What’s on the menu today?

This is what I sent to school with my 5 year old (going on 6) son today. I try not to use too many baggies but containers with matching lids are in short supply lately so baggies are a temporary fix.

lunch bag

The kids usually get the same things so no pic of Little Miss’ lunch bag. They eat breakfast at home and I drive them to school so breakfast/before school snack isn’t an issue for my kids but they are there from 9am to 3pm and I always want to be sure that they have a good healthy lunch and snack and that they aren’t hungry. Our school is lucky enough to have a breakfast program that’s run by teacher volunteers each morning for those kids that don’t get breakfast or who have to spend quite a long time on the bus.

The ribbon on the thermos isn’t a usual lunch box thing. Birthdays are coming up and a new thermos each is an early birthday surprise…and some piece of mind for me. The lineups for microwaves in the school get quite long and lunch times are quite short so to make sure Little Miss and Mister get to eat what I send I’ve invested in a good thermos for each. They are actually Thermos brand only because we’ve used several and we like those. Also I got a smokin deal on them and they have some of the kids favorite characters on them. I’m not getting paid to say that we like them…although if Thermos or any other company would like to send some things for me to try out I’d be more than happy to blog about the experience!!!!

So today the munchkins have leftovers from last nights supper. Mashed potato, roast chicken, steamed carrots, gravy and that’s what’s in the container. That along with an apple will probably be lunch. Snack is cucumber and cheese and they decide when they want to drink their orange juice and water. The pack of crackers and gummies are only to be eaten after all the “good food” is gone. The processed foods aren’t always there but I don’t always have time to make granola bars or fruit leather and I’m not always the most organized.  They do get homemade and whole foods most of the time.

We also have rules about lunches in our house. I know exactly what I give the kids and they know that if anything is left over from their lunches it’s going to be the extras I put in. Gummies don’t get eaten before mashed potato and chicken. If the healthy foods come home but the treats are eaten already, there’s no treat in the lunch the next day. The only time I don’t worry about that rule is when there is a special activity at their school like Halloween, winter fun day, or Christmas party.

Most of the time lunches are simple though. A sandwich or wrap with meat and cheese, homemade granola bars, an apple or other fruit in season, sliced cucumbers, sliced cheese and crackers, homemade cookies, or leftovers from supper the night before (as long as there’s no nuts in it). I find that making sandwiches different shapes helps. You can get lots of different shapes of cookie cutters for not very much money. Pinterest has tons of lunch ideas! I try to mix things up so they don’t get bored and that goes a long way to getting them to finish what I pack. I also know that they aren’t going to eat a lot every day and that’s fine with me.

I do still struggle with being organized and being tempted to grab a box of granola bars and other processed snacks when I’m at the grocery store. Don’t be under any illusion that I’ve got it all together. Of course it would be easier to grab boxes of prepackaged individually wrapped stuff all the time but if I do batches of lunch supplies I can be organized for a week or more.

Weekends are a great time to get the family involved in lunch planning and organizing. The more involved they are with picking their lunches the less I have to try to convince them to eat it. The kids like helping me make…anything really. It’s easy to get them to dump granola bar ingredients in a bowl and give it a stir. Little Miss is starting to use the stove with me so she can even do some of the cooking parts of lunch prep. A batch of granola bars are good for a week and once they are cut I wrap them individually and put in a container. Except for the cooling part, the whole process of making granola bars is only about 15 mins and there are lots of good recipes online. Look for lower sugar and higher protein versions so they keep their little bellies full longer.

In the fall after we go apple picking I make a big batch of apple sauce that will last for months in the freezer. I do the same thing with rice pudding . We put it in single serving containers that we can reuse. The night before we just take out what we will need, tuck it in the fridge, and it’s thawed out and ready to go into lunch boxes the next morning. If I am really adventurous I will make juice from some of the berries we pick in the summertime and some of that is made into jelly that will last in the fridge a week or two (if we can resist it that long). For the jelly just follow the directions on whatever gelatin you are using. Not much harder than making a box of over sweetened jelly powder. Again we just put it in single serving reusable containers.

Another use for the berries and fruit that we have is to make fruit leather. I invested in an inexpensive dehydrator last year and it was $25 well spent. I’ve tried several recipes and the kids really like it. I line the dehydrator tray with parchment paper and when it’s done I just cut into pieces and roll it up with the paper just like the ones from the store. They will last several weeks in the pantry.

If you buy fruit and veggies seasonally and from local farmers you are going to get a much better fresher product with more nutrients and you can find out first hand exactly how it was grown. You will get a good price as well. I buy organic fruits and veggies at our local farmers market every week and I pay much less than what I can get at a supermarket. A dehydrator will make those seasonal fruits last through the winter as well. I give my kids dried fruits as a snack, just be careful of how much since the sugars are concentrated when you dehydrate. We wouldn’t feed our kids 5-6 apricots at once, but it’s so easy to eat 5-6 dried apricots without even thinking about it.

I’ve always tried to cook more for dinner than what we would eat just so we have leftover for lunches and this also helps to break up lunch time boredom. Sometimes I’ll double or triple a recipe of chili, soup, or mac and cheese, and freeze individual portions for those weeks that we get super busy. There are all kinds and sizes of reusable containers so you can find exactly what would work for your own family. Just like the apple sauce, we just take a container out of the freezer the night before and we’re ready for the next morning.

These suggestions aren’t just for the kids either. Lots of times what the kids take is exactly the same as Hubby takes for his lunch and what I eat at home during the day (although different portion sizes).

Hope some of this helps with your own lunch planning.  I’d love to hear the things that help you get organized  and help you feed your families.

Have a beautiful day  and make sure you do something that makes you smile.

A

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