Healthful Back To School Lunches Made Easy

Back to school is a very emotional time of year for our family. We are all sad that summer is coming to an end, and that the new school year is starting. Which ultimately means less quality time to spend together.

However, we are excited for new beginnings, new clothes and above all to reunite with good friends. Last year my back to school tip was all about shopping for a capsule wardrobe. This makes getting dressed in the morning so much easier as nearly everything is mix and match, as well as cuts down on the amount of laundry / clothes on hand. We have been using a capsule wardrobe for our kids for several years and it is still working great.

This year, I am tackling another thorn in the side of mothers everywhere: School lunches! After my son’s diagnosis with a brain tumor in 2012, we cut out processed food. This for the most part meant we couldn’t eat out, and  definitely not the bouncing hot dogs that were on the menu at our public school. (Yes, I thought the kids were over exaggerating too, but no – they do actually bounce like a rubber ball.)

A few years into this extreme way of life, as Alex began to show less symptoms, I began to ease up on the restrictions. We do still eat healthy, unprocessed meals at home, but we do enjoy eating out on occasion and I will allow school bought lunches when they see something on the menu that looks good to them. Life… after all is about balance.

Secretly, I was hoping they would choose to buy more often then they actually do, because making sure we have healthy, balanced meals that are easy to pack sometimes feels like a full time job. They say the lunch line at school is too long and they waste most of their lunch period waiting for food. So buying is quite rare in our house.

Over the last two years, I have perfected a lunch packing system which I would like to share with you. To start out you will need 5 clear plastic containers. I purchased a refrigerator organization pack from an online retailer but dollar store bins could work just as well. I also purchased a cheap label maker for 10 dollars at a local big box store. You could label your boxes, with chalk board stickers/chalk, permanent marker or dry erase, etc.

The labels on each container read, “Main Course: choose 1”, a second “Main Course”, “Vegetables: choose 1 or 2”, “Fruit: choose 1”, and “Dairy: choose 1”.  In each bin is the coordinating food group.

My youngest daughter loves hard boiled eggs for lunch, and my refrigerator kit came with an egg holder. The egg holder is labeled “Main Course” (as it is a protein) and obviously holds pre-peeled hard boiled eggs. the other main course box holds wraps, sandwiches, salads, homemade “Lunchables” and what ever else the kids can grab easily. The veggie box holds, mini peppers, sliced cucumbers, carrot and celery sticks. The fruit box holds fresh fruit, apple sauce, squeezees and juice boxes. Dairy holds, milk boxes, cheese in various forms, yogurt and cottage cheese.

On the other side of the kitchen the kids have their very own cabinet full, of lunch boxes, bowls and anything else they may need to pack their OWN lunch. I personally do all the lunch prep on Sundays, and then during the week my kids get to choose the lunch they want using the directions on each bin. With this system I know they are packing a balanced meal and they waste less food because they are choosing what they want to eat each day.

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