Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Take Five #6 Back to School Lunches

It's that time again, parents. The dreaded school lunch headache is back. Whether your kiddos eat at school or take their own, we worry about everything. Are they really eating what's on their lunch tray? Did they trade for the sweet stuff? Is that PB &J  good enough? It's enough to run you mad plus you start stressing out, which eats up your time....and who wants that?  I've got one kid who wants to eat breaksfast at school as a means of social time and both kids take their own lunches.  Here's a few quick tips on how we handle lunches every morning, which works just as well on the adults as the kids.

Take Five is geared toward taking a few minutes now to save you time, money (and headaches) later. It is quick wins that make things run much smoother.

Start the night before.  Get as much prepared in advance as possible.  After dinner, place empty, cleaned out  lunch boxes on the counter. Fill with anything that doesn't need to be refrigerated such as raisin boxes, chips, juice boxes.etc. Make sure ice packs are in the freezer. It's incredibly frustrating to realize somebody left the ice pack in their lunch box and you now need a Plan B. By the way, make sure to have an extra one in the freezer, just in case. Not that it ever happened to me. Prewash and cut fruits and vegetables, prepackage dipping sauces. Go ahead and place in containers/zip bags.

It doesn't have to be a sandwich.  Little Brother never would eat at school and he ran for the hills whenever he saw a sandwich. I took a cue from a friend who's little one had the same lunch affliction.
The answer: send the lunch meat, but not the sandwich. Brilliant! Why didn't I think of that? It got a few odd looks at first but then the folks at school realized that unlike a lot of the kids, he ate all of his lunch every day. All I had to do was chop up the Honey Roasted Turkey, put it in a tiny container and send a plastic fork.  If your kids like leftovers, go ahead and pack up lunch portions when you're cleaning up after dinner. Hey, if it works for the grown ups, it might work for the kids.

It doesn't have to look like a traditional lunch, either. Sometimes, kids prefer a sampling, rather than a full meal. That is a very good thing because you can squeeze in more variety. Because the portions will be smaller, there is always the chance your student may even be willing to try something new. Think bento box - style eating. If one isn't available just use a divided container or silicone baking cups placed in a container. Fill the little cups with fruit, crackers, vegetables, sandwich meat, home made nuggets, cheese cubes and mini sandwiches. Cutting things into shapes sometimes make them taste better, too. Just saying.

Don't overthink it.  Big Brother wants a sub sandwich every day. Every single day. It's always the same: Honey Roasted Turkey with spicy mustard, pepper and lettuce on whole wheat sub bread. Did I mention he eats it every single day? I finally quit worrying about it when I realized  at least he was eating. I add variety by changing up whatever else he takes. Fruits, yogurts, beverages all get switched up daily. Besides, breakfast and dinner provide a ton of variety. As long as it's healthy, I give you permission to stop fretting.

Finish in the morning. Just throw in the cold stuff with the ice pack and you're finished. If you're sending leftovers quickly reheat the meal before putting in a thermos and you're all done. You can do all of this in a minute or two without interruption to your morning routine.

 No one likes rushing around in the mornings. Getting lunch ready can be a snap if you take five minutes to think it through, get creative, and do a few minutes prep work.

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