Summer is coming to an end and if you dread having to pack school lunches again, you are not alone! Almost all parents say it’s the worst thing about the fall.
Of course there are advantages to sending your child to school with a packed lunch. It allows you to include healthy foods your child will actually eat and many school don’t even offer a paid option anyway.
Of course, if you take time to pack school lunches every day and your child doesn’t eat it or ends up trading most of it away for junk food, it’s even more infuriating. The key then is to find things that your child loves and enjoys eating.
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How to Pack School Lunches Your Kids Will Eat
There is nothing worse than running late in the morning and then desperately trying to figure out something you can put in your children’s lunch boxes.
If you find yourself flustered, or end up buying school lunch because packing it seems like too much of a hassle, take a look at the tips below. They will help you get organized so fixing lunches becomes quick and easy.
1.Start With A List And Go Shopping
Start by sitting down with your kids and come up with a list of lunches they like. This could include sandwiches and wraps, or even homemade lunch-able, but it doesn’t have to stop there. The key is to find lunch foods and snacks that your kids will eat that are also easy to pack.
Once you have several different lunch ideas your kids like and will actually eat, you can simply rotate through them and make the ingredients part of your weekly shopping trips.
2.Get The Right Lunch Gear
Along with the obligatory first day of school picture, back to school shopping for the right gear is a rite of passage each fall.
Make sure you have appropriate containers, and then head to the grocery store to pick up everything you need for the week. Don’t forget about snacks and drinks as needed. The list should make this much easier.
Brown bagging it won’t fly anymore. The most popular options nowadays are bento style boxes that allow you to put several different foods in instead of just one large sandwich.
What Is Bento?
It’s a fun, fairly new trend in packed lunches that traces its origins to Japan. Bento is a traditional way for Japanese to pack single serve meals they can take with them to work or school.
There they often consist of rice, fish or meat, and cooked or pickled vegetables. The container is usual rectangular with compartments for each dish.
With Bento boxes it’s ok to play with the food and come up with some fun and creative lunches for the kids (or yourself). Cut the sandwiches in cute little shapes, make some fun roll-ups, and get creative with fresh fruit, raw veggies, cheese and the likes as sides.
If you are ready to get even more creative, do a quick search online for bento lunch ideas. You’ll find ideas from gourmet food to fun and quirky kid-friendly lunch ideas. Who knew that you could shape rice and make it look like an adorable panda?
You’ll find entire Pinterest boards and Instagram accounts dedicated to creative bento boxes.
Of course there’s no need to go all out. You can make delicious and eye-pleasing bento lunches by taking just a little care with how you place the food in the boxes and taking advantage of simple little tricks like pouring gold fish crackers or raisins into paper or silicon cupcake liners.
What I like best about bento lunches is that it gives you the opportunity to pack several small, snack like items into one lunch.
Your child will have fun picking and choosing for lunch and you know he will still get a healthy meal. Plus what child doesn’t love a bunch of colourful finger food for lunch?
Make sure the Bento lunch box you choose is durable and easy for your child to open. Practice during the summer vacation by using the lunch gear on outings and day trips.
Here are the 3 most popular bento boxes with parents:
I love the Yumbox and have them for both my girls. They have cute illustrations that show what each compartment is supposed to contain (protein, dairy etc).
They are made of plastic and are dishwasher safe. The best part is, even my 3 year old can open her Yumbox with no issues.
A lot of parents like Planetbox because they don’t contain any plastic. The metal shell means they are extremely durable and easy to clean.
The only negatives I have heard is that they are extremely expensive and a bit heavy for younger kids to carry.
I like the look of these Bentgo box as they are similar to the Yumbox but some people say they are more durable. They are not as big as the other two boxes so would be better for young kids.
The other comment I have read is that the latches are quite as easy to open as the Yumbox so if you get the Bentgo, make sure to practice before school starts.
3. Prep What You Can As Soon As You Get Home
When you get home from the store, keep lunch foods out and see what you can do to prep things ahead of time. Instead of putting that bag of grapes away, go ahead and wash and store them in little bags you can grab and toss in the lunch box.
The same goes for things like carrots and even salads. Slice cheese as needed and just thing about what you can prep as soon as you get home.
4. Make Lunch Fun
Another way to make sure your kids eat lunch is to make it fun by using accessories such as sandwich stampers and bento picks. They are really easy to buy online and kids love them.
Having a great conversation piece at lunch can also be an ice-breaker and help your child make friends during those first few days.
You don’t have to be a whiz in the kitchen or spend hours making tiny animal shaped fruit either. This list from Martha Stewart has some cute ideas that are simple to make.
Some simple bento accessories to buy:
5.Get your child involved
Depending on the age of your kids, you could even put them in charge of making their own lunches. Not only do you know that they’ll pack something they will eat, being in charge of packing lunch will teach them responsibility.
Start by talking to your kids about what they want in their lunch box. Make a list of options and then head to the store so you have everything you need for the first week of school.
Getting the kids as involved as possible will make sure that they end up with lunches they will eat. For older kids that may mean making their own lunches (under your supervision of course).
Younger children can help. Even your kindergartener can wash grapes and put them into a container, or pick a snack for his lunch box. Get in the habit of making lunches together the night before.
Over time you can give the kids more and more responsibility for their lunches. This alone will help make sure they eat what they’ve packed. After all, it’s the lunch they made. Along the way you’re teaching them independence and important life skills.
6.Pack Lunches The Night Before
Mornings are busy and not always the perfect time to have to worry about packing lunches. Try making them the night before. Try packing them after dinner at night. Get the kids involved and have them help with lunch prep and clean-up after.
You can store cold items in the fridge and have everything else sitting in the lunch box ready to go. It won’t take you long to get into a rhythm of preparing lunches while you’re cleaning up after dinner.
If you are feeling ambitious, you can do a lot of prep on Sunday nights and even make up a batch of sandwiches so that they are all ready to go.
I know one mom who owns 5 Yumboxes just so she can have them all prepped on Sundays. That might be overkill, but whatever makes the workweek easier!
You’ll appreciate this new habit in the mornings when all you need to do is grab a couple of things from the fridge and toss them in the lunch boxes.
7.Clean Lunch Boxes As Soon As The Kids Get Home
To make lunch prep even easier, get the kids into the habit of cleaning out their lunch box as soon as they get back from school.
Even the youngest can help with this. Have them toss any uneaten food and bring the containers to the sink to be washed.
Older children can easily clean their own containers, while you’ll probably have to do the washing for your youngest. Having everything clean and ready to go will make it easier to pack the new lunches later on in the day.
Stick to these tips and it won’t take you long to get into an efficient lunch packing routine that will make it a snap.
Don’t forget to get the kids involved and put them in charge of much of the preparations. Not only will this make your live easier in the long run, it will give them a sense of ownership over their lunch.
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