It’s that glorious time of the year again — back to school! Between shopping, stocking up on school supplies, and making massive to-do lists, we all have been busy. But with a new school year comes new opportunities to do things better, such as making great lunches.
Back to school can come with its own unique set of stressors, not the least of which are school lunches and the plethora of snacks our kids require seemingly every hour on the hour. This means it is time to pull all of our ingenuity and creative force to master…the lunch box. It is time to find that perfect combo of healthy and fun that your tribe might actually eat.
Like most moms, nourishing my family with healthy meals is important to me. But it can get a bit overwhelming keeping up with the pace of NYC and staying grounded in healthy habits. I have learned a few tricks to simplify the process. Warning: the following tips could radically transform your mom life and may even result in you having time to pack your own lunch as well!
For more back-to-school ideas, check out Six Timely Tips for Tackling the School Supply List for Back to School
Look For Lunch and Snack Inspiration
It’s time to do your research, which, for most of us, means scrolling for 15-20 minutes on Instagram (Pinterest if you really want to get serious). That’s where we get all our best meal ideas these days, right? Try not to get overwhelmed by the visuals. Social media is guilty of the perfect lunch — we have all become obsessed with those perfect bento box meals. While your lunch may not be shaped into creative masterpieces, we all know most days a sandwich and a side of peas will work just fine. As long as your kid likes it, that’s all that really matters.
Show Them That Eating Is Fun
My kids love cooked baby carrots, sliced mini cucumbers and plain cooked pasta spirals. My mom hack to save time is to buy pre-sliced or spiraled veggies. Especially during the school week, in the fridge, you’ll find pre-sliced fruits and vegetables. You can also purchase veggie and fruits, set aside 45 minutes to an hour and chop them up as soon as you bring them home from the grocery store — or after the kids go to bed. Since my children are still on the younger side, they are easily swayed to eat their fruits if in fun shapes. Using cookie cutters, you can instantly upgrade your lunchbox game, and it’s a great way to save time.
For grain and protein options, easy-cook dishes that can be done over the weekend are brown rice and grilled chicken (or chickenless nuggets if you have a vegetarian in your household). Store your hard work into airtight containers or mason jars in the fridge, and they will stay fresh all week.
One-Pot Meals Are Hassle-Free Lunches
Stop wasting dishes and time cooking everything in different pots. Need boiled eggs, pasta and soft-cooked carrots for the kids’ lunchboxes tomorrow? No problem! Boil one pot of water and toss them all in. Pay attention to the time, using a small strainer to scoop out what needs to come out first. Cool it all. Separate and put into the lunchbox or storage container of your choice until it’s time to be feasted on.
“Don’t Fix What Isn’t Broken” Applies to Kids Meals Too
Don’t be afraid to repeat lunches. If you have found a meal that your little ones love to eat and enjoy — no need to reinvent the wheel. Kids are creatures of habit; having the same meal two-three times a week is a good thing. If the lunchbox keeps coming back empty, or at least with some of the food eaten, thank your lucky stars and take the win.
Meal Delivery Services Are a Mother’s Helper
Try out a meal delivery service; they’re not just for dinner. There are many meal delivery services where you can get pre-planned, sometimes already prepped meals delivered right to your door. You can whip these up in no time and even have your kids help! One of our family favorites is Hungryroot. They have some plant-heavy, nutrient-loaded meals and snacks that are so delicious, my kids loved them. Most of their meals can be prepared in 15 minutes or less (with kids helping), and they are colorful and creative. Think pad thai with sweet potato noodles and a colorful shaved brussel sprout salad. Another service is Yumble, which is a meal service designed specifically for kids. You can order up meals with farm-fresh produce that are nutritionist-approved and ready to eat. Classic chicken nuggets with corn and peas or multigrain mac and cheese with a side of broccoli are big hits on their menu.
Say Yes to the School Lunches
Don’t forget the school lunch. If school lunch is provided, it’s a viable option as well.
I had illusions of grandeur last school year and expected every one of my son’s lunches to be perfect veggie skewers in small shapes and pinwheel magic. It didn’t happen, and that’s OK! Some days I packed the “perfect” lunch, other days I sent him to school with a bottle of water and a banana — such is life! He ate school lunch and was just fine.
Everyone’s schedule is different. Whether you’re a stay at home mom, a mom who works outside of the home or somewhere in between- — these tips can help you streamline your routine.
When it comes down to it, we are all just trying to have as many stress-free mornings as possible. These hacks have worked well for my family and me; use what works for you and your family’s lifestyle. Now off to the races — I mean classroom!
Now that you have all the time-saving tools and snack hacks ready to go, where are you going to put all these delicious morsels of goodness? Have no fear, I’ve got just a few of my favorite lunch gear goodies lined up for you. Check them out here:
Thermos Funtainer stainless steel food jars. These babies actually keep food hot and cold, plus they’re durable and can survive being dropped and tossed around a bit.
Stasher bags. These non-toxic silicone reusable bags are amazing. You can heat them and freeze them, and they are dishwasher-safe. Put any and all snacks inside.
Bentgo box. Bento Boxes are great for getting crafty with a variety of different lunch items and snacks. They are versatile and one of my favorites.
OmieBox Bento Box with Thermos. This is a really cool lunch box, bento-style. There’s actually a built-in thermos to keep food hot or cold inside the lunchbox.
What lunch is complete without the snacks? Here are some of my favorite snacks you can pick up to add that extra something to your little one’s lunch. Bobo’s Oat Bars and Bites, LesserEvil popcorn, Bitsy’s Smart Crackers and Once Upon A Farm smoothie blends. Drinkable yogurt and granola, mandarin oranges and fresh snap peas are also great on-the-go snacks.
Instagram Inspo Some of my favorite lunch accounts: