Back to school…school lunch…zzzzz. Wait – where was I? Sorry, my bad. Even though this is supposedly a blog about healthy food, the thought of making school lunch always puts me to sleep. (If I’m going to be in the kitchen, I’d much rather be carving watermelons or making a Tim Burton pie.)
Sure, there are plenty of people out there making incredible school lunches with bento boxes or cookie cutters or egg molds, but the truth is you don’t need fancy equipment or funny ideas. If your goal is just to get a healthy meal into your kids while they are away at school, you just need a few quality minutes of planning, shopping, and prep time. And you can also use no-brainer shortcuts like repackaging leftovers as a fun lunch food. So in that spirit, here’s a simple plan for those weeks when you just don’t have enough mental energy to get into the whole creative school lunch thing.
Sample shopping list:
Selection of 3-4 relatively sturdy fruits (grapes, apples, melon, watermelon, strawberries)
Selection of 3-4 relatively sturdy vegetables (carrots, celery, lettuce, cherry tomatoes)
A brick of Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese
Good-quality whole wheat bread/tortillas/pita bread
Turkey, chicken, and/or ham for sandwiches, ground beef for burgers
Hummus (you can buy it, even though we think homemade is better and pretty darned easy)
Selection of 2-3 healthy crunchy snacks (veggie chips, whole-wheat pretzels, popcorn, whole-grain crackers)
Nut butter (if your school allows it) or sunflower butter
Couscous or other grains for making a hearty salad
Toothpicks for holding skewers together
Weekend prep jobs:
Cube fruits and cheeses. Cut carrots and celery into sticks. Cut bread/tortillas into cubes or strips. Hard-boil the eggs or cook the eggs and veggies into a frittata (which you might have for dinner anyway). Make a salad with couscous and chopped veggies (which you might have for dinner anyway). Cook burgers (which you might have for dinner anyway) and cut any leftover burgers into cubes. Did you order pizza over the weekend? Cut that into small squares too.
Now you’re ready to put it all together. Keep in mind that this plan isn’t fixed in stone; the idea is to have a bunch of pre-prepped items ready to grab and pack. Hint: For each day, pick a main course, a fruit and/or veggie selection, and a crunchy snack.
Monday: Pita squares, hummus, fruit, veggie sticks, cheese, olives
Tuesday: Cheeseburger skewers (burger skewered on a straw or stick with squares or cubes of bread, cheese, lettuce, cherry tomato), fruit, veggie chips
Wednesday: Frittata squares, fruit, whole wheat pretzels
Thursday: Confetti couscous salad, hard-boiled egg, yogurt, crackers, fruit and veggies
Friday: Turkey or ham sandwich, fruit, veggie sticks, popcorn
And the week is done! Ideally, you’ve put in a little bit more time on the weekends so that you can put less time into school lunch during the week. Now you can spend the rest of your time doing whatever else you’d rather be doing.
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