What is school like for your kids at this moment? It's all over the board for sure: virtual school, hybrid school, socially distanced school, rotating schedule school. Parents, kids, and school faculty are all needing to stay flexible and patient as we navigate these uncharted waters.
But no matter what your school landscape looks like, weekday lunches are for sure something that have to be factored in. You may still be packing lunches to be brought to school. Or even if lunches are not being carried to school, there are school schedules to deal with – limited time between classes to get your meal together and eat.
There are definitely some pay-it-forward things we can all do to make these weekday lunches easier. Here are some tips on how to plan ahead and what to keep on hand to pull together a kid-friendly lunch quickly, whether it's to take to school, or for lunch at home without disrupting the school schedule (and the workday of working parents!).
If your kid is going to school in person, even part-time:
- Give the lunch box, or bag, or tote, or whatever your kid uses to bringing lunch to school a good wipe down each day and let it dry in the dish drainer or, better still, this antibacterial mat overnight. Or treat your kid to a new lunch box or bag – there are so many cool ones out there, with little compartments and containers for packing various items. And have your kid put his or her name on the lunchbox, so if it goes missing, it has a better chance of getting back to its rightful owner.
- Freeze any ice packs, or items that can be frozen and help keep the lunch cool. If your lunch box has an ice pack insert, make sure it’s in the freezer so it can do its job! Another little trick to keep a lunch cool is to include something that won’t be any worse for the wear by getting a quick freeze, and will keep your lunch cool while it defrosts throughout the morning. Granola bars, juice boxes, applesauce or pureed fruit pouches and fruit cups are some examples. And there’s always a bottle of water.
- Put together any part of the lunch that will be ok for the next day. Make tuna fish, if you know you’re aiming for a tuna wrap, cut carrots into sticks and put small items such as berries, grapes or any little snacky items into little containers. Pack anything that is all good to go in the lunch bag and keep it in the fridge, which means that lunch is already at least partially packed in the morning (include any necessary plastic or reusable utensils).
- Another smart thing to keep on hand are those little packets of mustard, mayo, and ketchup that you always get at take-out restaurants. Great to toss in the lunchbox, if your kid is bringing it with her, and adding it right before eating means that sandwiches and other foods won’t get soggy.
General Lunch Tips:
- Put Together a List of Lunch Basics
On the computer, put together a list of items that you know will be in regular lunch rotation. You can add new items to this list every week, and then print it out for the supermarket run. If you prefer to write it by hand, make a number of photocopies to keep on hand and adapt each week.
- Take inventory of your fridge and pantry
Once you have your list of desired lunches, use this checklist it to see what you have, and what you need. Keep a running list, and update it regularly.
- Lay in Those Staples
If you know that sliced turkey, cheese sticks, whole wheat bread, romaine lettuce, yogurts, small cans of juice, apples, bananas, whole grain chips, oatmeal cookies, baby carrots, and flour tortillas are going to be in regular rotation, then stock up! Obviously certain items (cheese sticks, cranberry juice) last for quite a while, so can be bought in quantity, while others (sliced turkey, romaine lettuce) are going to have to be replenished often.
- Treat yourself to some new storage and meal prep containers!
Prepara has just released their new Latchlok storage system, which allows you to stack, steam and store food in containers made of Tritan by Eastman plastic, and features a unique sliding latch and venting system. Choose from nine sizes of containers that all sport a watertight and airtight seal, combined with interlocking feet and lids that allow all of them to securely stack on top of each other in pantries, cabinets, microwaves and refrigerators.
Plus, this easy-slide latch and vent system enables you to microwave meals, so if you are looking to heat up something at home or at school you can heat it in the same container you stored it in.
They are also perfect for storing everything from dried beans to grains snacks of all kinds.
- Talk about leftovers.
Leftovers are kind of polarizing for some people. My younger son and I love eating a cold piece of roasted chicken or some leftover Greek salad for lunch. My older thinks more along the lines of sandwiches, BUT is happy for a sandwich to be made with thin slices of leftover steak, and maybe some creamy, zingy Sriracha mayo to pull it all together. A quick tour of the fridge might yield some inspiration, or at least a framework of dos and don’ts. And don’t forget you can heat up anything you stored in a Prepara Latchlok container!