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School lunches can be fun!
If you’ve read any of my other back to school posts, you know that I am all about being prepared! That time is inching closer and closer to being here every day! Along with back to school, comes the dreaded task of figuring out 5 creative school lunches each week. Let’s face it, if it’s boring and basic, they just won’t eat it. What’ a parent to do? Check out some of the creative ideas I follow to keep things interesting throughout the year of school lunches! Also, make sure to check out these after school snack ideas to get their energy up for homework and sports practice!
1. Bento Boxes
If you’ve ever eaten at a Japanese restaurant of any type, you have likely heard of bento boxes. In it’s most basic form, it just signifies a divided box of varying foods. Bento boxes don’t have to contain teriyaki chicken and various sushi options. Think about how much kids love to snack and graze on different foods throughout their day. (Don’t tell me that’s just my kid.) With bento box style school lunches, you can serve the kids blueberries, goldfish crackers, grilled chicken pieces, noodles, carrots, etc, all in their own separate little areas.
You can find containers especially made for this purpose, or you can simply use a variety of boxes in an assortment of sizes that you already have. Small Rubbermaid containers in varying sizes work great for this concept! I have linked a few of our all time favorite bento box style lunch boxes below!
You can shape the food in your kids’ bento box in creative ways to make school lunches even more exciting. There is really no limit as far as creativity. You can buy special sandwich cutters, adorably shaped kids food picks, silicone baking cups for dividing foods, and just about anything else you can imagine.
If you need inspiration for cute and creative ideas, there are tons of websites completely dedicated to bento box school lunches!
We don’t always think of pasta as a quick and easy lunch option, but it really is so easy! You can make a big batch of pasta (try using a fun shape your kids love) at the beginning of the week. Throughout the week, you can add in various vegetables, meats, and sauces to keep the variety in school lunches! Pasta with grilled chicken and peas is a great one that can be served hot or cold! You can also simply add some butter and garlic salt to turn a plain pasta into something delicious.
Pasta is one of those foods that can go great with just about any flavor addition. Since you can buy any sauce imaginable in a jar these days, you don’t have to put in the time and effort to make sauces from scratch. Simply toss some pasta and sauce together, add in whatever additions your kids like, and lunch is complete!
Related: Must-Read Stories For Back to School
Okay, I know, sandwiches are the old classic. My kid is not and has never been a very big fan of sandwiches of any type. As a toddler, he would just eat the meat and cheese off a ham and cheese sandwich. When we had BLTs, he basically just stuck to the B…. on a plate. (Don’t judge me mamas.) Over the years, I have learned that the most effective way to get him, or most any other kid, to eat something they don’t usually find exciting, is to make it fun! As I mentioned above, sandwich cutters are a thing these days. Although, cookie cutters really do work just as well and can be easier to find.
Sometimes, I’ll serve my kid a sandwich in the shape of a dinosaur or robot. To really make it fun, you can add eyes and a mouth using vegetables or raisins, depending on the type of sandwich! Other times, I simply cut 1 normal square sandwich into about 10 bite size squares. For whatever reason, this takes boring old sandwiches and turns them into the coolest school lunches ever.
If you cut the sandwich into multiple small squares, circles, stars, etc, the best way to pack it is usually in a small plastic sandwich keeper (like these from Crayola!) or Rubbermaid style reusable container. This helps everything keep its shape and not get smashed!I usually add in a little bag of pretzels or goldfish crackers, a drink, and possibly a cookie or two.
While sandwiches may seem boring, wraps give them a brand-new life! You can turn just about any sandwich idea into a wrap that they’ll love. I do ham and cheese wraps, grilled chicken caesar wraps, taco wraps (taco meat of any variety with lettuce and cheese inside), and even peanut butter and jelly wraps!
These are so easy to make, and they store perfectly! You can make a batch on Sunday, wrap them up with some plastic wrap, and refrigerate them. Then, just toss one in their lunch box each morning along with a drink, some fruit, and crackers or chips. There are so many different things you can turn into a wrap that it’s impossible to run out of ideas for school lunches!
Soup is another great lunchbox option, especially as the months get colder. With all the thermoses and container options out there, you can find the perfect one for your kids’ hot lunches. I often make homemade soup on Sunday that can then be packed into a couple of school lunches throughout the week. Chicken noodle and vegetable are both huge hits around here.
Other similar options are beef stew or chili. Both are easy to make in a large batch and keep great in a well-insulated thermos. Containers made to keep foods hot or cold have really come a long way since I was a kid! It is impressive how well they work and how many varieties there are these days. A couple of my favorite thermoses to pack in my son’s lunchbox (or my own at times even) are below. These give our kids the ability to have nice, warm, and comforting homemade school lunches each day.
If you have little ones that like salad, it is a great option for school lunches with tons of variety. Load it up with black beans, corn, grilled chicken, shredded cheese, and top it with a low fat ranch dressing for a southwest style lunch. Or, keep it more simplified with a chicken caesar salad!
You can buy salad storage containers almost anywhere these days. They typically are large bowls that contain different compartments for each component of your salad and a special bottle or lidded container for dressing! Many even come with their own fork attached to the container.
With all the options available, your child never has to get bored with the school lunches you pack. Thanks to the large variety of storage options for different foods, your child’s school lunches will stay safe and delicious until lunch time. Make it a point to experiment with all different types of lunch ideas throughout the school year. Find what they like best, what they would prefer less of, and what they simply will not eat. Without parents being next to kids during the school day, it’s easy for them to choose to not eat much of their lunch. By making sure they have something fun and delicious packed, we can be confident that they’ll be well fueled for learning!