A Slice of the Pie: Lunch packing tips – Make it fun, fast and resourceful

August 2021 Posted in Uncategorized

Melissa Wagoner – A Slice of the Pie

For many parents, it’s been a while since they packed a school lunch. With the majority of students attending school remotely or in half-day increments last year, more often than not, kids were eating at home. 

But no more. With the first day of in-person school looming on the horizon, it’s time to dust off those lunch boxes, throw some freezer packs in the deep freeze and load the pantry with staples like pita chips, granola bars and sandwich bread.

Or – if you’re really feeling rusty – implement some of these handy tips. 

Plan ahead

• Get the scoop from your child’s teacher – How long do students have for lunch? Do they have access to a microwave or hot water? Where is food stored?

• Start teaching your kids to pack their own lunches – not only is it empowering, they’re much more likely to eat it. 

• Make a master list of lunch ideas with your kids – post it.

• Then make a master grocery list – post that as well.

• Stock up on (and organize) an assortment of reusable packaging – jars and thermoses can be used for soups, salads and even sandwiches. While washable zippered pouches, bees wax cloths and bento boxes lower waste and make packing fast.

• Create a dedicated space for lunch supplies in the refrigerator and in the pantry – this will not only streamline packing; it will keep kids (and spouses) from eating lunch ingredients as snacks.

Time saving tips

London Wagoner

• Prep the night before.

• Streamline packing – fill all the lunchboxes at once.

• Keep it simple – they don’t need to be Instagram-worthy; they just need to be foods your child will eat.

• Have multiple containers on hand in case one is misplaced or in the dishwasher.

• Repeat favorites – no need for a new item every day. 

• Keep school lunches in mind when you’re making dinner. Can you cut up extra veggies for the next day? Shred extra chicken for a salad or wrap? Or portion out some leftovers to save time?

• Clean out lunch boxes as soon as kids get home or – better yet, have them do it!

Minimize food waste

• Offer lunch leftovers as after school snacks (provided they are still safe to eat).

• Reinvent dinner leftovers as ingredients in a salad, sandwich, wrap or just preheat them and place inside a thermos.

• Make sure all containers are kid friendly – if they can’t open it, they can’t eat it. 

• Make sure the food is still appetizing at lunchtime by using ice packs or a thermos as well as insulated lunch bags or boxes to keep hot food hot and cold food cold. 

• After cutting apples, rebind with a rubber band to minimize browning without adding a sour taste.

• Buy in bulk to save on packaging, then use reusable containers to re-portion. 

• Preheat thermoses with boiling water before filling with hot soups, sandwiches or leftovers – this will help them retain their heat. 

Stock up

Keep the pantry, fridge and freezer stocked with these tasty items:

• Precooked meatballs or chicken nuggets freeze well.

• An array of fun dips can make eating vegetables more fun.

• Think outside the sandwich – make a deli meat or tortilla roll up. 

• An assortment of grains and toppings for customizable bowls – quinoa, rice, couscous, frozen veggies, beans, nuts, sauces and dressings can all be mixed and matched.

• Serve breakfast for lunch with frozen waffles or pancakes, precooked bacon or an egg sandwich – it’s an especially fun treat for families who rarely have time for an elaborate morning meal.

• A charcuterie spread – a customizable array of cheeses, crackers, dips, pickled veggies, fresh fruits and deli meats can be an easy diversion from the same old sandwiches but utilize many of the same ingredients.

• Dried fruit – because fresh fruits can be difficult to pack.

• Yogurt with fun toppings packed separately – fruit, jam, granola and nuts can all jazz things up. Just don’t forget the ice pack!

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