Along with devoting weekends to family and friends, my Saturdays and Sundays are also dedicated to planning the week ahead, which in my world includes buying food and preparing as much as I can ahead of time. Since I send my kids to school primarily with homemade lunches, I keep that in mind while shopping to ensure I have all the elements of quick and healthy school lunches.
Make a grocery list for lunches
- Fruits and vegetables. These can be fresh, frozen, or packaged as in the case of apple sauce, dried and freeze-dried fruit, and natural fruit leathers.
- Protein. Fuel all that brain growth with eggs, meat, cheese, yogurt, kefir, canned fish, nut butters, or hummus.
- Healthy fats. Essential for energy, healthy fats include nuts, seeds, nut butters, grass-fed butter, coconut oil, olive oil, and avocados.
- Whole grains. Minimally processed grains have a short ingredient list of short words you can recognize. Grains in our lunches include sprouted bread, whole wheat pita, and gluten free crackers such as Mary’s Gone Crackers.
- Condiments. Make lunches interactive and tasty with dips and condiments such as Organic Cowgirl Ranch, natural, cage-free mayonnaise, and mustard.
Make it balanced
When making school lunches, I start with the produce, and typically fill one section of the tray with fruit and another with vegetable(s). I then select a protein or two of choice (for example, meat and cheese, or eggs and hummus), and then fill in the gaps, either with more fruit or with the minimally-processed grains that complement the other food. Unless I make a sandwich, I sometimes forgo the grains in favor of more fruit, veggies, or a fun treat, such as dark chocolate or natural fruit leathers. Bonus: kids often see apple squeezers (or other fruit flavors) and freeze-dried fruit as a treat even though they count as fruit!
Make it easy
To simplify the process of lunch packing even further, I purchased the PlanetBox stainless steel lunchbox for my three daughters. While my girls loved picking a set of magnets to customize each of their lunch boxes, I love that the boxes are divided into sections, are eco-friendly, durable, and dishwasher-safe. PlanetBox also has an online meal planner, Plan-It-Box, to help their users plan lunches and get new ideas from the PlanetBox community.
In addition to our beloved PlanetBox, I like to change things up by occasionally using Ziploc’s BPA-free, reusable 3-compartment lunch box. They are dish-washer safe, leak-proof, and very affordable, at around $5.00 for a two-pack.
Note: these lunches are not strictly for children! May be enjoyed by teens and adults as well!!