Easy Lunch Box Ideas for back to school.
I pack three lunches every morning. None of them are mine.
The people who eat these lunches all have their issues: My husband wants more cookies than cookie monster in his lunch. Quinn is not allowed to have a real lunch bag because he WILL lose it (He is 0 for 6 since 4th grade). And Luka is sandwich-averse. That is the hardest one of all to work around.
Why? Because everybody likes sandwiches don't they? PB&J. Ham & Cheese. Grilled Cheese. Bologna. Everybody but Luka. Kids can even have cute sandwiches like animals and puzzle pieces. Luka is still unimpressed. Won't even eat a bun on his hamburger. We tell people he's doing Atkins.
Only my friend Mary has been able to get Luka to eat anything between two slices of bread. And that was just jelly. And for awhile (shhh) I made him a jelly sandwich and told him Mary had come over and made it for him. Until he figured out I was making that up. And now Mary has moved to Philadelphia, so the jelly sandwich eating is over.
The plan: breadth, depth, variety.
So, I'm making a new snack pact this year. Lunch, I promise, will be tasty and fun. My lunch box plan for Luka for 2nd grade will be the Garanimals approach. I have figured out a list of possible proteins, breads, and fruit & veggies, and will keep them all on-hand in pantry and refrigerator. Then I will let Luka pick one or two of each, for each lunch of the week. I'll add a juice box and his favorite dessert (usually a Snack Pack pudding cup or a Girl Scout Thin Mint if I have them) and voila, it's a lunch he likes.
Now that I have pictures of his choices up on the refrigerator, it makes it easy to point and choose every morning.
NEW ADDITION: Everyone keeps asking me where I got all the cute little containers I used in this post. The Amazon links to those exact items are on my blog's Facebook page right here y'all!
I use babyfood ice cube trays as lunch bento boxes.
Protein choices in lunches that are not sandwiches.
Pack non-sandwich proteins in tiny containers or lunch baggies (depending on if you have a child that will or will not bring home containers.) Since I am not a make-from-scratch mom but a convenience-food mom, I like to find things already made, chopped, sliced, and I especially love things in tiny single-serve packages. But if I keep the following around, I can easily add a protein to a lunchbox: cubed ham, peanuts, fish crackers (these have protein!), cubed cheddar, pepperoni, hummus, granola, string cheese, sunflower seeds.
Other easy protein finger foods to have on hand are bags of pre-cooked sliced chicken breast or steak (like you'd use in fajitas), turkey meatballs, canadian bacon rounds, and sliced up hot dogs.
Luka says pretzels shaped like footballs are awesome.
Bread, but not bread.
In lieu of the bread in a sandwich, Luka will eat wheat crackers, saltines, cheese puffs, pretzels, fish crackers, and even croutons. Especially croutons. He is surprised these are not located in the chip aisle at the grocery store. I haven't eaten a crouton on a salad at a restaurant in years because guess who picks them all off my salad and eats them for me.
I explained to him that croutons are made out of bread. Like a sandwich. And yet he will not eat a sandwich.
Veggie Ideas for the Veggie Averse.
There are tons and tons of veggie and fruit things that come in tiny pieces and tiny packages. Freeze dried things are the best for me, because they are shelf-stable! We pack fruits and veggies like freeze-dried strawberry slices, freeze dried corn kernels, freeze dried peas, raisins, yogurt-covered raisins, popcorn – especially cheddar popcorn, grapes – green and red, dried banana chips, and blueberries.
If your kid is more akin to real live fruits and veggies (not like mine) you can pack little bags or containers of tiny carrots, steamed fresh green beans, cherry tomatoes in all the colors, edamame, celery, cucumber slices, strawberries, raspberries, apple slices, peach slices, those little Cutie Oranges, cut-up cantaloupe, or a banana. (We have those tiny bananas at our Mexican grocery which are super cute.)
Tiny food = food Luka wants to eat.
One of the keys I've found to getting a kid to eat something is to show it to them in tiny form. That's why these little containers of tiny food work so well for Luka. Plus, he eats all the little bits til he's full and stops. Whatever's left, he just brings home, or eats in after-school. No need for silverware, and most of it is mobile.
Since Luka can never get enough dairy, I will also add a tiny yogurt in some form (drinkable, tiny cup, or squeeze tube) which I keep all in the freezer. If I put a frozen yogurt of some sort in a lunch bag, it is thawed by lunchtime, and acts as a cooler for the rest of the lunch.
Add Snack Pack Pudding to make your easy lunches more fun.
Luka is totally in love with Lemon Snack Pack Pudding. And Strawberry flavor is not too far behind. I can get a 4-cup pack of Snack Pack Pudding at Walmart for one dollar, and there are quite a few more flavors we found: Lemon Meringue Pie, Apple Pie a la Mode, Chocolate Cupcake, and of course the old stand-bys Vanilla, Chocolate, and Butterscotch.
You can print this Snack Pack Pudding $1 off 3 coupon, so you'll get 3 packs for just $2 total. Just a little over .20¢ a cup to add a little more fun to Luka's lunch. The coupon expires 10/31/13, so you have plenty of time to use it. This is an exclusive coupon you'll only find on my blog!
Up the fun with a Lunch Box love note.
One of the other lunch box traditions at my house is adding a first day of school Good Luck love note. Ok, I also put them in on test days, or holidays, or sometimes for no reason at all. I'm sure I am totally embarrassing Quinn in high school with my notes. But that's my job. Snack Pack has made it easy for everyone who is not a graphic designer to put fancy notes in their kids' lunches this year. You can download these lunch box notes and print them out all you want.
Embarrass your kids too. Go ahead. Tell them I said it's ok.
Snack Pack Pudding Twitter Party Alert!
Want even more lunch box meal ideas from expert mom bloggers? Join me for a twitter chat with my friends Andrea of @savinglifestyle and Briana of @bargainbriana on Thursday, Sept 5th, at 1pm ET. Follow them and me @mommyswishlist and use the hashtag #SnackPak to follow along and add to the conversation.
Then, follow our group Lunch Box Ideas Pinterest board, where we'll all be pinning all the great lunch box inspiration we find for you this year! And go check out my Facebook page where readers have been adding more lunchbox ideas all day here.
Find other lunch box menu idea posts on my friends' blogs: Hoosier Homemade, $5 Dinners, Eat at Home Cooks, Lynn's Kitchen Adventures, Life as Mom, Mommy Hates Cooking, and The Happy Housewife.
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Mommy's Wish List Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Snack Pack Pudding thru Savings.com Connect. All opinions are my own.