If you’re like me, you look at packing lunches with mixed emotions. On the one hand, it’s a complete hassle – all those reusable containers, the mess, etc. On the other hand, I like to think of it as a little gift I send my daughters each day. I try to think about them as I pack lunch and hope that they might think of me when they are opening it.
But I know that parents, including me, are always looking for a simpler way to get it done. Read on for six parent-approved ways to ease the back-to-school lunch crunch.
- Pack a smart lunch. This is by far the most important step. While it can be easy to throw in a bunch of pre-packaged goodies, that’s not going to provide the “brain food” your kid needs. The “perfect mix” is making sure your teen fuels up with protein and complex carbohydrates, which offer a steady supply of energy, rather than a carb- and sugar-laden bomb that will send their blood sugar on a roller coaster ride.
- Involve your teen in the menu selection. This might seem obvious, but sometimes we’re so caught up in a routine that we forget that their tastes have changed. Spend some time talking with them about what other kids bring that looks appealing, or what they wish you would buy. Even better, have them accompany you on a grocery shopping trip.
- Involve your teen in the packing. I find that parents are very divided on this task! Many parents want to do the packing themselves, to ensure they are sending a healthy, varied lunch. Others love abdicating this responsibility to their teen. Either strategy works great; but there is also the opportunity to combine them. Having your teen pack their lunch, after you have discussed the appropriate elements, can be a great way to get the best of both worlds. At the least, set aside time on Sunday evening as “prep time” to pre-package all the snacks so they are ready to go.
- Trade off with your teen. Do you bring your own lunch to work? Try trading off lunch-making duties with your teen. It might give them a new perspective on the work that goes into making a lunch and the fun of surprising someone with an unexpected add in!
- Pack at night. I find one of the best ways to counteract the morning rush is to pack as much as I can at night. The kitchen is still torn apart from dinner fixings so it’s no big deal to get out a few more utensils. It also encourages me to repurpose any leftovers into a new meal, rather than have them disappear into the back recesses of my fridge.
- Think beyond a sandwich. Speaking of leftovers. . . there are so many other tasty and creative options for lunch. Put soup or chicken and rice in a thermos. Heat up a quesadilla and wrap it in foil to keep it warm. And if your child does love sandwiches, experiment with different bread options, from tortillas to bagels. Don’t forget to add in a treat – we all can use a pick me up midday!
I know we are all looking for ways to making packing lunches easier, and we’d love to hear what’s worked for you!