Back to school…school lunch…zzzzz. Wait – where was I? Sorry, my bad. Even though this is supposedly a blog about nutritious kids’ food, the thought of making school lunches 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.)
Even though there are plenty of people out there making incredible lunches with bento boxes or cookie cutters or egg molds, I’d say 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. Of course you can get more creative if you want to, but if you don’t, we’ve got a simple, no-brainer plan for those weeks when you just don’t have enough mental energy to get into the whole creative lunch thing.
Sample shopping list:
Selection of 3-4 relatively sturdy fruits (grapes, apples, melon, strawberries, bananas)
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
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
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. Make a salad with couscous and chopped veggies.
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.
Day 1: Pita squares, hummus, fruit, veggie sticks, cheese, olives
Day 2: Turkey kebab sandwich (turkey skewered on a straw or stick with squares or cubes of bread, cheese, lettuce, cherry tomato), fruit, veggie chips
Day 3: Frittata squares, fruit, whole wheat pretzels
Day 4: Confetti couscous salad, hard-boiled egg, yogurt, crackers, fruit and veggies
Day 5: PB & J (or sunflower butter and jelly) cut into cubes, 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 lunches during the week. Now you can spend the rest of your time doing whatever else you’d rather be doing.
What do you pack in your kids’ lunches?