It’s time for the kiddos to go back to school, and you’re committed to packing their lunches this year.  For those who haven’t packed lunches before or are getting tired of the same old stuff, it may seem a bit daunting to think about planning yet another meal each day.  I’d love to help, but since my wife packs even my lunches (yes, spoiled and blessed) I’m going to just pass this off to her expert skills, and let her share some lunch packing tips that are simple, healthy, and kid-friendly.

To get started, packing lunches is much easier when you have the right tools.  Having a variety of containers makes it easy to always have the right thing for what you are serving (yogurt in a non-sealing bowl just doesn’t work.)  We like the following for function and all are BPA, and PVC free, are safe in the microwave, dishwasher, and freezer:

  • Sistema Klip-It Lunch Collection 3 Pack – $11
  • Fit & Fresh Kids’ Lunch Container Kit – $11
  • Cool Gear Bento Boxes – $19
  • Rubbermaid Lunch Blox – $8 (a little trickier for smaller fingers)
  • Reusable silicone cupcake liners, Norpro or Kinderville silicone smoothie pop molds – $1.50 /
  • Thermos food jars – nice for packing warm lunches – $15

Now you’ve got some cool tools, and it’s time to fill them up. When you’re prepping 5 boxes each day you find ways to save time, save money, and have a little fun.  Try this:

Prep in bulk.  Homemade muffins, breads and bars, healthier cookies, and turkey meatballs all freeze beautifully.  Make huge batches and freeze them up.

Think outside the box.Move over sandwich, soup or salad…some of my kids’ favorite lunches are a mish-mash of random things.  (We call them pick-pick lunches, because mommy just keeps picking things out of the freezer.) As long as they have a protein, some produce, and one or two things to round it out, they’re good.

Presentation.  Food appeal can make a big difference in getting kids to eat something.  Cutting veggies or cheese with little cookie cutters is effective, albeit time consuming.  If all else fails, the old saying is true…people love food on a stick.  Recognize that sometimes you are going to pack something and they aren’t going to like it.  It’s ok.  They won’t starve.

Now let’s fill those boxes with good stuff!  Here are some of our family faves.

Whole grain muffin or granola
Fruit and cheese skewers
Yogurt and fruit smoothie (sneak in spinach!) or frozen smoothie pop
Healthy crackers with a variety of toppings
Veggie sticks with yogurt dip or hummus
Apple disk and nut butter sandwiches
Quesadillas or pizzadillas
Turkey meatballs with marinara or barbecue sauce
Yogurt parfaits
Hard boiled eggs
Leftover grilled chicken breasts cut into sticks or nuggets with a favorite dip
Tortilla rollups (slice them into pinwheels for fun)
Chicken, Egg, Tuna or Salmon salad in pitas

Packing lunches doesn’t need to be complicated.  If you need more inspiration, our old friend Google is always full of ideas.  A few of our favorite sources are “Momables”, 100 Days of Real Food, Against All Grain, Super Healthy Kids, One Hungry Mama, and Once a Month Meals.  All are great resources for offering your child excellent fuel to excel in school.

Now get packing and have a great start to the school year.