It’s back-to-school time! Which means it’s time to pack lunches again. Unless, like us, you’ve needed to pack lunches for camp or outings for most of the summer. I’m kind of a professional lunch packer at this point.
It still seems daunting, though. I don’t know why. And last year the second grader was packing his own lunches. Why did this stop when he started camp this summer? I don’t know. I think both kids will be packing their own lunches this year, with my support.
And it’s not just knowing what to pack — how many snacks, who’s eating what this week (turkey? salami? hummus and cucumber? leftovers?) but who can eat what. Like when a particular upcoming first grader has a wiggly tooth, so you have to slice up his apple before you pack it because otherwise he can’t bite it.
But if you have the supplies and a formula, lunch-packing doesn’t have to be a drag.
Here are some key tips for packing a lunch:
We use reusable containers for snacks and lunches. For the main lunch, we use EasyLunchboxes three-compartment lunch boxes, with snacks in other small reusable containers. Yes, I wash a lot of containers, but I’m OK with that.
A sturdy, reusable lunch bag can last for the whole school year and sometimes for a few years! PackIt makes a great freezable lunch bag which contains a freezable gel. Just put it in the freezer overnight, then in the morning pack your child’s lunch in it. The lunch bag will keep the food cold for hours.
Sandwiches are popular with my kids:
- hummus and cucumber
- mac&cheese in an insulated food jar
- leftover pasta with pesto
- hummus, veggies, and crackers
- cheese and crackers
I also pack veggies and fruit in the other compartments of the bento box.
Besides the “main course,” I include:
- fruit — berries, a sliced or whole apple, cut-up oranges, grapes
- veggies — baby or big carrots, grape tomatoes, sliced cucumber
- something crunchy/salty, such as pretzels
- Stonyfield YoKids Squeezers (these are great to keep in the freezer)
- a granola bar (in case an extra snack is needed)
- Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter and Pretzels snack packs
- maybe a packet of Justin’s Honey Almond Butter (who am I kidding, these are for me! Great pre-run fuel and a handy afternoon snack at my desk)
A reusable water bottle. That’s all I send my kids with. But you could also include a juice box or milk.
By the way, could you sense a theme here? Reusable containers, few processed foods, and products from companies like Justin’s and Stonyfield that make sustainable practices their mission? I like supporting companies that have values similar to mine.
Oh — not that I’m telling you what to do, but because these tips can help you save time packing lunches — if you have some extra time, check out the recipes on the Justin’s site! I want to try the spicy peanut soba noodles and the granola bars, for starters.
Happy school year, and enjoy packing healthy lunches!