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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Back To School Organizing Part 3: 5 Easy Steps To Packing School Lunches

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Hello there!
This week we are talking about Back To School Organizing and I am sharing strategies & ideas to help you get organized for the back to school season.
On Monday, we talked about Wardrobe Wrangling and getting that school wardrobe whipped into shape.
On Tuesday, we talked about Sorting Out School Supplies & Study Spaces.
Today, we are talking about the things that Moms dread the most....packing school lunches.
First off, if you are looking for lunches that are super cute or made into smiley animal characters...this is not what this post is about. Remember I said EASY people EASY!! lol. I want to share with you my 5 Easy Steps For Packing School Lunches.
My goal is to pack lunches which are healthy & economical for the food/grocery budget.
Over the last 11 years of packing lunches for school, I have come up with this formula which I stick to for sending my children to school with healthy, 'real food' lunches.
I try to avoid pre-packaged snacks as much as possible. For one, they are expensive to buy. Two-they are full of unhealthy ingredients {with the exception of yogurt, cheese strings, applesauce and a few others}. Three-they are not good for the environment with all the extra-packaging, etc.
So I use a lot of BPA-free plastic containers because they are recyclable.
It helps to have a lot of different sizes to use for different things.
And I can make our own pre-packaged lunch foods for the week!
Small sizes, in particular, are great for small servings & salad dressings.

1. Start with a Main Course.
A main course can be a sandwich.
Now, I am the first to admit that sandwiches can be horribly boring, but one thing that I find helps is if different types of breads are used....wraps, french baguette, rolls, or buns. I have a child who loves regular bread and I have a child who prefers french baguette or anything but regular bread, so I use both.
My daughter loves these new little buns that just came out this spring for her sandwiches:
So I make sandwiches for each child using his/her favorite...mainly because I want them to actually EAT their lunch. I usually make sandwiches for the next day while I am cooking dinner.
We have a local deli which has lunch meats without nitrates, so I buy lunch meats there.
I also like to use leftover turkey, chicken  & roast beef when we have it.
A main course can be soup in a thermos.
When the weather is cold, my kids love soup in a thermos. I like to use these sturdy stainless steel thermoses...they don't leach chemicals and they are indestructible.
 A main course can also be a salad a pasta salad...with dressing that can be added before eating.
My daughter loves salad for lunch in the spring.

2. Add Fresh Veggies.
I add fresh veggies to my kids' lunches every day. I make up little containers of veggies at the beginning of the week so I only have to pop a container of veggies into the lunch each day.
I start with little containers:
My son likes his veggies with ranch dressing, so I add a little right into the bottom of the container:
 It looks like this:
And I add fresh veggies on top for our own little veggies & dip:

 My daughter likes her veggies as is:

3. Add Fresh Fruit.
Apple, bananas, grapes, nectarines, etc. They are all perfect for lunches. I often make up our own pre-packaged mixes of fresh fruit.These containers have a mix of pineapple, honeydew melon, cantaloupe and watermelon. It changes from week to week.
And if you are crazy busy and all this chopping of fresh fruit & veggies seems overwhelming, these are great helpers to use:

4. Add A Treat.
Yes...every lunch deserves a little treat. I try to keep treats homemade like cookies, brownies, rice crispy treats or muffins. I make the treats in batches, wrap in single servings and place in the freezer to pull out as needed. Here I have added a chocolate chip cookie to each child`s lunch.

Here you can see Hunter`s lunch with her sandwich, servings of fresh veggies & fruit in the orange containers, and her cookie. She likes her lunch in a small container that she can easily pop into her bag.
She is in High School and is not interested in carrying an actual lunch bag.
Here you can see Tyler`s mumbo jumbo sandwich with his containers of fruit & veggies and his cookie.

5. Add A Drink & A Napkin.
I always add 100% juice or milk and a napkin. If the napkin isn`t used, I put it back in the lunch the next day. I have used rubbermaid drink containers in the past and re-filled them each night, but these often got left outside at recess and lost, so I switched to juice boxes instead.

