September is surely apropos to take on a back to school topic. At this juncture, my kids are about two weeks into first term at our local public school. Lucky for them (the school that is), they don’t have a cafeteria—meaning they don’t have to deal with me questioning what my boys and other students are being fed. Needless to say, lunch gets packed daily in our home, like it or not!
Evidently my sweet children are now convinced that I am their personal short order cook Monday through Friday. Breakfast a la minute whether a green drink, eggs and rice, pancakes, oatmeal, a quesadilla or mini tortilla pizza is a regular thing. Cereal is a sometimes option. And because "hand crafted" breakfasts aren't enough, one morning last week, I willingly prepared a 6:30am Lentil Soup for school lunch (neither kid likes sandwiches). The next morning they asked for ground turkey with rice; I obliged. By Friday it was meatballs and spaghetti! Hey, I am all for nourishing my offspring but running a School Lunch Restaurant before 7:30am is just not an everyday option, especially given that I also work!
You'd think I know better but admittedly enthusiasm took over when they began school—finally a quiet house, a home office that I can actually use without 100 interruptions, and a touch more wiggle room for me-time. Thus I said to myself, “Making them a gourmet lunch every day is the least I can do now that I have all of this space.” Well, FORK that!
So I have decided to take the advice that I give so many—especially those whose kids don’t like sandwiches and have food peculiarities (like my little guy). Take these 3 WTF School Lunch Tips to heart because THEY WORK:
ONE | Intelligently Food Shop | weekly or bi-weekly, aim to buy foods and snacks that you know your kids will enjoy. Some package snack ideas (that we like at home) are:
- Bob’s Red Mill Oatmeal Cups
- Justin’s Snack Packs (however, nut allergies beware)
- Stretch Island Fruit Strips
- Raisins (or other dried un sugared fruit)
- GoGo Squeez Applesauce
- Cheese sticks
TWO | Plan to Cook | put a few hours aside one day per week (or more if you can) to prepare some nourishing staples. Some suggestions from What The Fork Are You Eating:
- Lazy Lentil Soup
- Cauliflower Cheese Soup
- Chicken and Rice Soup
- Vegetable Fried Rice
- Pesto Pasta (but make the pasta in the morning)
- Tofu Rambling Scramble
- Cowgirl Chili
- Cornmeal Crusted Chicken Cutlets
- Mon Frères’ Turkey Meatballs
THREE | Take Lunch Orders | post dinner, talk to your kids about the next day’s school lunch and even have them organize their food and pre-pack non-perishables. If you can get this out of the way, packing lunch can be "stress-free" (well, sort of).
Recently at a Healthy Schools for Healthy Kids luncheon hosted by my local wellness foundation, I had the treat of finally meeting Bettina Elias Siegel, one of the most Influential Moms of 2015 (according to Family Circle Magazine) and otherwise known as the founder of The Lunch Tray. Lucky for me (and you), Bettina’s Best of “It Takes A Village to Pack a Lunch”—Six Years of Lunch-Packing Advice appeared in my in box early this week. While my book can help you navigate overall choice (for grown-ups and kids), Bettina’s work focuses on “kids and food, in school and out” and given her background in advertising and food law, she is now one of my go-to food truth seekers on this topic. Learn more about Bettina and sign up for her blog here.
Back to school lunch, here's to a healthy 2016-2017 academic year!