I'm not a mom that loves the laid back, anything-goes freedom of summer vacation. I'm the mom who always greet the “Back to School” season with welcome arms! There are so many things to love about the school year: my children are back on a regular routine, early bedtimes are enforced, I'm not monitoring screen time and sibling fights all day, and I get a little time to myself while they're gone.
What's the one thing I'm not looking forward to? Packing school lunches. I'm not a fan of cooking or meal prep in general – I prefer decorating and organizing. Luckily, I've found a few school lunch ideas to make the packing grind a little easier.
1. Get the right lunch box
Ditch the brown bags – you need a proper lunch box. My favorite and newest development in the school lunch world is the bento box. This baby makes packing lunch so easy. A bento box is a reusable plastic box with a lid, with separated compartments for each item. This means no more messing with plastic sandwich bags! Just pop the bento box in your lunch bag with an ice pack and voila! Plus there's one thing I know about kids: they can't get enough of compartmentalized food. Weirdos.
2. Make it fun
If you want to feel like a terrible parent, do one search on Pinterest for “fun school lunch ideas.” These people are not messing around! These fun school lunch ideas look like works of art. We're talking sandwiches made to look like SpongeBob SquarePants, and homemade sushi rolls. If you're like this Mama, you don't got time for that. But, I do try to add a little whimsy to their lunches, simply because it's an opportunity to get creative and break up the monotony. Keep the magic simple. Cut their sandwich into an unexpected shape with a cookie cutter. Add some sprinkles to their peanut butter sandwich on their birthday. On Valentine's Day, I threw some heart confetti in their lunch boxes – which wielded very successful results.
3. Make notes ahead of time
I know, I know, I said these were school lunch ideas to make packing easier, not more complicated. But hear me out! My daughter absolutely loves getting a daily note from me in her lunch box, so I find a way to make it work (most days). With everything else that needs to be done in the morning, it's sometimes impossible to draw a cute picture or write a quick note. So instead, I make all my notes on Sunday night. After the kids have gone to bed I bring out my note cards and my markers and I draw four or five pictures to include in her lunches for the week. It's something I've actually really come to enjoy and look forward to! It's fun to think of little doodles that she might like to find. If you're not an artist, just write a note and add some stickers. It takes 10 minutes, and then your lunch notes are all done for the whole week.
4. Pre-make the same item for the week
You shouldn't feel like you need to be serving a different, unique lunch every single day. You're not running a Michelin-Star restaurant, folks! I like to pick one main item for the week, and then maybe mix up the sides for variety. For example – you can make five cheesy roll-ups at the beginning of the week and have them in the fridge and ready to pack every day. Throw in pretzels as a side on Monday, tortilla chips on Tuesday… you get the idea.
5. Let them buy, sometimes
Don't forget school cafeteria lunches! I don't let my kids buy their school lunches very often, so when they're allowed to, they get pretty excited. Most schools provide a monthly menu, so let your kids look it over and circle three or four lunches they want to buy for the month. It's a special treat for them, but what they don't know is that it's a special treat for you, too! Because no matter how easy you make packing school lunches, you know what's even easier? Not packing a lunch at all.