Monday, August 26, 2013

Planning for school lunches - part 1

My kids start back at school next week which means I'm back to packing lunches. My eldest is about to enter 11th grade, so I've been packing lunches for about 10 years and have come up with some ideas for making it easier although there is always the need to tweak my methods.

    1. The biggest step is planning in advance. For the last couple of years I have always included my kid's lunches on my weekly menu plan but this year I have gone even further. I planned out four weeks worth of school lunch menus. Each week includes five days of lunches, a grocery list which I can add to my main list, and the prep required on the weekend. The 'main course' is different for each of the 20 days which should help keep the kids from getting bored with their lunches and if all works well I hope to be able to repeat using the same menu plan each month. I'll try making different types of muffins and cookies to add a bit of variety.

    2. Have items in the freezer ready to pack. Over the past week I have prepared chili, taco soup, seasoned taco meat, precooked some sausages and made vegetable soup. This week I will be making muffins and cookies as well as grilling some chicken breasts and making chicken noodle soup. It sounds like a lot of extra work, but I have just made larger batches of items that I was preparing anyway. When freezing items, I measured out how much I need to fill each of the kid's thermos' and froze in those sized glass containers. I then labelled everything by week and day.

    3. Prepare in advance. I spend about a half an hour on the weekend or on the Monday preparing a few things in advance. I cut up vegetables such as carrot and celery sticks, use the bread machine to make a loaf or some rolls, cook up rice or quinoa to be used in salads, etc. I keep these in a labelled container in the fridge ready to go.
      4. Make it healthy. I am a big proponent of eating real food, with as few preservatives as possible. Each day I include at least one fruit, one vegetable, a source of protein and some form of whole grains. In my menu plan, I have left it open as to which fruit or vegetable I will pack based on what is in season. I also have found some healthy snacks and baking recipes so the kids feel like they are still getting a treat once in awhile. There is a lot of information available with healthy alternatives for lunches. One site that I particularly like is

      5. Adjust for each child. When putting together the plan, I had to put each child's interests and needs into account. My 17 year old needs a larger lunch and can't be bothered with having snacks and finger food. He also has assured me that no other high school students even pack lunch, so it needs to be something he can eat quick and they join his friends. He also has a few after school activities so I pack a box of snacks that he keeps in his locker for 'emergencies' and some days even an extra meal if he'll be staying quite late. He can also pack items with nuts whereas the other two attend a nut-free school.
      6. Have good containers in duplicate. The kids have always liked hot meals a couple times a week so we have good quality thermos, with the boys having larger ones. In addition to those, I have upgraded to have sectioned lunch boxes for the younger two and a couple of other sets that fit together with ice packs built in. With the ice packs, I feel better about packing items such as yogurt. In the past I was using mutliple small containers which were frequently cracking or getting 'lost' before they arrived home. The sectioned containers work so much better! I also just purchased reusable snack bags this week and we'll see how that goes.

      7. Store lunch prep items in one location. I have a dedicated area where the lunch kits, containers, bags, etc. are all located. Now if I could only get the kids to unpack, wash and put them back there!

      It may seem like a lot of extra effort but I know the time I put in now will make things better every morning and the kids will have much healthier, well-rounded lunches. If everything is ready to go, it's easy for the kids to help pack their own lunches and get everyone out the door smoother.

      I will post our Week #1 menu after we give it a test run, and provide links for some of the recipes I used for baking once they get the a-okay from the kids.

      linked to Give Me the Goods, Home Stories A to Z,Sugar Bee Crafts,Not Just a Housewife, Hope Studios, Carolyn's Homework, Time to Sparkle,A Bowl full of Lemons  It's Overflowing


  1. Great tips!!! Thanks for sharing. Feel free to link up to my Friday party.

  2. This looks awesome!!! We would love it if you would link up at our linky party:
    Live every Wednesday to Sunday.
    Hosted by: Parrish @ Life with the Crust Cut Off Dana @ This Silly Girl’s Life
    We hope to see you there!

  3. Great Ideas! School lunches can become such a chore...I love your tips! XO, Aimee -