To make life really easy, you can prepackage the fruits & veggies for the entire week and keep them together in a container in the fridge.
I have been doing this for years and it makes lunch packing in the morning so much better!
 Here we are...healthy pre-packaged fresh food made at home.
Last winter I attended a ``Healthy Family Foods`` session at our local library which was organized by Public Health Nurses. It was brought up by the Nurses, who visit local area schools to teach about healthy foods, how pre-packaged foods are being over-used in children`s the detriment of their health because they are not getting REAL food.
I so agree with this assessment. It makes me sad to visit my child`s class at lunch time and see what types of junk foods are being given to children for lunch...pop, chips, fruit roll-ups, pre-packaged cookies & treats of all kinds, ``healthy`` granola bars, etc.
I am not saying that I never give my children these things, but I do my best to really, really limit these things and stick to my formula!

Thanks so much for visiting me and make sure you come back tomorrow as I talk about organizing a School Launching & Landing Pad!

If you liked this post, you might like to check out these posts:
5 Easy Steps To Meal Planning
Active Kids & Healthy Snacks & Drinks
Feeding Kids Afterschool
10 Best Ways To Save Money On Groceries Without Couponing
Organizing A Kithen Into Zones
10 Best Camping Recipes & Tips

And these boards on Pinterest:
Organized Kitchens
Freezer Meal Ideas To Love
Back To School Ideas
Organized Mudrooms
Camping Recipes & Food Ideas
Cleaning Tips & Tricks

Thank you so much for visiting!


Tanya said...

Great tips! After having my son in two weeks of all-day camp over the course of the summer, I'm really glad that he's only in half-day kindergarten -- aka, just-a-snack-land.

Lindsay said...

Great tips! My daughter just started Kindergarten so I'm now packing lunches 5 days a week instead of 3! It is a dreaded activity...but I've been staying on top of it doing it the night before. I like your idea of having it done for the week in the fridge tub!

Barb said...

I have two boys who almost never take the school's lunch - so I pack lunches every day. I love the idea of getting the containers of fruit/veggies prepared for the week so they are all ready to go. Also...I never thought of soup. My youngest would love that during our cold Minnesota winters. Thanks for the great ideas!

Musingly,...Jyothi. said...

Loved it!

Marie said...

Thanks for the great tips! I’d love if you’d come share this at my link party going on right now.


HI THERE! said...

I'm loving all your tips Angie! You are SO much more organized than me - I hate making lunches! Thanks again for linking up to The Creative Spark. I'm featuring your posts on my facebook page. Hope the kids had a good first day back at school!
Jenn :)

Jennifer said...

I like the different bread idea...and one I always seem to forget. I noticed those little buns this summer and thought what a good lunch idea they would be. I really love the dip and veggies in one container....duh! LOL! Lots of inspiration. I feed the kids really healthy at home, but I confess to throwing in the occasional packaged "something"...because I know they wlll eat it! Why will they eat my muffins at home...but not at school? (the older youngest will eat anything)

Jaimee said...

I stopped buying pre-portioned fruit cups and split one larger can into three spill-proof containers for my three boys instead. The bigger cans are cheaper, and I reuse the tupperware over and over. LOVE the idea of prepping this for the whole week and storing in a bin in the fridge. Why didn't I think of that!?

Just Jaime said...

Love how organized it is! If only my lunches were this easy!

bailey k. said...

wow, this is amazing! i love how organized you are. i need to be taking tips for when i (one day) have kids!

Morgan said...

You are a genius! I don't have any children, but my husband and I bring our lunches to work everyday and you are so right, it's hard to find healthy foods on a budget. Your methods take some time at the beginning of the week, but they are cost effective and the rest of the week is easier. I'm going to have to try something like this for my husband and I. =)

Shauna said...

Wow, your ideas are so wonderful. I look forward to following your blog now.

Theresa said...

Great tips! But in my need to complicate everything...I totally see bunny ears in the slice of bread!

Rachel @ Pleased as Punch said...

Pre-package your own things for the week...this is absolutely brilliant! And so simple, why in the world haven't I thought of this??? We're packing our own a lot more this year. I don't like the unhealthy stuff from the cafeteria for my kids...and it gets expensive, too. Thank you SO MUCH for this post! And thank you SO MUCH for it NOT being about cutesy little sandwiches that take up all my time...seriously. Thanks. :)

Michelle {Fun On A Dime} said...

