Packing back to school lunches every evening before bed or every morning before your kids head out the door can seem like a daunting task. Different kids have different tastes, and many schools have peanut-free zones, so gone are the days of sending a quick PB & J sandwich.
Lunchbox trends have changed over the years, and students no longer seem to want gourmet sandwiches and snack packs. Instead, look for Bento lunchboxes at Bed Bath and Beyond, as they are a huge hit with kids. These lunches give kids the option of choosing from several different compartments of food, each offering small bites, instead of large portions. Parents have the challenge of being creative with food combinations and presentation.
Keep It Simple. A Bento-style lunch doesn’t have to be complicated. There are lots of different reusable containers that can be purchased and used to pack a lunch in. Silicone muffin cups can serve as compartment dividers, and make a cute serving size for little kids. They come in many different colors and designs, and can really add a pop of color to the lunchbox.
Make it a real meal for older kids. Older kids need substantial nourishment throughout the day, and by lunchtime, may be very hungry. Pack a lunch you know they’ll want to eat. A good choice is a mix of protein, fruits and veggies, dairy, and something comforting. A combo like mac and cheese with sliced sausage or hot dogs will feel like the ultimate comfort food feast! Add in some steamed veggies like broccoli or carrots, slices of strawberries (maybe even with a chocolate spread), and a stick of string cheese for a snack.
Wrap it up. Wraps are a great choice for lunch. Ditching all of the bread and choosing a wrap is a healthier option, and there are endless wrap possibilities. Younger kids might like a banana with peanut butter wrapped up and cut into slices for a yummy banana sushi. Another favorite is peanut butter, dried cranberries, and chocolate chips. Older kids might enjoy a nice salad in a wrap, or their favorite deli meats and cheeses all wrapped up. Wraps are easy to transport, and can be easily heated up, if needed.
Make it fun. Little ones do well with little bites, and lots of variety. Select a lunchbox with lots of compartments for them to choose from. Adding small pieces of a sandwich is a great start. Add some of their favorite foods to the other compartments. Cheese crackers, fruit, granola, cheese, yogurt bites, and a special treat will make any child smile when they crack open their special lunchbox!
Use up leftovers. Using last night’s leftovers to create a meal for lunch is smart and can save you money. Make a chicken salad with leftover roasted chicken. It can be served with crackers, or on a bed of lettuce as a salad. Have leftover meatloaf on hand? Turn it into meatball sub sandwiches! Just add a little pizza sauce and Mozzarella cheese to a hoagie roll, and you’ll have a delicious heat and eat lunch your kids are sure to love! Leftover Papa Johns Pizza is a great lunchbox treat.
DIY Lunchables. If you loves getting those stack and snack treats in your lunchbox, chances are your kids will, too. No need to spend an arm and a leg on the prepared version. You can easily make your own with crackers, deli meat, and sliced cheeses. Use a tiny cookie cutter to cut out fun shapes of the meats and cheeses. Add in sliced fruit or a cookie treat for a complete meal.
Using these creative back to school lunch ideas will not only save you time and money, they will leave a smile on your child’s face.