Cafeteria food hasn’t changed much since you once went to school. It’s much easier to guarantee your kids will eat all their lunch when you pack it, but what should you pack? How do you keep it from being boring? It isn’t nearly as big of an undertaking as you may think it is.
Admittedly, it can be hard to think outside the (lunch)box when it comes to what to prepare. Plus, if your mornings are anything like my mornings, there’s simply no time. And while it making the same lunch daily could make things simpler, I think we can both agree, adult or child, eating the same thing everyday is NOT fun.
Here are five easy-to-implement strategies to get you well on your way to kicking butt at lunch-making for your kids in no time.
1. Prepare the night before. You’re already in the kitchen cooking dinner, why not utilize that kitchen time to start preparing lunch? I cut carrots, celery, cucumbers, or prep other side-dishes while I’m busy cooking dinner, using my time more wisely. This comes in handy especially if I’m re-purposing ingredients for lunches the next day. Say I’m serving pizza for dinner, and then I decide to use pizza toppings and make pizzadillas or pizza grilled cheeses the next day. I’d rather prepare the night before than rush to make the morning of.
2. Use leftovers creatively. There’s no law that says leftovers aren’t good for lunches. In fact, I think they make the BEST lunches. (Plus, they’re already prepared, what could be easier!? Why not, if you’re serving spaghetti and meatballs for dinner, prepare extra meatballs to serve meatball subs for the next day’s lunch? Or use that leftover spaghetti and serve with a breadstick instead? On taco night, why not use some of the soft taco shells and taco meat, roll-up the meat inside the shell, and bake in the oven to make some baked taquitos for lunch? The sky is the limit here, so long as you consider how well their lunches will keep out of the fridge until lunchtime. As some cafeterias do not allow microwaving, it’s best to send along already-cooked, easy to eat room-temperature meals for the kids.
3. Breakfast for lunch? Okay! This is my favorite trick! And I feel a little sneaky doing it! While you’re busy cooking dinner one night, batch cook a bunch of breakfast-type items for your kids all at once. This way, you’re saving time in the mornings for your family (because they can re-heat breakfasts during those hurry-up mornings) while simultaneously creating a fun and “different” lunch for them, too! Try pouring whipped eggs, cheese, and some crumbled bacon into muffin pans for easy-to-eat mini quiches, or, while making regularly sized muffins, prepare a batch of fun-sized mini-muffins to add pizazz to any lunch.
4. Make it fun. You don’t have to be a skilled professional chef to make lunches fun for your kids. Some of our favorite ways to make it fun and give them something to look forward to include: wrapping string cheese in lunch meat, quartering it, and making “lunch meat sushi.” Also, cut up a hot dog lengthwise to make legs for an octopus! Or spread peanut butter on celery, topping it with raisins for “ants on a log.”
5. Go with what you know. Got a picky eater (like I do)? It’s okay to have to cater to a picky palate. But there are times you wonder, “Is this getting boring?” To help change-up the normal a little, do it slightly different each time. Does your child live and breathe grilled cheese? Make his favorite sandwich in cut-out shapes instead (like stars, circles, squares) or on different breads to spice things up! Does she love nutella? Make her a nutella uncrustable sandwich, or give her pretzel rods with nutella to dip it in!
I’m currently on a mission to make lunches for my children fun, exciting, and something they can look forward to. I’m calling it Operation Awesome School Lunch. I’d love it if you’d join me. You can follow our journey on our School Lunch Pinterest board, too.
Have any questions? Feel free to ask away!
About the Author:
Lisa Douglas is an Army wife and mother to S-E-V-E-N kids, and author of CrazyAdventuresinParenting.com, a parenting blog that provides an often humorous take on parenting, and all the (hilarious) war-stories that go along with it, with family-friendly recipes, health & fitness, kids crafts, & other family-oriented topics.