Great ideas! I need to do better about prepping. Would love for you to link up to my Hi-5 Friday Link Party!

kykerfamily said...

I love the idea of putting the ranch in the bottom of your container. But I do have one question, do you not wrap your sandwiches? Your lunches look delicious. Thanks for the tips.

celine said...

Fantastic tip! Love, love the prepare for the week idea. This came in timely as I am determined to be more organized - current goal that I set for myself! Thanks for sharing!:)

nicoleld said...

Great ideas! Love the tiny containers and putting the dip at the bottom for vegis. One thing I just found is that the ranch dressing you showed has MSG in it :(. We have found a healthy ranch recently as well as using hummus and tsaziki for dips.

ChrissieF said...

While I don't have kids, my fiance and I both work full time, and I am so incorporating this advice into our lunch arrangements!

We usually have leftovers or sandwiches/rolls for lunch, along with a few snacks, I already use a basket and pre-packaged (at home) portions for pantry snacks, but I want to make sure we're getting more fruit and veg.

The easier the better is my motto, so the easier it is to reach for something healthy, the better for everyone!

Ethnic Girl Fun said...

I need to try this!

Confessions of a Multitasking Momma said...

Enjoyed those lunch tips!!!

M.G. said...

In awe of your great ideas and sanity savers! Wondering what you use to keep the cold foods cold?

Diana said...

Wow, that's SUCH a great idea! We keep our kids home rather than sending them to school, but they like to help themselves to whatever is in the fridge while I'm not looking, and it usually ends up as one huge mess! This will probably help at least keep the mess portion-sized rather than whole containers going to waste - thanks so much!

Suzanne said...

Personally, I'm all about the little containers. It makes everything stay tidy in the lunches as well as speeds prep. Thanks for the post!

Cara said...

You had me at "if you are looking for lunches that are super cute or made into smiley animal characters...this is not what this post is about."
Don't get me wrong that stuff is cute and all but as a working Mom I just don't have the time. I love your ideas and am going to add them to my routine, THANKS!

Marti said...

This post is a keeper for me! I don't have kids in school anymore, but my dd works a double shift both Sat & Sun and lunches are a problem for her. I'm going to have her read this so she can start using your strategies.

Julie said...

I aspire to be that organized when it comes to school/camp lunches!

Aimee Christian said...

It pains me to see what kids bring in their lunchboxes, not to mention all the packing trash that is generated. Course, the other side of that is the AWFUL school lunches that are served. I'm with you, when my kids go to their co-op I use plastic containers. I especially like the ones you can buy at Asian grocery stores with all of the little compartments already built in (bento boxes). One container to clean at the end of the day.

Thank you for teaching the way.

kshloka said...

Absolutely amazing. I am so contemplating doing this. And I will get my kids to help me out as well! Love it...thank you for sharing.

Tara said...

Love this post so much! My favorite part is the dip at the bottom of the container with the veggies sticking in it. GENIUS!

The Prudent Pantry said...

This is an amazing post. You are so organized! Love all the little container. I need to get planning for back-to-school lunches soon so thank you for the tips!

I would love it if you would share this at the Smart Solutions linky party. You can link up here:

Have a great day!

Ann @ The Scrapbooking Housewife said...

What a fantastic post! I completely agree that the lunches should be healthy and nutritious! Thanks for the great tips!

organize with me said...

Thanks for the tips. my son starts kindergarten tomorrow and I was just getting ready to pack his lunch. I just recently started my own blog about organizing.

Danielle said...

thanks you have so many great tips! I used to have some tiny containers but the dog ate them all, I have been looking all over for more, do you have any idea where I might find some like yours?? thanks

Susan Hardt said...

Love all of your tips but will your kids actually eat the fruit and vegetables? I pay $8/day for school lunch and have been told that most of the kids eat the main dish and dump out the organic fruit and veggies. I do send a dessert every day for lunch and snack food for after school. If I package a cookie in plastic wrap, it gets fractured and breaks apart. I find that they last better if I put the cookies in a small plastic box.

salman javed said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tennille said...

Great tips. I am only at the daycare lunch packing stage and it is already so redundant. Only another 14 years to go :)

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