This year, I tried a new “strategy” to tackle school lunches. It’s worked so well I thought I’d share it with you. My son is in second grade, so I felt like he was ready to start taking over his own lunch packing. I knew though that in order for it to be a positive and joyful experience for both of us, I needed to have a plan that we could stick to. I wanted it to be easy, quick, fun and healthy. Not only was this a chance to hand over an age appropriate responsibility, but also an opportunity to begin teaching him early how important it is to make food choices that nourish and fuel his body well - train up a child in the way he should go and he will not depart from it!
Here are a few tips that I find help make this successful:
1. Designate a place in the pantry and refrigerator just lunch items. I’ve found that this eliminates any need for me to “monitor” his choices, makes it easy for him, and helps the prepared lunch choices to last longer since no one else is using it for grab n’ go.
2. Prepare and stock up ahead of time! I need to restock the lunch choices every two weeks or so. Some foods last longer than others, but for the most part about an hour of work in preparation lasts nearly two weeks.
3. Buy in bulk and split into small portions. I purchase many of our lunch items from Costco in large quantities, and then on food prep day, I split them into snack size portions, and freeze additional items for the following month.
4. Freeze! The freezer is such an asset to help prevent wasted food and to cut down on prep time. You can freeze so many things! One of the things I do that has been super helpful is to make a couple dozen nut butter and jelly/or honey sandwiches, portioned into sandwich bags and kept frozen. They freeze beautifully and by lunch time it’s perfect for eating. I also do this with muffins, homemade granola bars, and most any of Katie’s baked goods.
5. The rules? Because I’ve pre-prepared a selection of healthy choices, I can really be hands-off and he loves that! I’ve found that he really enjoys the freedom to choose what he wants to eat each day and totally loves that responsibility! The only rule is that he has to include one vegetable selection, the rest is up to him!
Here are a few ideas of the foods I’ve offered to help get you started:
- Hummus with crackers or veggies
- Tortilla chips and guacamole
- Trail mix
- Yogurt and granola (homemade recipe here http://dashingdish.com/recipe/pecan-pie-granola/)
- Apples and nut butter (peanut, almond, sunflower)
- Grilled chicken strips with BBQ sauce
- Navitas Naturals Energy Snacks (I buy mine from Amazon) or any of Katie’s protein bars
- Applesauce pouches
- Go Picnic boxes (for a Friday treat)
- Not pictured I also have sandwiches frozen and a basket of “desserts” he can choose from (one per lunch) that includes Lara Bars, Mott’s tots or Tasty brand organic fruit snacks, and fruit leathers.