You may be scratching your head when you think about easy school lunch ideas. Now that school is back in full swing here in Tennessee, my Facebook feed has been bombarded with posts like “great school lunch ideas”, “the worst things to pack for school lunch”, “are you packing these foods for school lunches”, etc. I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be hard or time consuming.
As parents, we tend to over think the school lunch thing. Yes, kids will be a little hungrier because they are getting up earlier and probably more active throughout the day, but they still don’t eat like adults. There is no need to pack so much food and give so many options they’re overwhelmed.
Remember kids have about 30 min to eat. That seems like a long time for us who usually scarf down our food in 10-15 minutes, but not so much for kids. They tend to talk. A Lot! Then they don’t finish their food. If you don’t believe me, visit your child for lunch one day. I think you’ll be amazed.
My girls quit wanting to eat at school years ago. They didn’t like it at all. I started packing their lunches and never looked back. So, as a parent who tries to stay on top of what my kids pack in their school lunch, what do I do? I’m going to give you the best tip I ever implemented into the whole lunch prep thingy, and a few more that I have done along the way.
*Before I start with my list, I will say I choose organic and/or grass fed/pastured whenever it is available. If it isn’t on your radar, I highly recommend doing some research on what can be in our foods. I personally choose to avoid them when possible.
My Easy School Lunch Ideas and Tips
This is THE one thing I have done that has saved me soooo much time over the years! When I cook, I cook enough so the girls will have enough for at least 1 lunch, maybe 2. When you’re cooking chicken, it really doesn’t take much effort to cook another piece or two for their lunch. Yes, I do this with vegetables too! I know not every child will eat cold cooked veggies, but thankfully mine do. So, search the fridge!
2. Keep it Simple
You may have already guessed this one, but it is soooo key! There’s no need to complicate things. Yes, if you have time & you enjoy making Disney characters out of your child’s food (I admit it was cute) then by all means do it! But they will eat what you pack without the hoop lah.
3. Follow a Template
This kinda falls under “keep it simple”, but yet it’s different in itself. What is my template for school lunch ideas? Protein, veggies & fruit. Those are my requirements no matter what! I put A LOT of emphasis on veggies in my house.
An example: #1. If you had brown rice pasta for dinner last night (you should have had veggies 🙂 ). I let the pasta take place of the fruit, the sauce has tomatoes & meat, but I will make them take additional veggies. #2. You may have had steak, veggies and fruit salad #3. Cheese stick, carrots, apples (and if you school allows nuts throw a few in there). In a future post I will give you more ideas.
4. Get Your Kids Involved
Your kids are old enough to get involved, even at the preschool age & should have a say in their school lunch ideas. Let them pick out some fruits & veggies when you’re at the store. Allow them to go to the fridge when their young and pull out what they want & you can pack it. Since my daughters were in about 2nd grade, they packed their own lunches. I still ask them to this day (5th & 10th) what they packed, but they put it into containers, fridge & then their lunch bags.
5. Don’t Get Too Picky
So, your child only likes to take carrots? Hey, whatta ya know, mine too! So, she takes carrots, and has almost Every dang day since Kindergarten. I don’t push it b/c I know she’ll eat them. I will ask “Would you like to take red bell peppers or broccoli today?” It stops and makes her think, and a lot of times she’ll say “sure”. But I don’t force the selections I want them to make, as long as they’re in the guidelines mentioned in #3 above.
6. Let Them Pick Their Lunch Bag
As much as we may want to get our kids a superhero bag or even an embroidered one, let them have a choice. If you prefer a certain type of bag because it may keep things colder longer, holds more, or keeps food from getting crushed that is fine. But how about letting them pick from certain designs? They’ll be more likely to carry it if they have a choice.
7. Tell Your Kids to Not Throw Away Their Food (Even if they don’t eat it)
This technically isn’t a school lunch tip and you may be wondering, “Why in the world would I want to make work for myself when my kids get home?” Have them throw containers full of food into the sink. Or even worse…they leave food in their lunch bag over the weekend and let the food get good & stinky? Why? Because when you tell them to bring home what food they don’t eat you, can see how much and what they ate. It’s that simple.
This keeps you informed about your kiddos. #1 Your child talks A LOT during lunch and doesn’t eat. #2 They do/don’t like certain foods #3 They may have hit a growth spurt or may be getting sick. I think those are 3 good things the amount of food left tells you.
Let me know in the comments below about easy school lunch ideas you may have used or currently use in your house.