I’m all about making life easier when possible.
As moms we are juggling a million things and making lunches for school is one of those things that seems like it should be an easy task, but ends up being one of the tasks that I avoid until the last minute. So here’s what I’ve discovered.
Just like anything else, preparation is key. You may have seen our serve-yourself snack station over the summer. I decided to apply the concept to lunch.
If I let the kids have make their own lunches for school, it would be a free-for-all in the kitchen. I know there would be a huge mess to clean up and it most likely wouldn’t be a balanced healthy lunch.
By organizing a few bins in the fridge and pantry ahead of time, and creating a few rules for their use, I was able to give the kids some independence in packing their own lunch.
They’re walking out the door daily with healthy lunches that I don’t have to pack (or at least help minimally), SCORE!
To set up a serve-yourself lunch station, you’ll need to make a trip to the grocery store every 1-2 weeks, depending on how much you are able to buy and store at home.
You’ll also need to get yourself some handy-dandy storage bins like these.
Below, I list everything else you need to know to set up the stations and get those kids packing their lunches in no time:
Fridge Bin Stations
#1 Main Dish
For our house that’s a sandwich with some kind of lunch meat. I purchase the kids’ two favorite types of lunch meat and the cheese every week. Add the condiments to the bin and set the bread right next to it.
You grab those things and bring them to the counter to make the sandwich or, if the kids are old enough, they can be trained to do this alone. If you are doing it yourself, it still makes it easier to have everything together in the fridge.
Some kids don’t like sandwiches, so you will need to adjust this to their tastes. Maybe you have a picnic station with crackers instead of bread or maybe you have different types of protein (beans or items to make mini-pizzas). Whatever you use the most, you’ll want to put in the bin for easy access.
#2 Refrigerated Items
You’ll also need a bin for the refrigerated items. My family likes yogurt, string cheese and apple sauce. I also like to cut up fruit once a week (or every couple days, depending on the fruit) and put them in lidded cups for grab and go.
Pantry Bin Stations
#1 Store Bought Sides
These are the ‘sides’ for lunches that don’t need to be refrigerated. I like to purchase things like crackers, granola bars and nut mixes.
I’ll also buy little treats like yogurt covered raisins and individual packs of nut butter. The key is figuring out what is easiest to buy pre-made. You’ll also want to have a balance of healthy snacks and the little indulgences that you feel good about sending in their lunches.
#2 Homemade Snacks
This bin obviously won’t have the shelf life of the store bought snacks, so these snacks usually only last Monday through Friday and then it gets re-stocked. I like to make batches of popcorn and put them in ziplock bags. I also make muffins.
Sometimes I’ll even sneak in vegetables, like these zucchini muffins. The other thing I’ll put in this bin are things that can’t be purchased in individual packages. My kids like beef jerky, so I’ll pre-portion some into plastic bags and add this to the bin.
1. If you can, make the lunch the night before. I find that it’s much less stressful to make lunches in the afternoon or evening than it is to make them as we rush out the door.
2. Kids have to have a main dish for their lunch. If I left it up to my kids, they would choose to have a lunch entirely made up of snacks. But, snacks are not filling, so we pick a main dish they like and everyone has to have one in their lunch.
3. Decide how many items they can add from each bin. My kids must choose one fruit or vegetable item from the fridge. They can also choose one refrigerated snack and one or two snacks from the pantry bins.
More Packed Lunch Help from MPMK
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