Every year, back-to-school season has families buzzing with excitement. New sneakers, new outfits, fun school supplies — even as a busy parent, it’s hard not to get wrapped up. Until you remember that back-to-school also means packing 180 school lunches for each child.
Finding school lunch inspiration can be a challenge, so we’ve pulled out the big guns. In our first episode in a three-part school lunch series, we share our foolproof tips and tricks for keeping it healthy, fun, and most of all, easy. Here’s how.
Making Lunch Duty Not Feel Like Doodie
Yea, it’s true. We like packing school lunch.
What’s our deal?
Well, we know that once you find a way to make the logistics of packing lunch easier — and, yes, we realize that’s no simple feat — it becomes a fairly effortless act of parental love.
Corny? Sure, but also true. Plus, packing lunch is a way of showing love while you’re not present. You do not have to sit with them or feed them or be at the table with them. That’s someone else’s problem for one meal a day, which if you allow it to be, is a relief.
We know that you love hearing about new sandwich ideas, healthy snack products, and other suggestions to pull into your repertoire. We get it, but the truth is that no matter how many new ideas you find, you inevitably lose inspiration. Right?
We think the real key to making school lunch easier over the long haul is:
- being prepared
- having a well-stocked pantry, and
- having the right tools on hand
Meghan thinks that prepping lunches ahead is key, and she shares some of her favorite strategies in this episode. You should listen because she’s a master who can pack 10 school lunches at once.
Stacie, on the other hand, does some basic bulk cooking for the week — stuff that isn’t school lunch specific, but can also be used for breakfast and dinner. For example, she often hard boils eggs to have on hand or pre-cooks pasta to either use in one of these clever ways to pack leftover plain pasta in school lunch or make these leftover pasta lunch bowls.
Having a Well-Stocked Pantry
Having pantry packed with plenty of interesting, healthy ingredients means having plenty of interesting, healthy ingredients to grab while packing school lunch. It’s simple arithmetic.
This is Stacie’s essential lunch box pantry list. Listen to this week’s episode to hear what Meghan keeps on hand as well.
Having the Right Tools
In addition to having the right ingredients, you’ll also need the right tools. Meghan and her daughter, Ella, reviewed 5 of the most popular lunch boxes last year and shared their results at Kitchn. She also shared this super helpful list of 5 essential tools for packing a week of school lunches on Sunday.
“We get stuck in these routines and don’t think to get out of them enough. We have to think outside the box. Lunch doesn’t have to fit a formula of any other meal. There’s actually a lot of freedom in school lunch.”Meghan
But What If They Don’t Eat What We Pack?!
We know this is a big concern and we’ve been there. In this episode, we share tips for how we’ve handle this, and also… stay tuned! We’re not only welcoming school lunch experts Catherine McCord of Weelicious and Laura Fuentes of Momables in our upcoming episodes, but we’ll also be speaking with a mom and elementary school teacher about what goes on during lunch at school. (So. Much. Talking.)
And because we like getting a little heady sometimes, we’ll also be speaking with the fantastic chef Jenny Dorsey who, among the many amazing things she does, has started a series on Instagram about privilege and food. One of the images explores the immigrant and first-generation experience of school lunch.
PS: In case you were listening super closely, this week we mentioned a few other articles including five surprising things that Kristen Chase of Cool Mom Picks found when she asked her kids to pack their own damn school lunches and how to make a DIY Taco Lunchable.
What We’re Digging
We couldn’t have a school lunch episode without featuring a lunch box (or two). This week, Meghan is digging these Easy Lunch Boxes, but you may be surprised why. Listen to find out more.
Stacie mentioned her favorite lunch box from Planet Box, which you’ll see all over her Instagram, but she’s really digging Duke’s Mayo. Believe it or not, she just discovered it this summer and looks forward to using it to make tastier sandwiches all school year long. Oh, and if you live in NYC, the local source she mentioned is Foster Sundry.
“Sometimes I pack rolled up ham and pretzels. It’s the same goddamn thing, but somehow it’s gone when a ham sandwich would be left behind. I want to be like, ‘Are you kidding?!’ But it works, so whatever. Great!”Stacie
Try This At Home
This week’s advice is super easy, but maybe something you hadn’t thought of:
Talk to your kid’s new teacher about school lunch. Find out what time lunch will be, how much time they’ll have to eat, who they’ll be sitting with, if that will change over the year, if they’ll be sitting in the class or in a cafeteria, what kids in the community usually bring for lunch, and so on.
You’ll be surprised at how much great, specific advice you’ll get!