Cafeteria lunches seem to be increasing in cost while decreasing in nutrition and flavor.
As a mom of 3 GoodNCrazy kids I’ve had to come up with creative ideas to get the kids out the door in a realistic time-frame while keeping their tummies happy! We tend to pack lunches about 50% of school days. First, the kids scan the cafeteria menu and chose the days for ‘cold lunch’. Usually skipping the dreaded turkey and potato-mash day and especially the slimy/greasy pizza day! (They HATE the school’s pizza.)
They love knowing what’s in their lunch box. I love sending REAL food!
Our GoodNCrazy Lunch Box Ideas (keeping it realistic folks)!
- RULE NUMBER THE FIRST. Kids make their own lunches. The end.
Even my kindergartner composes nearly his whole lunch box. How hard is it to throw in a granola bar and an applesauce cup? My older kid makes one sandwich and then splits it each day with the younger sibling, because a whole sandwich always comes home half eaten otherwise!
- Freeze 1/2 of a small water bottle.
Top off with water the next morning, acting as a cooler and a drink in one. We stay away from juices at lunch time, the calories are too high and the nutrients are too low. EAT real fruit instead!
- WE NEVER EVER use baggies. I keep all sorts of random plastic containers on hand JUST for this purpose. My kids know how uber mom crazy I am about baggies.They know not to cross me on this issue.
“Just walk away slowly, mommy is on a baggie rant again….”
- Fave ‘sandwich’ ideas:
*bagels in place of sandwich ‘bread’
*tortilla roll ups w/ PB&J or ham&cheese
*most often just plain old Sara Lee Whole Grain WHITE bread. (I figure I’d rather they actually EAT the sandwich over fighting about pure whole wheat, right?)
- Thermos Time (Often my kids fight over who gets to take casserole leftovers the next day.)
One of their favorite next day thermos leftovers? I’m seriously embarrassed
to say is Hamburger Helper. I know… the horror right? But there is this
one flavor called Philly CheeseSteak that honestly is more yummy than
anything I can figure out how to make on my own… try it and tell me if we are
Also Ramen noodles is a fave in the thermos. I know.. kids? Right? I stress too much about chicken dishes in a thermos so if anyone has good advice I’m all ears.
- On Fridays we have ‘snack lunch’ meaning, no sandwich at all.
Instead we toss in meat slices, cheese slices and crackers.. with the usual suspects: fruit slices, berries or applesauce cup. But for fun we add any other finger foods we can think of: raisins, cheese sticks, carrot sticks…!? The point is that it’s different, and when they are in charge of making their own and they come up with more creative things than I ever could anyway!
- Last, Try something new!
My kids have been in a few day camps recently, lunches required each day. We’ve decided we love the new Kool-Aide fun fizz drops. I get to send a re-usable water bottle with nothing but water in it, and they add the tablet at lunchtime. A fun treat for them with no calories, leaving this wanna-be green mom smiling.
Here are a few more creative and fabulous send along lunch ideas:
- Amazing ideas on MyGreenAustralia. Bonus: all the Kings-Englishisms, and biscuits-cum-cookies talk.. I love the pizza ideas especially!
- Fabulous new ideas for lunch boxes in the Everything Fabulous Section of EverythingMom.com.
- School Lunch Ideas.com has terrific tips. I’m always looking for healthier options!
- And one more… 30 ideas for school lunches from GoodHouseKeeping of course!
Bio: In a former life, Carissa Rogers was a molecular biologist. In her current life, she is the chief researcher of parenting dos (and some don’ts), new recipes, and for spice she pretends to be a photographer. She started blogging in February of 2008 and publishes her good & crazy thoughts on GoodNCrazy.com. She has 3 crazy kids and one good husband.
Disclosure: Carissa received no compensation. She simply loves FoodWhirl.com!