While the New Year technically begins in January, for many of us the month of September serves as a more fitting start to a fresh season. The kids are feeling reinvigorated and relaxed after a nice, fun summer. The autumn breeze slowly starts to roll in as the hot, muggy summer days gradually fade away. You slowly begin to realize that you won’t have to take care of the kids all day and all your cares begin to disappear until you remember – this also means you’ll have to start making lunches every day.
When the kids head back to school, your focus shifts from lazy mornings and casual meals to preplanned breakfasts, lunches and snacks. No more waking up to cartoons and asking the kids to decide what they want because let’s be honest – there’s no time for that! Whether you’ve got picky eaters or guzzling gluttons in your family, this guide is sure to help you weather the storm, so to speak, when it comes to making your children’s lunches this school year.
Good Ole Sandwiches
Whether it was peanut butter & jelly or bologna, we can all agree that sandwiches have been a staple of children’s school lunches across the globe since we can remember. There’s nothing quite like a sandwich made with extra love and care to help us balance out a long day at school or work. Most sandwiches are quick, easy to make and, if you use the right ingredients, delicious. Unfortunately, using the wrong meats can turn a healthy lunch into an energy draining meal on bread. For that reason, we have ranked the most common lunch meats from leanest to least healthy below:
- Roast Beef
- Honey Ham
These rankings are based mainly off the amount of protein versus sodium, fat and calories in each slice. While all of these lunch meats can make for a relatively healthy sandwich when compared with other school lunch favorites, it’s probably smarter to stay in the top half of the list rather than the bottom if possible. Don’t be afraid to get creative and mix and match. A common favorite medley is the classic turkey pastrami sandwich. When making this sandwich, line one piece of bread with pastrami and the other with your choice of cheese. That way you can tuck the turkey, sauerkraut and apple in between without the bread getting soggy before lunchtime.
Hot Lunches & Leftovers
Remember, the most important part to making lunches, as with many things in life, is staying organized. This doesn’t mean you have to prepare special meals for each day – many times you may have some leftovers at your disposal. It does mean that you may need to invest in a few thermoses and some disposable silverware to avoid losing nice kitchen flatware. If you want to be a super parent, think about buying some reusable lunch bags that have a thermal capacity. Don’t spend too much money on these because you’d be naïve to think you won’t end up replacing these when your lose them. Trust me; it’ll happen, especially if you have younger kids.
Now that you’re properly equipped, let’s talk about some ideas for what to put insider your thermoses. Chili, stews, casseroles and soups all work well in a thermos. If you have a crock pot, you can start brewing a stew the night before and let it cook while you sleep so it’s ready to dish up in the morning. On nights where you make nice dinners, make them big and plan on having some leftovers for school lunches (my personal favorite is leftover meatloaf sandwiches). However, learn from other’s mistakes and be sure to label containers in the fridge as lunch food to avoid midnight snackers from leaving you helpless without a plan in the morning.
Sometimes a basic sandwich or soup won’t cut it. When you kids get tired of the ordinary, everyday lunch, consider one of these ideas to spice up their day. Bento is a single portion takeout or home-packed meal that originally became popular in Japanese cuisine. If your kids aren’t up for sushi (don’t worry, most of them aren’t), a pizza inspired bento lunch just may do the trick. All you’ve got to do is spread pizza sauce on a tortilla and throw your desired ingredients on top. Be sure to get some spinach or lettuce in under the cheese. Then melt the cheese and cut the tortilla into tiny slices. Then you pack cucumber and cauliflower (or any other vegetables you may choose) in a container with dressing to dip. To keep the kids smiling, consider cutting some watermelons into stars using cookie cutters.
When it comes to making lunches, classics will typically get the job done, but you’ll score major points with your kids if you give a little extra effort and put an extra dose of love in every lunch you make. Remember, it’s the details that count, so don’t be afraid to get creative and try new things every day!