Lunch of the Week is a little different this week. With everyone heading back to school, I thought I would put together a quick roundup of the some of the things I do and use to make lunch just a little easier. Not only have I made my own lunches for years and those for Mr. Nomato and my many younger siblings, but I’m also a teacher and have seen hundreds (probably thousands) of lunches – what works, and what doesn’t!
So sit back and enjoy:
1) Easy-to-Clean, Reusable Containers
These are key. Probably my most important lunch tip, which is why they’re first on the list. I find a good lunchbox helps keep me organized, and one with separators really keeps me on track in terms of food groups and making healthy choices.
I use these Fit & Fresh Lunch on the Go Set with Ice Pack containers and they’re wonderful. The ice pack in the middle keeps everything cool until it’s ready to be reheated, and they were really inexpensive compared to some of the other options out there. I would be hesitant to send these with a young child because there are a lot of pieces, and I know some days I barely remembered to bring my lunch bag home.
I have my eye on a couple other lunchboxes when those finally kick the bucket. I find that bento boxes are the way to go. They’re always sub-divided, stackable and portable, and are super easy to clean. These are my dream bento boxes: ECOlunchbox Three-in-One Stainless Steel Food Container Set (stainless steel! So easy to clean!), the Yumbox Panino Leakproof Bento Lunch Box Container (All divided with a convenient ‘dip’ area already included!), the Monbento MB Original V Pink and White Bento Box (which is a classic, and of course comes in all sorts of colours and patterns), and this convenient all in one Zojirushi SL-XCE20HG Stainless Steel Vacuum Insulated Tiffin Box, which includes a lunchbag and thermos.
If I need to subdivide my little containers further, with dip or something, I use little silicone muffin baking cups. The only ones I could find in the store are these Teacup Cupcake Kit, and while they are adorable and fancy (and so med school professional), I would recommend a mix of styles.
These Bakerpan Silicone Small Mini Chocolate Holders or these other Ipow Silicone Baking Cups Cupcake Bakeware Liners are more what I would recommend, with super bright colourful shapes. I know the brighter my lunch is the happier it makes me feel. AND the upside is, you can use them as baking muffin cups! WHO KNEW (I kid).
Last but not least I would recommend a thermos like this Thermos 10 Ounce Funtainer Food Jar for hot or cold food, as well as smoothies. You can even get ones that come with spoons for soup or oatmeal!
2) Prepare Food Ahead of Time
Yes yes, the old adage. It’s totally true. If I go shopping on the weekend, get home and immediately chop up all the food and store it in tupperware containers, that’s 75% of the work done in maybe 20 minutes. In the mornings when I’m not entirely human, I can just toss the pre-cut melons into the lunchbox and we’re set to go!
3) Make Lunch Colourful (and therefor healthy!)
It’s so important to make sure that lunch is packed full of vitamins and healthy, tasty foods to keep you going on your day. Making sure that your food is a rainbow is an excellent way to accomplish that. There should be at least 3-4 different colours. Not only will it brighten your day come lunchtime, but the more colourful the food is, the more packed full of nutrients it is. Plus it also helps ensure you are hitting all your food groups!
For example: A Watermelon Caprese Salad (red, white and green) with grapes (purple) and a roll (brown and white):
or Turkey Cucumber Wraps (pink, white, green) with broccoli (green), carrots (orange) and hummus (brown). Dessert is blueberries (blue) and bananas (yellow) with chia and flax seeds (brown), and a chocolate protein shake (brown).
4) Do as Much As You Can The Night Before
If you -like me- are not a morning person, it helps to make as much of the lunch as possible the night before so it’s in the fridge and ready to go. Sandwiches, salads, veggies, almost everything can be made before bed-time. Some things, like soup, will need to be reheated and tossed in a thermos in the morning, but save yourself from the headache of trying to assemble an egg salad sandwich while one kid is frantically trying to find their homework and the other is having a meltdown because they want to wear their shoes on the wrong feet. You laugh. I have seen it.
5) And Last but Not Least: Make Lunch Fun!
It will seem less of a chore, tickle your creative side, and make the eating of it so much easier!
Now, I’m not talking about going the whole nine yards with the bento box insanity. I mean, if you have the time and the passion for it, I will not stop you from carving Iron Man out of Baby Bels! Who wouldn’t want a lunch that looks like this? What I mean by ‘fun’ is a lunch that is easy to assemble, but also something that would make you smile when you open it. Kids are notoriously picky (who else traded an PB&J for a friend’s Lunchable? Exactly). Easy ways to make lunch fun are:
- A mix of bright colours (including the food!)
- A fun twist, like build your own sandwich, or putting fish crackers on blue jello.
- Using some quick and cute cutters like these food/fish themed ones :CuteZCute Bento Ham Cheese Carrot Cutter (Ahhhh I love that jellyfish one!) or these little bear faces that also come as stamps!: CuteZCute Animal Friends Food Deco Cutter and Stamp Kit
- or some little Animals Food Picks and Forks (that frog!) or cute Kotobuki Mini Condiment Containers for Bento Box (Ugh, the messes made by not having a leak-proof salad dressing container!)
- or even some crazy animal shaped Egg Moulds (this is one step too far for me!)
Basically, have fun with it.
If you have the time and patience, having your child help you put together their lunch will ensure that there’s a better chance they’ll eat it, provide some bonding time, and help them learn their way around the kitchen – which is never a bad thing!
What you do to make lunch easier? I would love to hear! Please share in the comments below!
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