So this isn't going to be a post showing how to make an adorable themed lunch for your child. (Don't get me wrong, I love seeing all those cute sandwiches cut and decorated in elaborate shapes and my kids would go nuts if they ever opened their lunch box to see one of their favorite characters made out of food, but it's just not going to happen here.) Instead, if you're like me and lunch-making isn't your chore of choice, here are just a few things that have been working well for us.
Here are my tips...
Reduce Stress by doing as much as you can before hand. School day mornings are hectic enough without having to figure out what you'll be putting in the lunchboxes that day. My kids don't really like the texture of sandwiches that have been refrigerated over night, so I make the sandwiches or "main dish" each morning. However, we try to have all our "side dishes" portioned out, packaged up and ready to go.
Save Money by buying regular (or bulk size) packages and making your own individual-sized servings. If you look at the price per pound or ounce in the grocery store, you'll see that the individual sized packages of crackers, cookies, and other treats can be almost double the price per pound of the larger packages. Also, as handy as the prepackaged apple slices or cut fresh fruits can be, you often pay significantly more for that convenience.
We have been trying to package up our fruits and snacks on Sundays, and then refill and restock once more later in the week.
With the money I'm saving, I'm often able to buy a few extra snacks that I might not be able to afford in the individual sized packages. Plus, packaging them yourself often makes things a lot easier to open at lunchtime. (Have you ever seen a kid try to open one of the prepackaged fruit cups or container of pudding? I volunteer in our school cafeteria and believe me, 95% of the time, the extra juice in the fruit cup ends up spilling EVERYWHERE!)
Eat Better by having healthful snacks packed up and ready to go. As much as I recognize the benefits, we don't eat only organic and my kids still get some "junk food" in their lunches or after school for snacks. However, I know we're much more likely to include a good variety of fruits and veggies in our diets if I make a stop at the produce market and get everything sliced up and ready to go. Also, by taking a few minutes to portion everything out before the week starts, I know that I we'll actually eat the food and those strawberries or cucumbers won't go bad sitting in their original cartons in the back of the fridge.
Involving the Kids has really made a difference this school year. Many of the softer fruits like strawberries can be sliced with a not-too-sharp knife and the kids don't mind helping to slice and package if they can sample a few.
My oldest daughter (almost 10) loves to help in the kitchen. I know she feels so important and helpful when I let her make up some instant pudding, jello or other "recipes" for lunches and after school snacks.
Just so you know, regular Jello is good, but adding fruit slices makes it much fancier!
Finally, you can Encourage Independence and Responsibility by letting your kids partially pack their own lunches in the morning. As I mentioned, I will still make their sandwiches or pack their hot "main dish" in a thermos, but I'll let the kids pick out their own sides from our prepackaged containers. Depending on what we've made up, they usually have to get out two fruits or veggies and one or two other sides (jello, pudding, yogurt, crackers, etc.). They're not quite to the point where they can pack their own lunches completely ~ but this puts them well on their way.
NOTE: I did try letting my oldest daughter pack the lunches for everyone a few times last year. After a quick glance at the lunchbox, I thought she'd done a great job. However, when I heard my son thanking her that afternoon for the "extra sugar you put on my sandwich" and found out she'd added a spoonful of sugar to his PB&J, I knew they weren't quite ready to go at it all on their own just yet. ;)
I have partnered with The Glad Products Company through DailyBuzz Moms to help promote their Food Storage products. I have been compensated for my time commitment to review this product. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments. Thank you GLAD!