There are so many things to think about when you are getting the young people in your house ready to go back to school. There are supplies to purchase, clothes to pick out, and let’s not forget the all-important finding the right backpack. I still remember the Snoopy debacle of 1992. Mom and I picked out a great Snoopy backpack that I thought would be all the rage, but it turns out Lisa Frank was where it was at and my backpack was the bane of my existence for the entire year. These errands take up a lot of time in the month or so before our kids go back to school, but they are, thankfully, not an ongoing issue (unless you pick the wrong backpack).
There is one task that faces parents and guardians day in and day out – lunch. I don’t know about you, but for some reason my kids require sustenance throughout the day. You’d think they could save the hunger strikes, they go on at home, for school, now and then just to give me a break, but alas, they don’t. Lunch planning has escaped me in the past. Even when I was working out of the house full time, planning ahead on what to take myself for lunch was something that I wasn’t good at. I’d arbitrarily throw together something in the morning that was always a weird conglomeration of leftovers from dinner the night before, a yogurt and some kind of fruit. Now, with little tummies to consider, I’ve made it a point to be more conscious of the food choices I have on hand to send with them. I also consider the containers I use to send their food in, as I like to be eco-friendly and safe, when it comes to what will house our food.
First, a word about prep. You know how they say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? Prep is the same way. I find that if I take a few minutes, when I come home from my weekly grocery shopping trip, to consciously wash and prep the fruits and veggies I’ve brought home, they last longer and are much easier to use. It’s no secret that most produce is sprayed with pesticides during the growing process, but did you know that a lot of it (even some organic produce) is sprayed with accelerants that help it to grow and ripen faster? This is good for the farmers who want to produce faster yields, but not so great for the consumer, as it causes the food to continue ripening at an accelerated rate, even in your refrigerator. The secret to getting your fruits and veggies to last longer is to get these products off of them before you store them.
The good news is that it’s easy to do. Simply fill your kitchen sink ½ to ¾ full of cold water and add around 1 cup of white vinegar to it. Then put all of your fruits and veggies, except berries, into the sink to soak for 20 minutes. Berries go in for 1-2 minutes only, as they will absorb the water if you leave them any longer. After the soaking, pat everything dry with a towel and let it finish drying on the counter before you put it away. Then slice up, portion out and put things away in containers that are easy to grab and throw into lunches throughout the week. All my produce, including fresh berries now stay good for at least a week!
So now that we’re all prepped, let’s check out some of the fun, healthy school lunch ideas I found on pinterest that are a hit around our house:
Tortilla pinwheels. For some reason, if I wrap sandwich ingredients into a tortilla and cut it into pinwheels, my kiddo loves the once mundane “sandwich” concept and gobbles it up. This is my quick and easy go to when the morning is kind of hairy and I need to get us out the door. You can fill your tortilla with whatever you’d like, spinach, cheese, meat, veggies, fruits, cream cheese; the possibilities are endless.
Image credit to foodformyfamily.com
Another sandwich variation is sandwich kabobs or stackers (the difference lies in whether I have a kabob stick to skewer it with or not). Simply layer cubes of meat, cheese and veggies with cubes of bread and skewer it together (or not). Voila! Sandwich on a stick!
Image credit to littledairyontheprairie.com
Quick and easy nachos. Simply layer shredded cheese and chicken or beef pieces on top of tortilla chips and add a small container with black beans and sour cream (or a mixture of sour cream and plain yogurt to be a bit healthier). Your kids can dip the chips into the bean and sour cream mixture to create the perfect nacho bite.
Image credit to whatlisacooks.com
We love bagels as a breakfast staple around here, but they’re also a quick, easy lunch choice too. My little guy likes the mini-bagels so I just slather a couple of those with cream cheese and stick them in his lunch along with some veggies, fruit and yogurt.
When I have some prep time the day or night before, I love to make crescent roll ups. Simply add your favorite meat or cheese choices to a crescent, roll it up and bake it according to the package directions. For a pizza variety, add pizza or marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese and pepperoni. You can either make these completely the day before and refrigerate or prep them to be ready to bake in the morning before school.
Image credit to amandascookin.com
Now that you’ve prepped and got your meals all ready, what should you put them into? For my family, I choose glass, silicone or stainless steel options. Glass is great as far as being food safe and eco-friendly, but it’s heavier and breakable so I usually opt for silicone or stainless steel when they need to be portable. Here are a few of the options I’ve found that work best for us:
This container is a favorite because it has two compartments and comes with a spork that stores in the lid.
This little container is perfect for snacks or yogurt.
For hot or cold food storage, you can’t beat this insulated container.
This divided container comes with a divider that slides to size to whatever you’re packing for the day.
These nesting containers and square containers are great for packing things individually.
This glass container is a favorite that we use at home. I like it because it has the silicone sleeve to protect it.
I hope these ideas are helpful and that they make it a little easier as you tackle the never ending question, “What’s for lunch?” Happy eating!
Sharon is a WAHM of two boys ages 2 years old and 4 months old. She co-owns WrappedUpTampa.com, a natural parenting online boutique that has carefully chosen products from wooden toys and teethers made by hand, stainless, silicone and glass food storage and various types of wraps and carriers for babywearing.