School lunches are always a hot topic amongst parents.
Finding a balance between nutrition and simplicity can be a real struggle. A healthy lunch box is important for learning, growth and play. Rest assured, there are a few hacks to simplifying the everyday lunch time hustle and it might be easier than you think.
1. Meal planning – together
Never under estimate the power of planning – this will not only save time now but these lists can be saved and used over and over again (hello, ULTIMATE time saver). Knowing exactly what you need to buy at the beginning of the week, prep each night and pack is essential. Getting your child involved in planning, picking and packing their own lunch box will make them more likely to eat it – so make sure to include them whenever you can.
Here is a printable school lunch plan you can download and fill in together. Kids know what they like and what they don’t like! So if your child has a handful of favourites, try a rotating weekly or biweekly schedule.
2. Faster ways to prep
Prep what you can on Sunday night by portioning off the snacks, vegetables and fruit. Go through your list and prep/pack up anything you can. Cut up cheese cubes, veggies with a mandoline, section off crackers, etc.
This cutting board has a scrape tray so your mess is confined and simple to clean up. Use a separate shelf in the fridge and pantry for the prepped food so you can easily grab them when you are packing up the lunch bag. This is an easy process because everything is mapped out on your trusty meal plan.
3. Leverage left-overs
Waffles for breakfast? Pack them for lunch on Monday! Monday night pasta can easily be lunch for Tuesday. Baking a couple of extra pieces of chicken at dinnertime is simple.
The freezer is your friend – healthy muffins or pancakes from the weekend can be frozen and thrown into the lunch box in a pinch.
4. Keeping food fresh
Here are some amazing hacks to keep snacks fresher, longer:
- Keep cucumbers fresh for up to a week by putting them in a small container and cover with filtered water. Then just drain the water out the night before school when packing up the lunch bag.
- Wash strawberries, raspberries, and other berries with a mix of vinegar and water (1 part vinegar/3 parts water). Rinse with water and dry thoroughly before storing in the fridge. This process will cleanse and prevent mold and will help your berries last so much longer. Do not prewash grapes – these need to be washed the night before.
- Carrots and celery can get dried out when cut. To avoid this cut the carrots and celery (sticks, coins, etc), place in a storage container , fill with filtered water and cover with lid. These will last all week in the fridge. If you are using them later in the week, just empty out the water and add in some fresh water mid-week.
- Sliced apples are a staple (my kids eat them every day), but alas kids won’t eat brown apples. There is an easy hack to prevent the browning. Cut up the apple into slices and soak them in a bowl of cold salt water (¼ teaspoon in 2 cups of water) for 5 minutes. Rinse very well, dry and store the slices in the fridge – these containers are awesome.
- Squirt avocados with lemon or lime juice. This will prevent the avocado from browning.
- Bananas can get squished and bruised so easily. A banana guard will ensure a fresh, perfect banana every time (just make sure to practice opening with your little one at home)
5. Hacks for packing
Food containers are important, kids thrive on simplicity. These bento boxes shown below are a game changer. They are simple to open (make sure to practice at home!) and the perfect size for school lunches – did I mention they’re dishwasher safe? They also collapse down for easy storage. Similarly genius, these foldable utensils are small and easy to fit in any lunch bag.
If you’re packing warm food such as soup, heat it up in the morning and pack in a thermos and it will stay warm until lunch time. Always pack fresh water every day, this sport bottle keeps water cool for 12 hours and prevents accidental spills.
Another sure lunchbox hit is adding spiralized zucchini noodles. They stay fresh for five days in the airtight container in the fridge. Below is a Zucchini Noodle Alfredo recipe – I keep the sauce separate and add in the morning or send in a separate container (depending on age of child).
Recipe: Easy Zucchini Noodle Alfredo
- 1 large zucchini
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 tablespoons cream cheese
- 1 tablespoon sour cream
- 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
- Salt + Pepper
- nutritional yeast (optional)
- Use a spiralizer to made zucchini noodles
- Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat
- Add zucchini noodles to pan and sauté for about 5 minutes, add salt and pepper
- Remove noodles to bowl
- Add all other ingredients to pan and stir to combine
- Pour sauce over noodles and toss
- Top with nutritional yeast
Are you ready to get back-to-school?
Need some more ideas? Take our quiz to see what your child *really* wants for lunch!