School Lunch Solutions!

School starts this week around these parts. It has me thinking about the almighty school lunch.

Do any other moms out there struggle with healthy options to send in their kid’s lunches?

This year, I’ll have two kiddos in school – a 2nd grader and an all-day Kindergartner (boo-hoo!).

They prefer to take a home lunch and I swear that’s not even with me brainwashing them into it and telling them all the reasons to avoid the mystery meat in the cafeteria lunch line.

Because they enjoy it, I try to stay on my toes about keeping foods on hand that they like to eat.

I have compiled a list of lunch solution ideas that I keep taped to the inside of one of my kitchen cupboards.

When I’m throwing together lunch in the morning or the night before, I open up the cupboard, take a peek at the list and choose an option or two from each section. It takes the brain work out of fixing lunch.

Cause, you know, it requires a ton of brainpower to do such a simple chore around my house. I also keep these items on my grocery list at all times so that I have them on hand to make lunches.

This year, I am changing up the system a bit. In the past, I’ve put all the lunch components in plastic bags and in my child’s lunchbox. But this year, I bought two little bento-style boxes.

Not because I plan on cutting out their sandwiches in the shape of a transformer action figure (because I don’t) but because I like the idea of placing the food in different compartments, washing it quickly at the end of the day and reusing the next day.

I have a few insulated lunchboxes that these Goodbyn lunch containers fit into, in case I am sending something that needs to stay cooler.

Here is an example of a lunch I packed in one of the boxes. I keep things pretty simple. Reduced-fat Triscuit crackers, a ham and cheese roll-up on a tortilla (secured with toothpicks to prevent unrolling and thereby prevent my Kindergartner from melting into a pool of tears at lunch time without his mom there to help him), grapes, a Babybel cheese round, and a homemade chocolate chip cookie.

Here’s another lunch option. Trader Joe’s kettle corn, a PB&H sandwich on homemade bread (I understand peanut butter is banned from some schools due to allergies but it is still allowable at ours thanks to Peanut-Free tables), string cheese, a handful of garden-fresh cherry tomatoes, and dried mangos.

You really can get as creative as you like and customize the food options to what your child(ren) like to eat.

I’ve compiled a list of our favorite lunch options – an even greater list than the one that resided in my cupboard last year.

I plan on branching out even more and adding to that list (thinking up some ideas for savory-type muffins) as I embark upon lunch-packing this year, whereupon I will let you know immediately with a little blurb on facebook or a recipe post here.

As a quick sidenote, I splurged at Pottery Barn when I was there last month on vacation in Oregon and bought a Lunch Lines booklet of easy tear-out slapstick jokes to include in my boys’ lunches.

You know, jokes like “What do you call someone who designs dog houses? A Bark-itect.” Hilarious. For a 7-year old, that is. I think my boys will get a kick out of seeing the latest joke to appear in their lunch (and maybe a sappy lovenote from mom, as well).

One of the biggest helps I have for lunch packing is to have a lot of the foods prepped in the refrigerator (as in, watermelon already cut, carrots cut into sticks, etc.). It makes throwing it in the lunch box easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.

Here is my list so far:

SANDWICHES/WRAPS/MAIN FARE
• Tortilla wraps {Natural lunch meat and cheese wrapped in a tortilla, cut in half and each half secured with a toothpick}
• Sandwiches {PB&H, PB&J, meat and cheese, etc.}
• Sandwich skewers {a deconstructed sandwich skewered on a long toothpick or bamboo skewer – meat chunks, cheese cubes, bread cubes, cherry tomato, etc.}
• Meatballs {my kids love meatballs on a toothpick or just in a little container with a plastic fork}
• Leftover pizza {I know cold pizza makes some of you want to hurl but my kiddos love it}
• Ham or Turkey roll-ups {lunch meat rolled up with a squirt of mustard and a pickle}
• Mini-bagels with filling/topping of kid’s choice
• Sliced turkey kielbasa or other lean sausage {I include a toothpick for easy eating}

FRUIT
• Apple or Pear slices
• Dried fruit/Raisins
• Fruit Leather {I like the Stretch Island brand}
• Applesauce
• Strawberries/Blueberries
• Grapes
• Half of a banana
• Watermelon/Cantaloupe chunks
• Pineapple chunks
• Orange slices

VEGGIES
• Baby carrots/carrot sticks
• Sugar snap peas
• Celery sticks
• Handful of cherry tomatoes

SIDES
• Hard boiled egg
• String cheese
• Mini Babybel cheese
• Crackers/chips
• Pretzel sticks
• Yogurt/Cottage cheese
• Popcorn

DESSERTS
• A note: I don’t send a treat every day in my kid’s lunches, but when the mood strikes, I grab one of these homemade cookies from the freezer and throw it in frozen to thaw before lunch time.

DRINKS
• Another note: My kids drink white milk for lunch and they buy it at school so I’m off the hook for packing a drink.

Here is a less-wordy PDF version for printing, if you’d like.

Now it’s your turn…what are a few of your favorite school lunch solutions? Oh yes, please share!