Packing a School Lunch: Make It Fun for You and Your Child!

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Maybe it’s because I’m only one year into packing lunches for one child, but I love packing my daughter’s school lunch!

The Research

I was utterly lost when my daughter started school last year. Since then, I’ve done my research and found tips and tricks that work for me and get me excited about crafting a homemade lunch for my girl to enjoy during her school day.
 
I’ve read tales of strict school policies regarding lunches from home: no nut products, no packaging waste, no sweets, etc. Luckily, the only real restrictions I’m dealing with are no candy or soda and no yogurt tubes. With the right mix of hardware and a little creativity, I’ve really come to enjoy putting together a preschool packed lunch.
 
I hope these tips can also help other moms. 

The Hardware

After a lot of research, I decided packing a bento-style lunch would be best for my daughter.

There are countless blog posts about the benefits of packing a bento lunch, so I won’t go into it here, but it really is cost-effective, tidy and can be really cute!

I have two different styles of boxes made for packing bento lunches: Yumboxes and Easylunchboxes. I used the leak-resistant Yumbox for all of last year. I’ve packed yogurt, applesauce, ketchup and salsa—all without issue. My only complaint is that the silicone seal seems to get a little smelly, no matter how many Pinterest methods I use to deodorize it.

I have only used the Easylunchboxes for testing purposes this summer, but they seem to hold a little more food. While they aren’t leak-proof, they are so much lighter and less fussy than the Yumbox, so I’m sure I’ll use them equally for the new school year.

The Heat 

Pasta salad (with vinegar-based dressing instead of mayo), Sandwich (with bread variations), Chicken salad, Homemade lunchable, Cut up hot dog with mustard/ketchup for dipping, Cooked and cooled tortellini with pasta sauce for dipping, Banana and peanut butter tortilla rollups, Meatballs with pasta sauce for dipping, Homemade pizza pinwheels, Macaroni and cheese
Lunchbox Main Dishes

My daughter’s school recognizes the importance of students getting time outside, even when it’s cold out, which I greatly appreciate. The kids have outside time right before lunch each day. I love the idea of my daughter coming back into the school rosey-cheeked, pulling off her pink mittens and sitting down to a warm meal. But she isn’t able to heat things up at school (which I completely understand from the school’s perspective). 

To get around this, I purchased a stainless steel insulated food jar. During my research, I learned this about these jars: preheat them with boiling water, dump the water out, dry the container, then fill with hot food. 

I keep meaning to test how well this method works on the weekend, but I always forget. My daughter says her food is warm, but she’s three, so take that with a grain of salt. Using this method, I’ve packed macaroni and cheese, mini corn dogs and chicken nuggets. I’ll pack a couple of small reusable containers with fruit/veggies/crackers and dip to go with the warm item.  

The Creativity 

If your kids want to eat the same thing for lunch everyday, I say go with it! That’s fewer food items you have to buy, less thought you have to put into it and you know they’ll eat it!
 
I think every mom has had a barely-touched lunchbox come home with an entire meal still inside it.
 
My daughter honestly might not mind if I packed her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich everyday, but I like to switch things up. I try to pack balanced lunches that will keep her full and focused for the school day; a little bit of grain/starch, plenty of protein, calcium and a fresh element.
 
Homemade Lunchables are always a hit. I can choose higher quality meat, cheese and crackers and also pack some fresh fruit as a side. I also switch up sandwiches by using different breads like tortillas, bagel thins and croissants.
 
Bento-style lunches help break a lunch down to a main item and two sides. I keep a list on my phone, and simply choose one main and two sides each day.  
Quartered cherry tomatoes, Apple slices, Grapes, Berries (my daughter's favorite!), Cottage cheese, Yogurt, Apple sauce, Popcorn, Tortilla chips with guacamole or hummus, Nuts, Cheese sticks, Mini mozzarella balls, Ants on a log, Mini blueberry muffins, Fruit leather, Freeze dried fruit
Lunchbox Sides

 The Perfect Lunch

The biggest key to lunch-packing success is being prepared and making it fun for yourself.
 
One of the small things I love is my sprinkle collection. I love putting different sprinkles on things like applesauce or yogurt—a fun touch that doesn’t take up a lot of room or add a bunch of sugar (I don’t use many at once).
 
I get so much joy out of coming up with different things to put in my daughter’s lunch and making it something she’ll be excited to see when she opens her lunch at school.

 

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Sara was born in Colorado Springs, and lived here her entire life until she attended college at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. There, she earned her degree in Journalism and Political Science. Sara met her husband, Luke, in the summer of 2008 while working at Wag N Wash Healthy Pet Center, although they didn't start dating until 2011 - after Sara had graduated from college and Luke had joined the Air Force. They married in 2012, when Luke was stationed in a small town in West Texas. Shortly after moving to the Lone Star State, Sara started her career in local television. She did everything from running the cameras, to producing the five o'clock news, to creating marketing campaigns for local businesses. Sara's daughter Cora was born in 2013, and Sara got her first taste of being a full-time working mom while living over 600 miles from her own parents. Luke's Air Force enlistment ended in the summer of 2015, so they high-tailed it back to Colorado Springs. Now, Sara lives near Old Colorado City and works in the marketing department of a law firm in Downtown Colorado Springs. She loves spending time with her family, cooking, biking, photography and playing with makeup (that’ll happen after working in television in Texas).