Meal Prepping School Lunches

It’s that time of year again for parents to switch gears and get back into the routine of school schedules.  I used to drag my feet doing the back to school shopping, getting the school supply lists, lunch stuff, clothes, shoes, Open Houses to hand over a ton of money, volunteer and mingle with everyone all over again.    But now I completely look at all of this differently.  It is a way as a parent to set our kids up for success for this coming school year, to make sure we are all organized, and each morning flows a smoothly as possible.

Here are some of the best tips we have tried with our kids during the school year that went over really well.  I had to get creative at times and go over the top but the kids still talk about their packed school lunches and that makes it worthwhile.

One year when B was in 3rd grade I decided I would get really creative. I had done the jokes in the lunchbox she could share with her friend.  Like joke of the day, the riddle of the day or tongue twisters but she was getting tired of those and asked for something new.  I was at the craft store and an idea came out of the blue to me.  To color code her lunches, meaning all orange stuff one day, blue, red, and do as many colors as possible.  I had cookie cutters so I would cut up her sandwiches in shapes since she didn’t care for the crusts anyway.

I did theme lunches each week, such as an ocean theme, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, if they had a lesson in school, I would try to come up with different ideas to incorporate it into the lunches.  For the month of December, I actually wrapped all her food up in Christmas wrapping paper and put bows on it.  I made pretty tags with messages of I love u, have a good day, or even a Santa joke.  I looked up party themes on Pinterest and took their food ideas and used them in the lunchbox themes.  You don’t run out, there are so many of them and it is fun to do.  B never knew what she would have when she opened up her lunch box and her friends began to notice and get in on the fun too.

I was able to sneak in so much nutrition during that year of school lunches. I began to experiment with dicing up cauliflower, broccoli, spinach or kale into tiny bits or puree it and add it to recipes.  They didn’t notice the taste at school or at home.  I got really good at hiding the veggies into their food and they were eating it!! A double win for a momma!! This year I have been asked to bring back the theme lunch boxes for our 1st grader and 8th grader. Except now the 8th grader wants me to do Bento boxes and gourmet meals.

So how does this work when we are really tired, our schedules are already maxed out and now we are going to add one more thing. Well, it takes some planning and follows thru on our part.  My biggest lesson with school lunches is to ask what sounds good for the week, give them two themes I am thinking of (based on sale items in ads) so they have a say in what they feel like eating.  I then think of the extras over the weekend such as notes, I write them out ahead of time or print them out. Hallmark store has really cute cards that are small and thoughtful.

You may be thinking why in the world would she go to all this effort for school lunch?  I mean its lunch, right?  I do it because I am thoughtful, I want to make my kids feel special and know they are thought of. If and when they have that bad day at school, and they open up a lunch box and see someone did all the little extra thoughtful things for them it not only makes them feel better, but it causes a ripple effect.  I am making an impact on their emotional well-being.  I can tell you from our experience, after hearing how much she enjoyed them, her friends enjoying lunchtime too, it gives them something else positive to talk about, it is well worth the effort.

When we make the food look fun, they are more likely to try it. We bought the book Three Bit Rule, Pete the Cat for our 1st grader and it has made a difference in her openness to trying new things. We all do the three-bite rule and it is fun when she reminds us, we have to try new things too.  I no longer just stick to sandwiches or prepackaged items out of a bag or box for lunch either.  We do make our own Lunchables with nitrate-free lunch meat (again cut up into shapes), cubed cheese and I try to make homemade protein cookies for a dessert.  My go-to formula for packing lunches is two proteins, one fruit and/or veggie with something sweet.

When we hit math facts in kindergarten, I would write math facts on a sticky note and tape it to the container or baggie.  7+0=7 so she would have to take at least 7 bites of that item.  What I found out at the lunch table they would all do math facts together and that always helps when your peers are coming up with their own math problems and everyone is solving them.

Sunday mornings are when we meal prep for the entire week. I do this so I can just pull from the refrigerator shelf each morning or the girls can when they are packing their lunches.  It saves time, hassle and discussion over what will they eat that day. One day of prep for five easy days of lunches already made, now that is what I’m talking about.

I encourage you to stretch yourself this year and get creative with lunches.  It takes some planning and a little time, but if you have it all planned out and maybe you can even prep lunches like we do on Sunday it is already made for the entire week.    Do you do have any time-saving tips to share with us? If so please comment below. Feel free to click on the share button if you think others would enjoy these tips also.