate them before I got a good photo. The photo in this post is the third bag I’ve purchased since school started. So, fellow bloggers, when someone sends your kids food, make sure your photos turn out before letting them devour it. Anything else shown in this post just happened to be in my pantry. Oh, and Pirate’s Booty has a coupon here.
Now, on to the tips that I’ve been using this year to make my mornings so much easier!
Keep it Cool Tips
Today’s lunch boxes and bags are way more insulated that the one’s I had growing up! My lunch box was made of metal and came with a matching thermos to keep your drink cool. Not that we had juice pouches back in the dark ages anyway. Ice packs in lunch boxes were unheard of too, you just ate those room temperature sandwiches and liked it.
There’s no need for a separate ice pack–use some or all of these tips to keep your kid’s lunch chilly without needing a bulky ice pack.
- Freeze that Juice Pouch! Your kid’s drink is guaranteed to be frosty at lunch time…and it helps keep the rest of lunch cool too.
- Freeze grapes! Have you had a frozen grape? They’re like little popsicles! If the grapes don’t stay frozen by lunch time, they’re still nice and cold.
- Freeze Gogurts! This is a no brainer for yogurt loving kids. Again, the Gogurt may not be frozen by lunch time, but it will be deliciously cold.
- Freeze your Sandwich? Ok, this doesn’t work for sandwiches with cheese, but if your kid eats Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwichs, it’a stroke of genius. You can also make a week’s worth of sandwiches in advance and keep them stored in the freezer.
Make it Fast Tips
I once clocked a quarter mile pacing around my kitchen while packing lunches and making breakfast while simultaneous poking children who needed to GET. UP. NOW. No, I don’t have 3 kids, but I make the hubby his lunch too. (Don’t worry, the hubs helps ME out by doing laundry.) These days I save a lot of morning hassle by packing lunches and prepping breakfast in the evening. Bonus points for when you can get the kids to make their own sandwiches! I like to get lunches ready right after dinner, or if I’m cooking something in the oven, DURING dinner prep.
You can also speed up lunch packing by:
- Organize all your lunch goodies in one spot. It can be as simple as a plastic basket for all your sandwich supplies in the fridge, or a box for lunch snacks in the pantry. No more digging through leftovers to find the Swiss cheese!
- Use pre-packaged snacks or chips. This might be a tad more expensive than buying a giant bag-o-chips, but I find the convenience worth it. You can also bag up a week’s worth of chips yourself.
- Add pre-packed cheese, like Babybel or any kind of string cheese. They’re already wrapped and ready to pop in the bag.
- Train your kids to eat whole fruits–they already come with the perfect wrappers. Small whole apples and easy peel mandarin oranges are perfect for lunch.
Make it Easy Tips
Lunch packing doesn’t have to be a pain. No, really, it doesn’t.
- Buy an extra lunch bag, or keep one in reserve from last year. Then when someone forgets their lunch bag at school (or the office fridge) you have a backup.
- Not into plastic bags? You can save the environment without having to buy an expensive bento box system by using re-usable (but disposable!) plastic containers. Buy enough so you have one in the bag and one in the dishwasher. And when the kids lose a lid or forget their leftover tuna sandwich over spring break–just chuck it in the trash guilt free.