Tackling Homemade School Lunches: A Simplified Process
|February 7, 2013||Filled under Food, Healthy Eating, Meal Planning & Preparation, Organization & Efficiency|
I’m all about organization and efficiency in everything I do – at home and at work. If you’ve been reading my blog, you may have noticed that we focus on one thing at a time and try to improve upon it, like dry cleaning, energy consumption, food shopping and meal planning.
Our latest focus is on school lunches.
Why are we focusing on lunches?
Each night we prepare four lunches for our kids as well as lunches for ourselves. That’s time consuming! Time is spent in the kitchen each night preparing the lunches; time is spent each week planning a variety of healthy lunches that are nutritionally balancds and visually appealing to a child.
As parents, we are responsible for providing our children with food to eat throughout their school day. We can either sign-up for the school lunch program or send our kids to school with a home-prepared lunch. We have opted for the home-prepared lunches for the following reasons:
- We want control over the portions: With home lunch, we set the portion sizes and proportion of carbs to fruits and veggies to protein. They may not eat everything we provide but they can’t eat more than what’s in their lunchbox.
- We want to know what is eaten and not eaten: The lunchbox comes home with what was not eaten. We can see that our daughter didn’t eat the carrots but did eat the peppers. We can see that our son only ate half of his tuna sandwich and didn’t touch his soup. This information helps us to adjust the lunch menu and work toward complete lunches that will be eaten.
- We want our kids to eat nutritious lunches: We are not “health nuts”. We buy organic, sometimes. We prefer whole grains. We almost always offer vegetables. We try to provide variety and encourage tasting new things. We believe that our home-prepared lunches are generally healthier and more well-balanced nutritionally than the lunches provided in the school. (Or, if the school lunches are equally nutritious, we don’t know if the kids are eating everything served.) Plus, we can almost always be certain that we are sending them to school with food we believe they like and will eat versus hoping that they eat what is provided by the school.
However, preparing so many lunches each night is a commitment and it takes planning and organization for it to not become overwhelming.
Improvements We’ve Made
Here are a few of the ways that we have made making lunch for everyone easier and more efficient.
- We found the right containers: This year we invested in reusable containers. I’ve started to use the Easy Lunch Boxes three-compartment container. We were spending too much time wrapping and packaging lunch items separately. Then, each night we would have to wash so many little containers. Now we lay out these containers on the counter and fill each compartment with the lunch items. Additionally, we invested in small Thermoses for soup and pasta meals that should be keep warm until lunchtime.
- We plan what’s for lunch: Just like we do for our weeknight dinners, we now have lunch menus. Our weekly shopping trip includes the items we need for the lunches. New lunch ideas are introduced on the weekends to see if the kids like it before adding it into the lunch menu rotation.
- We make lunch the night before: Again, just like we do for our weeknight dinners, we make all lunches that night before. On those rare nights when we are exhausted or out late for some reason and choose to make all the lunches in the morning, we are in for a rough start to the day.
How do you provide lunch for your kids?