By Kristin Boza
There’s a certain pleasure in packing school lunches for your kids; it’s a simple way to show them you care during a long day apart. Well, at least that’s how it feels during the first week of school. The labor of love often turns into just another chore to churn out on hectic mornings.
Moms of Beverly/Morgan Park came together to share some of their best tips, tricks and hacks to make school lunch packing easier than ever.
Bento Boxes Provide Variety
Bento boxes, which are usually found built into lunch boxes, contain several small compartments for packing food. They offer a great solution for picky eaters and give parents an opportunity to pack quite a few options. Consider cutting up half of a sandwich for the largest container, then include a sampling of fruit (grapes, cut-up strawberries, and blueberries fit perfectly in the small spaces), hummus, carrot sticks, and perhaps even a couple fruit snacks or chocolates for dessert.
Post a Menu
St. Barnabas School mom Moira Benton solved the “What’s for lunch?” question by developing a weekly menu for her four children. She created a simple Word template with spaces for two Post-It notes per day and hangs it on the fridge, so the kids always know what they are eating for breakfast and lunch.
“I create menus for breakfast and lunch, and they are a life saver. Plus, I use Post-It notes so the menu is easily changeable,” she said. “We even use it during vacations and summer; it just makes life easier. The Post-Its are great for any unexpected changes, like if we’re out of something or it’s hot lunch day at school,” Benton said.
Uncrustables are found in the freezer section at any grocery store, but often contain undesirable preservatives or additives. However, they are perfect for picky eaters who can’t stand the sight of a crust of bread. Lisa Forde, who has one daughter at Mother McAuley High School and another at St. Barnabas School, sometimes makes a batch of her own version of Uncrustables using a Pampered Chef sandwich cutter. The sandwiches can be made ahead of time and frozen (see recipe below).
Think Outside the Sandwich
Get as creative as the kid’s palette will allow and build out a lunch with a variety of healthy foods. Forde says her daughters will choose to pack hummus with pita chips or carrots, or even spinach salad topped with strawberries. She uses the Rubbermaid Brilliance salad set or sandwich set, which provide small individual containers to pack foods that can later be mixed together; one favorite lunch is a mix of yogurt, granola and berries all separated so they don’t get soggy by lunchtime.
Nut butter (soynut or sunflower butter can be used for children with allergies or attending a nut-free school)
Make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as usual, but concentrate the filling on the center of the bread only.
Take a sandwich sealer tool or even a large glass cup and place it over the sandwich, pressing down until the bread is cut through. Before removing the sandwich sealer or glass, gently remove the crust.
Lay the prepared sandwiches on a baking sheet, uncovered, and freeze for two hours.
Once frozen through, remove the sandwiches and place in individual baggies or wrap in plastic wrap.
Keep frozen until ready to use. Either send the sandwich to school frozen (it will thaw by lunchtime) or microwave for 15 seconds if eating right away.