Making your kiddo a healthy, colorful and yummy school (or daycare) lunch doesn't have to be difficult - in fact, 5 minutes is all it takes to make all of these 16 school lunches!!
I guess you can call me a lunch box making novice - as I have only been packing school lunches for 2 months now.
But like anything, I have gone bento box crazy and completely overboard in making these the best lunches around! And even though I think I am on the verge of having hubby change my amazon password so I can't order any more bento boxes, I have so much passion for making healthy, fun and yummy lunches for my little Ellie! I just can't stop!
What I have found over the last 2 months, is that it really should only take 5 minutes to make a school lunch.
5 minutes and you are done!
And let's be honest, one of best parts of making school lunches is snacking on the fun treats as you put the box together (hello chocolate covered pretzels!!! YUMMY!).
I also find it totally therapeutic to drink a glass of wine after dinner and put these lunches together and maybe, just maybe there is a small part of me that wants them to actually take longer to pack <------- I know this is not the thoughts of a normal person.
Tip #1 - Find 5 Minutes
That's usually all it takes me to pack these lunches - 5 minutes! But which 5 minutes those are really matters!!
I have found through trial and error, that making Ellie's lunches at night is the best time for me. I tried making them in the morning and it was a complete disaster - I was stressed, I spilled my coffee and Ellie almost went to school with no lunch!
Now, I make Ellie's (and Parker's) lunch for the next day at night. I usually make them after dinner but before I clean up my kitchen. There is food all over the place anyway, so I might as well take advantage of this crazy time of night. I also toss things onto the counter that I might use for their lunches as I am preparing dinner and if there is something from dinner (fruit, yogurt, chopped veggies) that isn't half gnawed on, I know I can alway use that up.
If you are packing lunches at night, know that fresh lemon or lime juice is going to be your best friend. A little squeeze on apples, pears and avocado will keep them fresh until lunch the next day.
If nights don't work for you, find a time that does. Maybe it's after the kiddos get home from school, after they go to bed or even in the morning if you are a morning person. The point is, find those 5 minutes that work best for you.
Tip #2 - Rock the Leftovers
Using leftovers is one of the keys to my fast prep time and is also a great way to use up any extra food you have in the fridge. You can make leftover chicken into a chicken salad sandwich or toss it on a fast pita pizza. Leftover pasta is great served as is. Meatballs can easily become sandwich-on-a-stick materials. Waffles and pancakes are great served by themselves with a small container of seed butter, almond butter or syrup or even make into a cream cheese sandwich.
You get the point - get creative with your leftovers.
Tip #3 - Have a Plan
As hard as it is sometimes for me to get a meal plan together every week, I have noticed that when I have a meal plan that includes both dinners and lunches, it makes my lunch prep ssssssooooooo much easier and I am not standing in front of the fridge for 30 minutes wondering what the heck to pack!
While I'm making my weekly meal plan, these are things I keep in mind/do:
- Plan a couple of dinners a night where I know I can reuse the leftovers in some fashion for a lunch later in the week.
- I always take a look in the fridge and figure out what I have in there that can be made into a lunch - lunch meat for a sandwich, seed butter for an apple dip, yogurt is always a must have and hard boiled eggs can be added in alone or smashed into a spread for some crackers
- If there isn't anything that I need to use up, what do I need to get at the store to make the lunches.
- It's alway nice to have a small stash of healthy treats hidden away just for lunches. I like to take inventory of those snacks and make sure I have enough healthy salty and sweet items for the lunches (and for me:).
Although, I am still waiting to put together my official bento box review (still waiting on a couple boxes to use), I have included the links for the boxes I have shown below.
5 Compartment Metal Box
3 Compartment Metal Box
White Plastic Box
Blue Round Tray
Silicon Cupcake Liners
Colorful Small Round Dip/Treat Container
Round Metal Yogurt Container