Tuesday, 28 August 2012

School Lunches Made Easy...

Who likes the chore of packing school lunches?
I do...when I have a strategy and some super cool & fun products to use!
If you have kids just entering the school system for the first time and are packing lunches for your littles for the very first school year, it may seem fun....at first.
But then it becomes gradually....not so fun.
I have been packing school lunches since the fall of 2001 when my daughter started full-day school at age 5.
Over the years, I have really learned how to get the chore done as quickly and as easily as possible, and I really want to share with you how I easily pack my kids nutritious and tasty lunches.
And I am also here to tell you that although those super cute animal sandwiches being pinned on Pinterest by everybody are lovely...I don't know any mom who creates them.
Last August, I wrote a post about school lunches, "5 Easy Steps To Packing School Lunches"...which is still one of my most popular posts. This time around, I am going to share just a little more updated information now that I have a daughter in high school. But I still stick to 5 easy steps...which are:

1. Start with a main course.
It can be a sandwich, salad or soup. If you are making sandwiches, remember to switch up the breads every so often to relieve the boredom of the same thing over and over again!
 A main course can also be a salad.. If packing a salad, remember to pack the salad dressing separately so the salad doesn't get soggy. My daughter's favourite lunch for years was a pasta salad.

A main course can also be soup. Both my kids love hot soup in the winter. I like using stainless steel thermoses over plastic or glass since they are sturdy and don't leach chemicals.

2. Add some vegetables. 
 Adding veggies into your child's lunch is a great way to make sure they are getting their required daily servings of fruits & veggies.My kids like their veggies with dip, so I add a little of their fav ranch dressing to the bottom of the container for a 'veggies & dip' snack.

3. Add Fruit.
Fruit cups. Fruit salad or fresh fruit. Apples. Watermelon wedges. It all counts. Just add fruit to your child's lunch to build towards those daily servings fruit & vegetables. And they are learning healthy snacking habits to serve them throughout life.
And if the thought of cutting up fruit for lunches is a little overwhelming to an already crazy busy schedule, use one of these great helpers from the grocery store!
One new thing that I have discovered this year is these amazing LunchBot  containers. Love them.
They are stainless steel and extremely sturdy, and come in different configurations.
I also love that they are a great size...not too big and perfect for serving sizes for elementary school kids.
I also find that the lids are not too tight for little kids to open.
This is the quad LunchBot, which has 4 different sections.
I love it because it holds the main course and fruit & veggies all in one container!
LunchBots also come in a 'tri' combination with 3 sections.
Here I tucked a small sandwich into the long section and added fruits and veggies to the other sections.
Brilliant, right?

4. Add a little treat.
After adding a main course and fruits and veggies, I always add a small treat to my kids' lunches. It can be homemade cookies, granola bars, a muffin or something that I know they like. I give my kids complete control over when they choose to eat their treat. My son always eats his treat at recess before lunch! {If you would like to see the recipe for our family's favourite chocolate chip cookie, go here.} 

5. Add a drink and a napkin.
This is the last step in my "5 Easy Steps" to packing school lunches.

*Now here is some other advice I would like to add.*
  •  Having lots of little containers really helps when it comes to packing lunches. They hold everything from salad dressings to fruit and veggies.
  • Having fruits and veggies washed & prepped in little containers ready to go into lunches in the morning makes lunch- packing a breeze. You are  essentially making your own pre-packaged foods for lunches that are healthy and without added salt, sugar, fat or preservatives. This system works extremely well when lunches are prepped on Sunday and then throughout the week, you are just adding prepared foods in containers to lunches.
  • Have a  container/bin of some kind in the fridge to store lunch items all in one place.
  •  I love these Lunchskins. They replace the need for plastic baggies and are dishwasher safe and good for 1000 uses, which saves you money, as well as being great for the environment. They are made of high quality fabric, toxin free and  come in a couple of sizes...sandwich, snack and sub size. 
{Photo Source below: Lunchskins}

  • This year, I also found this brilliant lunch bag, which has 2 different insulated compartments...so one compartment can be a 'cold' side, and the other can be a 'warm' side. They are made by a Canadian company called "BalancedDayBags".{You can order them here.} It's the perfect bag for my son in elementary school.
 Each side has a number on it's cover. I used the 'One' for the warm side with soup in a thermos and bread.
 The number 'Two' side I used the for the cold side, with the LunchBot and an ice pack from the dollar store.I love the practicality of this design and it would be great for a school day with 2 breaks where you could let your child know which food is for Break 1 and which is for Break 2.
  •  Another thing  I learned this year is that my high school student is not interested in taking containers of lunch items to school any more. She just wants to take packages she can throw away. And although this is not good for the environment, I do want her to eat throughout the day, so I have made lots of 'GRAB & GO' items for her. {She does not like cafeteria food or fast food.}. I keep baggies of  fresh fruits and veggies  and single servings of Greek yogurt, guacamole and dips on hand for her, as well as bags of pita wedges and crackers, etc. in the pantry. Hopefully, when she gets a little older and out of high school, she will go back to using environmentally-friendly products that her mama has uses!
And that, my friends, is how I have made packing school lunches easy!
I hope you find some of these ideas useful for your family!

What strategies do you use to help make packing school lunches easy for your family?

{**Thank you so much  to the lovely folks at Greenmuch for providing me with Lunchbots, Lunchskins, and BalancedDayBags to test and try! All opinions are my own and I love these products.**}

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