I know, back-to-school lunches? In July?
I’m not losing my mind – my kids are on this thing called a “balanced calendar”, so they go back to school next Monday, August 3. In exchange, we get extra school breaks throughout the year. If you aren’t used to it, it probably seems strange, but we love it!
Anyway, after a summer of casual shopping and eating, I need to get back into my routine of shopping for school lunches. I try to send lunches that are nutritious and balanced and filling, but also not a total pain to pack in the morning.
Are you a school lunch rookie? Here’s a great place to start:
Lunch bag/containers: I use all reusable bags and containers. I can’t stand the waste of plastic baggies. Just make sure that whatever containers you buy fit properly into the lunch bag before you purchase them. I have made that mistake before!
Main course: I always include some sort of main dish. Sometimes it is leftovers from dinner the night before, but more often, I send something that has been prepped specifically for school lunches. This week, I made a huge batch of my muffins to keep in the freezer. When I pack lunches, I put a frozen muffin in each lunch. It thaws all morning and is ready to eat by lunchtime! I also frequently make big batches of soup and freeze smaller jars, which are easy to thaw and warm up in the morning, then pour into a thermos.
Dairy: Organic string cheese or yogurt
Fruit: I usually just send a whole piece of fruit in each lunch, like an apple or clementine. WARNING: Bananas and stone fruit do NOT work – they just get squashed. If you are sending anything that is easily squashed (i.e., grapes, berries) put them in a container.
Veggies: I buy three or four bell peppers, a bag of carrots, and an English cucumber at the start of each week. Every day, one of these is cut up and put into school lunches. If there are any leftovers, I take them along in my briefcase to work for an on-the-go snack.
Sweet: My kids don’t usually get dessert at lunch at home, but I am a softie when it comes to school lunch. I always include a small treat. I love the Trader Joe’s chocolate aisle because they sell small tubs of special treats that are perfect for school lunch. My favorites right now are the Smashing S’mores, which are super cute and delicious.
Drink: Water. Always water. My kids do not have a drinking fountain in their classroom, and they really only have two or three scheduled drink breaks during the day. During those, I don’t think they actually get that much water because of all the other kids waiting for the fountain. So, a Camelbak of water goes into their lunch every day, 3/4 full of ice and topped off with water. This helps keep everything in the lunch bag cool, and is a perfect temperature by lunchtime.
Happy school year, everyone!