As many of you know, I am a mom to twin boys who are 9 years old now, and while they have pretty healthy appetites these days, I still deal with a somewhat picky eater, and have learned a few parenting tricks over the years when it comes to mealtime.
And the best trick in the book is — crowdsource! I am part of a large and local Facebook group of moms who share their knowledge, time, and often even their physical resources with each other. I can’t tell you how many times this has benefited myself and my family over the years.
Today, I am going to share a little of the wealth with you by sharing some of my own back-to-school lunch time tricks, heavily supplemented by other moms’ wisdom from the Facebook group I am part of!
Let’s first talk containers.
You can pick any lunch bag or box you want, but I am referring to what actually holds the food. In our home we try to do what we can to minimize waste. The boys know that most anything they can bring home they should bring home, and wherever I can skip sending them to school with single use packaging, I skip it! That’s why using some form of Bento box is a wonderful solution.
This stainless-steel Bento Box is a great way to go, and because it’s metal, it will last a really long time.
Plastics are less ideal, of course, but these boxes by Bentgo are cute and provide lots of compartments for variety.
And if you simply need more of them for the sake of your dishwashing schedule or you’re on a budget, try these!
I think it’s a must have to have a mini thermos on hand for each kiddo, for days you want to give them something hot to eat. This one does just the trick while coming in lots of cute colors. (My boys have a Dory version that they may or may not be too ‘old’ for now, but it still works perfectly, so we are holding steady!)
And to make sure all that reusable gear keeps making it home to you- be sure to label everything. Check out Stuck on You for all your labeling needs!
*It’s also a good move to be sure that your kids – especially the younger ones, practice opening and closing any new lunch containers before using them at school the first time, even if it seems ‘easy’ to us adults!
Now, onto what to fill those bento boxes and snack containers with!
For starters, while I do love to cook when I can, I totally get that for most of us, getting crafty in the kitchen is often reserved for nights and weekends (who am I kidding, maybe even just the Holidays!) so most of what I have included below are easy no-fuss options and the simplest of recipes. But, should you be on the hunt for a handy lunchtime cookbook, check out this one that is full of ideas on how to create healthy, beautiful, and tasty lunches.
Otherwise, I have you covered here–
In general, several moms in the group I follow agreed that a well-rounded lunch consists of a fruit, a veggie, something crunchy, something sweet, and a main entree.
The Main Entree
Let’s start with leftovers- dinner from the night before can turn into lunch! Things like quesadillas or taquitos, mac & cheese, tortellini & shredded chicken or chicken nuggets with your kid’s favorite dipping sauce can all be great the next day- hot or cold. Use the thermos, or honestly, these all can be yummy room temp, your kid will probably love it. Things that are great heated up are soup, Annie-O’s, fried rice, pasta or a stack of mini pancakes & sausage in the Thermos.
Other alternatives can be a sandwich, or tortilla pinwheels are a great option and there’s a ton of ways to have variety here, make them healthy, and they cut up small to fit in different shaped containers! Check out this post on 20 different tortilla pinwheels you can make!
Fruits & Veggies
This is somewhat self-explanatory, however there’s always something to learn! For instance, grapes and blueberries where high on the recommended list for fruits because they don’t get soggy or turn colors. I’ll send strawberries but generally keep them whole or only cut in half for the same reason. If I send apple slices, I am always sure to drizzle a little lemon or lime juice over top to prevent browning.
For veggies, whatever your kid will eat is the best choice! Carrots, cucumbers, peppers etc. And if you have a highly veggie resistant child, those pinwheel rollups are a great place to stash some very finely diced veggies without them noticing!
Sky is the limit here of course but some great choices can include pirates booty, popcorn, crackers, veggie sticks, etc.
A tip is to make sure the crunchy item stays outside the bento box so that it doesn’t go soggy from the moisture of other foods or any freezer pack you might be using. The crunchy item is often great for afternoon snack!
We all like a treat, right? Throw in a single piece of candy or a couple of mini marshmallows, a cookie, granola bar, or my kids personal favorite are PB Energy Balls!
Energy Balls are great because they are no-bake, come from ingredients you probably have in your pantry, and you can switch up the flavors each time you make them! Check out this post with 10 different flavors you can try!
*It’s important to note that you should be aware of whether your school or classroom is nut or allergen free before including some of these items.
With the back to school season,
There also comes the reminder for us all that soon leaves will be turning and the sweaters will come out of storage. So, be sure to get those fall photos on the books now before your ideal date is gone as fast as you can say “pumpkin spiced latte”!
To lock in the best date for a fall family session, head to my schedule to check out my availability. And if you have any questions prior to scheduling a date and time, send me a quick message and I’ll be happy to help! Looking forward to seeing everyone this fall!