Labor Day has come and gone – farewell summer! – and that means the big yellow buses have taken your kids away. On one hand, this means there is a little less running around from one summer activity to the other. On the other, parents now have to invest more time in planning, prepping and following schedules…which includes that dreaded one-hour crunch time to get everyone awake, wearing proper clothing, toting the right school supplies, and of course, equipped with their fuel for the day – their lunch!
I’ve heard from parents across New England that creating school lunches can be one of the biggest chores, and frankly, afterthoughts as they’re getting their kids ready for the day. Below are five back to school lunch tips for saving time – and sanity! – as you go through the daily getting-ready grind.
- Make a meal plan for the week – Typically this includes dinners, but it should also include lunches so you can get everything you need at the grocery store at the start of the week. When you create this plan, you can get input from your kids, that way everyone is on the same page when they open their lunch each day. By planning ahead, you can also repurpose ingredients from dinner for use in school lunches. And there’s never any harm in making a dinner in “bulk” so you and your kids can have leftovers for lunch!
- Don’t forget about the budget – Be sure to include the cost for lunches in the greater meal budget. It’s always good to be mindful how much you’re spending to create each lunch, versus how much it costs if your kids were to get a hot meal at school. It’s also good to allocate funds per month for hot school lunches for those mornings when you’re running late, and you know that lunch isn’t going to be packed. Hey, it happens, and it’s always good to have a back-up plan!
- Do what you can the night before – There are several little things that can get done in advance, saving you much needed time in the morning. For example, you can store ready-to-go snacks in the refrigerator or pantry. Package up crackers or cookies, slice veggies/fruit and put in appropriate containers, etc. Additionally, sometimes you can get away with freezing food items that might typically go bad if prepped ahead. For example, you can store pre-made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the freezer, and if you’re in a pinch with no time on a given morning, simply pull one out and drop it in the lunch box!
- Use reusable lunch bags – Instead of spending money on brown bags that get thrown out every day, every kid should have his or her own lunch box. This way, no one accidentally grabs the wrong lunch! Also, kids generally get more excited about what’s in their lunch when they love the characters or theme of their personal lunch carrier.
- Purchase various sizes of plastic bags / containers – By doing this, you’ll have the right packing materials for any lunch item. To save money, it’s smart to stick to reusable containers, and you can generally find a good “starter kit” of different sizes at bulk retailers like Costco.
Photo: My Daily Find