School has been back in session for a few weeks and I have a confession to make. I’m tired of packing lunches already. I have one child who buys a hot lunch most of the time but the other packs his lunch every single day. EVERY SINGLE DAY! And I find myself needing ways to change it up while still keeping it simple. So I thought I’d share how I figured out how to pack school lunch without getting bored and without it being too complicated!
This post is sponsored by Horizon Organic all thoughts and opinions are my own.
HOW TO PACK SCHOOL LUNCH ALL YEAR LONG
I like to keep things simple around here. I break almost everything we do down into easy steps and routines. Last month, I shared my dance bag basics for making it easy to get my girl to the studio with everything she needs. But sometimes you have to change up the routine just a bit. This is especially true when it comes to school lunches.
Whether you’re a few weeks into the school year or a few months, it’s easy to find yourself in a packed lunch rut. This can happen if you’re packing lunches for school but also if you’re packing lunches for work, too!
The lunch rut is a real challenge and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who faces it.
My kids like a lot of the same things in their packed lunches but after a few weeks of the same thing, they will stop eating what I pack. That’s when I know they’re feeling the lunch rut too!
So I find myself wanting to change up the lunch routine, but I don’t want to spend a ton of time hunting down new ideas and doing a bunch of meal planning. I’m also not the type that’s going to break out any of those amazingly creative bento box ideas.
But there is an easy to way to make sure packing lunches is less of a chore all year long with our easy tips!
HOW TO PACK LUNCH & SHAKE THE LUNCH RUT
No matter what my kids take to school for lunch, there are a few things I always want to make sure they have. Protein is my number one.
I want to make sure they start their mornings off with protein and then continue through the day. For lunch, protein is usually pretty easy to check off with the main dish. High protein foods help fuel up our kids for great days at school. With Weston, it can be a challenge to get the protein I want in his lunch and that’s where Horizon Organic products are a huge help to me.
I’m also looking for balance so I aim for a fruit or vegetable. Then I add something dairy usually as well as a snack type item. Last, but not least, is something that the kids see as a treat of some kind.
This is the list I stick with:
- Protein (it doesn’t have to be a sandwich!)
- Fruits or vegetables (organic preferred)
- Yogurt or cheese (organic preferred)
- Something crunchy
- Something sweet
Using those six categories, I made a list of a variety of foods my kids like in each one. I’ve created a checklist of some of our favorite foods that I look at when I make my grocery list each week.
LUNCHBOX DRINK IDEAS
When it comes to drinks, we rotate different fruit juice and milk since the kids have a water bottle with them all day long.
Water is Carrigan’s favorite drink during the school day but at lunchtime, she loves having milk. On the days she packs her lunch, I depend on Horizon Organic single-serve milk boxes!
They make it easy to take protein on the go including to school for lunch! The milk boxes have 8 grams of protein as well as calcium. The Horizon Organic milk boxes are shelf-stable so they are perfect for her lunch. She gets the taste she loves and I get the nutrition of real organic milk with no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives!
PACKED LUNCH PROTEIN IDEAS
- Ham/Turkey and Cheese Sandwich
- Ham/Turkey Roll-Ups
- Meat, Cheese, & Veggie Kabobs
- Hot Dog
- Pigs in a Blanket/Mini Corn Dogs
- Mini pancakes with sausage links
- Macaroni and Cheese
FRUIT AND VEGGIES THAT ARE GREAT FOR LUNCH (ORGANIC PREFERRED)
- Apple slices
- Pear slices
- Orange slices
- Melon chunks
- Pineapple chunks
- Mandarin Oranges
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Celery Sticks
- Carrot Sticks
- Sugar Snap Peas
- Red Pepper Slices
YOGURT AND CHEESE (ORGANIC PREFERRED)
Both of my kids love yogurt and Carrigan is a huge cheese fan. So yogurt and cheese are easy ways for me to get another pop of protein into their diet in the middle of the day.
Yogurt tubes are perfect and I alternate them with Horizon Organic string cheese to give the kids variety throughout the week. The cheese sticks are available in Mozzarella and Colby and have 7 grams of protein. Carrigan has been known to enjoy a cheese stick in the morning on the way to school too.
- Baked cheese crackers
- Tortilla chips
- Wheat crackers
- Pita chips
- Rice cakes
Fruit snacks are my staple when it comes to putting a treat in lunches, but I like to surprise the kids every so often with something they think is really special.
- Fruit snacks
- Dried fruit
- Granola bar
- Graham crackers
- Crispy rice treat
- Small piece of chocolate
- Mini donut
So before you get too deep into the new school year, take ten minutes or so to sit down and make a list of foods your kids like for lunch. Then if you fall into the school lunch rut, you can pull it out and you’ll have instant ideas for your grocery shopping list!
I’ve found it works a lot better than stressing out when you’re in the middle of the dreaded lunch rut!
LUNCH BOX SUPPLIES
One of my other biggest tips related to school lunches is to find a lunch kit that works best for each kid. My kids actually have different preferences when it comes to what they pack in their lunch so I need different things. You don’t have to have the same lunch supplies for each kid!
For example, Carrigan sometimes likes to take macaroni and cheese so she needs an insulated food jar. Weston never takes anything like that so I stopped spending money on getting him one each year. He also never takes a sandwich to school (because our school is a nut-free campus and the only kind of sandwich he eats his peanut butter) so sandwich boxes aren’t very useful for packing his lunch.
So think about what kinds of food your kids prefer in their packed lunches and only buy the items you’ll need for the school year. Here are some basic ideas to think about:
- Sandwich boxes and/or bento-style boxes
- Ice Packs (I’ve found we don’t really have a huge need for these either!)
- Insulated food containers
- Water bottle that does leak (my kids take a juice box in their lunch but get to have a water bottle with them throughout the entire day)
- A lunch box or bag that fits everything else in it without it being a hassle to pack!
I’m a huge fan of reusable sandwich bags and reusable utensils, but this year I didn’t buy them again because I’ve spent the past few years losing them. My kids were always throwing them away.
You just have to figure out what works for you and your kids. But there’s really no reason to buy every single cute lunch box accessory out there. I used to think that made packing lunch easier because I would have options. But it really just led to me having a lot of extra things in the kitchen that I wasn’t using.
Keep it simple and focus on what your kids like! With a little preparation, you’ll be ready to tackle the lunch rut if it hits you this school year!
SHARE YOUR CONFI-DANCE
By keeping our kids powered up with protein from morning to lunch and then into whatever afterschool activities they have on the schedule, we can help them unlock their potential and feel confident!
This year Horizon Organic is inviting us all to support Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBS) as they provide mentoring for children facing adversity to help them build their confidence and unlock their own potential!
There’s still time to join the #HorizonConfiDANCE campaign to help support BBBS as they work to change children’s lives for the better! All we have to do is take the time to show off some of our favorite dance moves!
For every dance shared on Instagram or Facebook by September 30th, Horizon Organic will give $5 to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, up to $200,000. Just use the hashtag, #HorizonConfiDANCE.
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