Your Deliverance from Lunch Packing Hell
Oh, the dreaded school lunch packing routine is upon us again! As a mom of three and a full-time high school teacher, I can tell you it’s like attempting a high-stakes culinary challenge while half asleep and running on parental fumes.
Back to school means back to solving the soul-sucking question: what will my kid actually eat at school?
While navigating the nut-free school’s no-no foods, and your kid’s picky eating habits, the tempting “ready-made” (translation: highly processed) items beckon for an easy way out. And if your kids are anything like mine, to switch up their favorite “most favorite lunch ever” with something new… well… you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
To make this feat as easy as possible, we’ve created a lunch planner and asked our Lucie’s List Insiders to chime in with their “go-to” lunch ideas. Here they are!
School Lunch Planner
(Click graphic to download)
Simply write-in 2-4 items from each list for each day of the week, and this is your grocery shopping list for the weekend. So simple, yet so thoughtful 😎.
If your kids are a little older, turn the selections over to them! Remember: sharing control wherever possible gives little ones a sense of ownership – and it’s one less thing for you to decide! [Read more about Toddler / Young Child Discipline]
Print out the downloadable version here and hang it on your fridge. Or customize this editable version by adding some of your favorites. Heck, you can print one out for every week of the school year and be the school lunch planning master that you were destined to be – huzzah! 💃🏼
If you’d like to avoid using too much paper, you can laminate the print-out or put it in one of those dry erase pockets and edit your planner weekly with a dry-erase marker.
7 Interesting Twists on the School Lunch
If you’re ready to play with fire and get a little crazy, here are seven additional options to mix things up to keep the lunchbox routine interesting for the kids – and manageable for you!
- “DIY” Lunchables: Create a Lunchables kit with whole grain crackers, sliced cheese, and bite-sized deli meats like salami. Or mix it up with egg salad. Add some cherry tomatoes and sliced cucumbers for a refreshing touch. The kids will have fun assembling. Check out our favorite bento-style lunch boxes. Lots of ways to mix up the ingredients and keep it interesting!
- Veggie Wraps: Instead of the traditional “hummus and carrots,” spread a tortilla with cream cheese or hummus and fill it with colorful veggies like shredded carrots, bell pepper strips, and cucumber slices. Roll it up, secure with toothpicks, and slice it into pinwheels.
- Pizza or Corn Dogs Flatbread: Using store-bought flatbreads as the base, spread some pizza sauce, sprinkle shredded mozzarella cheese, and add their favorite toppings like pepperoni or mushrooms. Flatbread also works well as a modified “corn dog,” a little less processed.
- Mini Bagel Sandwiches: Split mini bagels and fill them with cream cheese and thinly sliced turkey or ham. For an extra touch, add a slice of avocado. This spin-off of “the almighty sandwich” is easy to handle and super tasty.
- Give the “lunchbox” a day off and send your kid off with Jars and Thermos: Use a jar to build a mini salad and top with chicken nuggets or hard-boiled eggs. Or, cook some pasta and add diced tomatoes and turkey or pepperoni. Pre-pour Italian dressing and instruct them to shake it before eating. Fill a thermos with leftover soup or pasta. Serve with a side of bread, Whisps, or Moon Cheese snack. Check out our favorite containers for lunch.
- Fruit and cheese kebabs: Make lunch fun with kebabs! Thread chunks of their favorite fruits like strawberries, grapes, melon, and pineapple—or even fruit leather!–onto straws with alternating chunks of block cheese or sliced cheese sticks.
- The catch-all Friday “Kids Charcuterie”: Keep it simple at the end of the week. Fill a rectangle Tupperware with cupcake papers and fill each one with whatever you have remaining in the fridge and pantry. Healthy items such as Babybel cheeses and seaweed snacks work great for this. Veggie straws, no-sugar beef sticks, Pirate’s Booty, pretzels, and any kind of “bar” (like FreeYum bars and peanut butter bars) cut in pieces are a big hit. Don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t overthink this one.
With these easy lunch choices, your kids will have a delightful surprise in their lunchboxes, and you won’t have to wage a mental daily battle with yourself in the kitchen!
So, fellow parents, may the lunch-packing odds be ever in your favor.
Cheers! ~ Krissy