Easy School Lunchesby Shelley Frost
The rush to get out the door each morning leaves little time to make school lunches for your kids. Planning and preparation strategies give your child an appetizing brown bag lunch without making you late. Easy doesn't have to mean peanut butter and jelly every day. A balance of healthy, simple and child-friendly creates a lunch suitable for your growing child.
Set aside a block of time on Sunday afternoon to tackle school lunch prep work. Gather all containers and utensils used for the lunches. Side dishes and snacks are easy to portion out for the entire week. Place a serving of baby carrots, grapes, berries, crackers, cereal, granola and other snacks in plastic food bags at the beginning of the week. When you're packing your child's lunch, you simply grab the bags and toss them in the lunchbox for quick assembly. Some items don't last long enough to portion out ahead of time. Wait on items like apple slices that will brown or get mushy.
The same food items in your child's lunchbox makes preparation easier, but it also gets boring for your child. Write a list of school lunch items as a reference. Include lists of main dishes and side dishes so you can mix and match the components. If your child isn't picky, write out a school lunch menu for the month. This allows you to vary the lunches throughout the month. If your child likes more control, let her pick the items from the list that go in her lunch each day.
All school-age children are able to help with at least some aspects of the lunch prep. Let your child portion out the snacks and put them into the plastic bags. Older kids can handle sandwich-making and other food-prep tasks. Ask your child to gather and pack all the food and utensils he needs as one of his chores. This saves you time and gives him a sense of responsibility. A child who prepares his own lunch is often more likely to eat the food.
Leftovers from the previous night's dinner offer a quick lunch option. Hot foods like pasta dishes stay warm until lunch time in a thermos. Heat up both the food and the thermos in the morning before sending your child to school. Other food like fried chicken and pizza is often enjoyed cold, especially by kids.
Meals your child can assemble are another option for the lunch box. Instead of buying expensive kits at the store, make your own. Pack a pita, pizza sauce and cheese so your child can make her own pizza at school.
The side dishes finish off the school lunch. Chips, fruit and vegetables are standard lunch options. For something different, try hard-boiled eggs, popcorn with seasoning, pasta salad, homemade sweet potato chips and yogurt with stir-in options like granola, cereal and fresh fruit.
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