The time has come, the kids are BACK IN SCHOOL!! (too much?) Okay, sorry, I was just really, really, really ready! (too much again? my bad.) 😁 As much as I love the kids being back in school, it brings a lot of added stress: homework, sports, packing lunches, omg - did you have anything to eat for breakfast?! and let's not even talk about dinner... and the list goes on.
Planning school lunches for our kids takes a huge weight off my shoulders when I know that it's done. It also makes the hustle, bustle and rush of the mornings just a little bit easier and a LOT more enjoyable!
There are 3 simple steps to making this happen:
- plan your menu; monthly works best for me
- make your grocery list; I do this weekly
- prepare & pack your lunches; weekly on Sunday
You will also need a few basic items to get started:
- meal prep containers: 5 per week, per kid. I use these. They have 3 sections which are great for separating foods.
- silicone muffin pans: used for "leaky" fruits 🤪 These are my favorite. The different shapes and sizes make them great for other things also, like removing a single item (butter noddles for example) and popping them in the microwave.
- condiment containers (jello shot cups for all of my boozy people): any kind will work but alas, Amazon for the win.
- icepacks: 2 per kid; we refreeze ours after school every day but if you're not confident that you'll get them back in the freezer grab a few extra😉
Once you have those items, it's pretty simple. In one of the last few days of the month, make a list M-F for each week of the following month and plan out your menu based on the chart. Pick one entree, 2 sides (we try to do a fruit and veggie or a fruit and starch, lastly pick a dessert. Yes, I know, LAME MOM alert - gummies (worms, bears, etc.,) fruit roll ups, and fruit snacks count as a dessert in our home! I often put the same fruit down for multiple days so they don't go bad before we eat them all. The easiest thing to do, is to pack the same items for each kid. This is especially helpful when you're making things like mini corn dog muffins and don't want them to go to waste!
Our menu would likely look something like this for one week
(I usually do the same dessert all week, I often make homemade desserts so I want them to get packed away before I have a change to stuff my belly full of sweets!) 🤪
M - Butter Noodles, Orange, Granola Bar, and Rice Krispy Treat
T - Mini Corn Dog Muffins, String Cheese, Grapes, and Rice Krispy Treat
W - Lunchmeat (usually ham and turkey) Roll Up, Carrots with Ranch, Yogurt with Blueberries, and Rice Krispy Treat
TH - Mini Corn Dog Muffins, String Cheese, Grapes, and Rice Krispy Treat
F - DIY Lunchable (we use mini pita rounds instead of crackers), Pickles, Orange, and Rice Krispy Treat
After your menu is made for the whole month (it's not that bad, I promise!) make your grocery list for the first week, head to the store to snag what you need. I try to do this on Sunday afternoon and then prep meals on Sunday evenings.
After you get home, set out your meal prep containers for the whole week and prepare!
When you're all done - stack in the fridge M-F. Each morning, throw the container into a lunch box with a drink and ice pack and BAM, your kid(s) are ready!
I typically put a post it on the top of each box with a note similar to; "Happy Monday! Heat noodles for 1:00 and enjoy! I love you! -Mama" this serves 2 purposes, I know which order to stack the meals in the fridge and I am giving my kids any instructions they need for heating/eating!
TIPS and TRICKS:
Only pick one entree each week that requires cooking, use it for one or two lunches that week depending on how many kids you're preparing lunch for. The less work this requires, the more likely you are to do it. Or.... is that just me? LOL.
Use silicone dishes for things like butter noodles, place inside of the large section of the meal prep container and fill with noodles. This makes for easy removal so kids can warm items up.
Use silicone dishes for items like oranges. I try to do all the work for the kids, so they can maximize their already short lunch period. Remove wrappers, peel fruits, etc., Place oranges and other "leaky" fruits (ie; watermelon, strawberries) inside of silicone to prevent leakage into other foods. I also take grapes off the vine, stems off the strawberries, etc.,
Set meal prep containers out in a row for a single day if you're packing for multiple children. This makes the process easier, drop grapes (or whatever you're packing) in every container in the row and move on to the next item.
Use condiment cups for condiments including ketchup, mustard, syrup etc. Also use condiment containers to hold smaller candies such as m&m's, reeses, and/or trail mix!
Try it out - let me know what you think! Shoot a message to our chat if you have questions! 💜☀️
Love & Sunshine