If you’re already breaking out in a cold sweat just thinking about back-to-school lunch packing, boy-oh-boy, do I have a treat for you! My sweet friend Laura over at MOMables is here to share her top five tips for making lunch packing a simpler process.
Laura is an expert on all things lunch and spends much time in teaching busy parents how to make wholesome school lunches in 10 minutes or less. So whether you’re packing a lunch for 1 or 10, I know you’ll appreciate her time-saving tips and inspiring ideas below!
5 Tips to Simplify Lunch Packing
by Laura Fuentes
Back-to-school season is upon us and that means getting organized as families, so we can meet the challenges of homework, after school activities, club meetings, household duties, cooking meals, and of course … school lunches.
If the thought of getting it all done overwhelms you, don’t worry; you are not alone. Many of us struggle with this time of the year because it means that the fun and free-for-all-summer is over and our early morning devotional time is now shared with making sure our children are clothed, fed and ready for school.
Every parent I know, wants to pack a wholesome school lunch for their kids, but packing them daily can be a challenge. Many get started making wholesome lunches every day, but then run out of steam and ideas after a few weeks. The good news is packing a wholesome lunch doesn’t have to be difficult. Fresh is always best… and it can also be easy! All it takes is a little preparation and know-how to get a smooth routine in place.
Here are five of my favorite tips to simplify the lunch packing process:
- Plan ahead. Putting together a full family meal plan, even for lunches, ahead of time is the ultimate time saver. It’s much easier to pull out the ingredients and assemble a quick lunch, when you already know what to make! Repurposing dinner leftovers into something delicious for lunch is simple when you have a plan. No one likes to stand in front of the fridge with that deer-in-headlights feeling daily. Making the most of leftovers is easy when you know what you’ll need for the week. Having pasta for dinner on Monday night? Boil extra noodles and plan for a pasta lunch on Wednesday. It’s really that easy!
- Keep it simple. When I develop our menus for MOMables, my goal is to provide nutritious lunches that take 10 minutes or less to assemble. Don’t have time to make intricate butterfly-shaped quesadillas? Me either. Opt for minimal fresh ingredients, few steps, easy assembly and forget the rest. Many lunch cookbooks and bento websites have great ideas, but the intricate shapes and numerous ingredients can be discouraging. Use a simple sandwich cutter, if you want to get fancy, but leave out anything that requires special gadgets, elaborate ingredients, processed foods and lengthy recipes.
P.S. I’m often asked how to beat the lunch-rut, when it seems like your kiddo only eats one or two things. (Their staple foods, if you will.) Here’s a MOMables tip: Write a list of the things they do eat. Then, incorporate those items in different ways (with some other healthy ingredients), until little by little you are adding one new thing at a time.)
- Have the right gear. By packing lunches in reusable, divided containers everything has its own place, which makes it easy to see what items your lunch may be lacking. If you get into the routine of packing your fruits and vegetables in the smaller sections, you can more easily see what may be lacking to provide a complete meal. Re-usable containers are also better for the environment than the waste created by disposable baggies. One re-usable container can replace the need for 4-6 disposable baggies each day! A small thermos is also a great tool to have on hand. You can pack leftover soups, pasta and warm dishes without needing to reheat. A quality thermos gives you more options and the ability to “think outside the sandwich.”
- Prep ahead. Slicing and dicing fresh vegetables can seem time consuming when you’re trying to hurry and pack lunches during late nights or rushed mornings. A great time to prep them is when you get home from the market – simply take a few minutes to clean and cut what you’ll need for the week ahead. This way, you’ll have servings of fruit and veggies ready to grab-n-go when lunch packing. This will also save you money, because buying those items pre-cut can be expensive. You’re also less likely to find that “mystery fruit” stinking up the back of your refrigerator that never got used and now have to throw away. Remember: A few minutes of your time = savings in your pocket book.
- Pack a few days at a time. Sounds crazy, but it’s actually very easy. I take one hour on Sunday nights to boil pasta, cook rice or make anything that is not part of my dinner meal plan for the week ahead. I use these to repurpose dinner leftovers for lunch. I pack Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in containers and label or color code the box to its owner. We have thermos Thursday and pizza or leftover Fridays. This makes packing a wholesome lunch simple, efficient and time saving.
–Laura Fuentes shows parents how to make fresh school lunches over at MOMables™. A wife, mother of three and a lunch enthusiast, Laura insists on healthy, wholesome food for her family. On her personal blog, Super Glue Mom, she writes about managing motherhood on a deadline. She’s also a food contributor and recipe developer to numerous sites, and helps busy parents overcome the difficulties of cooking real food in a hurry. You can find Laura on Twitter and on Facebook and MOMables on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.