One of the hardest things for me is the ever-growing question What do I send my child for lunch? Sometimes I have questioned why this is so hard, as I have regularly fed my child for 8 years. But when it comes to school lunches, I enter the realm of total uncertainty about my food preparation skills. That is how I felt for the first 2 years my son was in school, as if I was not living up to the Pinterest and social media hype of school lunches. So, I stressed and stressed more, then it hit me, I just need to make sure my son has good food that he will eat, and that stays edible until his lunch period.
I did not have to keep up with what other moms were doing and I did not have to stress about this. Once I found peace with that, I came up with some hacks that work great and some simple and good ideas for school lunches that are easy to assemble and include things my son will eat. Because what really matters is making sure my son eats lunch during school.
Best Hacks for Stress Free School Lunches
Ya’ll the bento style lunch box was a game changer for me! I was able to divide things out and control portions. They are easy to open and close for small hands, fit into most lunch boxes, and allow room for an ice pack and drink. You can find them in most stores and online, but the best one that we have found is the Bentgo Kid’s Lunch box. It comes in a variety of colors, has multiple portion container sizes, is dishwasher safe, and you can get it on Amazon.
There are a lot of Pinterest boards and such with bento box style lunch ideas, but I really love School Lunch Ideas – The Crafting Chicks. This site has practical and kid-approved food ideas that have options for all types of eaters.
One thing we started doing is letting out son pick things he wants for his lunch. Of course, his immediate response was candy, so we had to put some regulations on this. We created space in our fridge and pantry that included choices such as apple sauce, fruit snacks, cheese sticks, Uncrustables, fruit cups, granola bars, small bags of crackers and chips, Gatorade, and juice boxes. He knows that he can grab any those items to help build his lunch. Which means he is picking things he will eat, which is what I want, for him to eat.
A great blog to help get kids involved in making their own lunches and to pick healthy, but yummy options is Rock The Lunchbox. This site houses multiple links and ideas and includes a newsletter you can sign up for.
Kid Approved School Lunches
Using tortillas with different lunch meats, chopped up veggies, and flavored cream cheese have made for some great options for lunches. Since pinwheels cover a lot of the food groups, I only have to put a bag of chips and a drink in with them, making it super easy.
Some other great options with pinwheels are pizza pinwheels, Nutella and bananas, grilled cheese, and taco pinwheels. All of these are easy, filling and a great way to use leftovers.
Homemade Snack Packs
My son loves the idea and candy of Lunchables, but not the flavor of the actual food in them. So once we started using the Bentgo lunch box we started to create our own versions of Lunchables and my son loves them. Some of our favorites ideas include rolled up lunch meat, cut up cheese sticks, carrots or cucumbers with the individual ranch packets, a variety of fruit, and I will throw in a small piece of candy every once in awhile. Another common one on our rotation is putting in a hotdog, bun, ketchup and mustard packets from a restaurant, strawberries, yogurt covered pretzels, and a drink. Another huge hit is putting anything on skewers. Seriously put fruit, lunch meat, cheese, and anything else your child likes on a skewer and you have a hit!
We also will mix up the snack packs and do themes. For taco Tuesday I will put in tortilla chips with a bit of salsa, chopped up fajitas meat, shredded lettuce and cheese. I will do BBQ by putting in any kind of meat, a small cup of sauce (Rudy’s BBQ Sissy Sauce cups are great), corn, pickles, and Hawaiian bread rolls. Italian is super easy because it any pasta will work, add some veggies, a little sauce, and sprinkle some cheese in there. Really any type of cuisine can be made it into a snack pack, it is about figuring out what holds for a few hours, children will eat, and easy to manage for them.
Fruits and Veggies
My son loves all kinds of fruits and veggies and there are days that all he wants in his lunch are these. So we have done fruit days, which include apples and peanut butter, a berry medley, a small orange, and a juice box. We have done veggie days where he takes veggie chips, a small salad, with a medley of cooked vegetables. Throw in some crackers and nuts and it keeps kids full and provides natural energy for the rest of the day.
Breakfast for Lunch
A favorite in our house is being able to have breakfast anytime of the day. Honestly most kids love this idea. Options are pancakes or cut up waffles with a cup of syrup, fruit, individual box of cereal, cut up a donut for a treat, or hardboiled eggs. You can also make egg muffins ahead of time and put in the lunch. My favorite recipe is mixing eggs, cheese, bacon, and chopped up broccoli. Spray a muffin pan and bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. They will stay in the fridge for a week. A great thing about egg muffins is you can add just about anything, ham and cheese, taco meat, different cheeses, etc. and kids love them.
I have given up trying to be creative with school lunches; I cannot add a smiley face to anything, and I refuse to pack foods just because they are healthy if my son refuses to eat them. Now, I make sure my son has food he will eat and that is the goal of school lunches in our house.
If you want even more ideas – some of our own Houston Mom Contributors were featured on KHOU 11’s H-Town Rush showing off their back to school lunch packing ideas! Watch the video here!
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