Can you believe the summer is almost over? As most of you know, I took a leave of absence of sorts this summer as I try to figure out the future Keeping Mommy Sane goes from here. I’m still gnawing on things a bit, and have some stuff I want to work out, so I think this sabbatical will continue into the fall some. Thanks in advance for bearing with me!
But in the meantime, I couldn’t let the return to school—next week for my kiddos—go by without tackling one of my least favorite tasks: making lunches. Which for me is right up there with cleaning the bathroom.
To be fair, it’s not like I got a reprieve over the summer. Most of Buddy’s camps required a lunch from home, as did Mimi’s daycare.
And I’m lucky that Buddy, as least, is generally fan of buying hot lunches at school. But this will be Mimi’s first time in the public schools (kindergarten, sniff) and I have no idea how my picky eater will feel about buying lunch.
Because I tend to view making lunches as a chore, I have a few tips and tricks to help make it more speedy, easy, and less tedious. I’m not breaking any new ground here for you seasoned parents, but for you rookies out there (kindergarten parents, I’m talking to you), here are some of my biggest tips.
Grab and Go
I know some people poo-poo at convenience foods, but not this girl. The ability to grab something and just throw it into a lunchbox without having to find a plastic baggie or (worse) a Tupperware container with matching lid is sooo worth it. The trick is finding healthy grab-and-go items.
Stonyfield YoKid Squeezers tubes are a big hit in my house. Buddy prefers the strawberry flavor, and Mimi is a fan of blueberry. During the warmer months I’ll put a stash in the freezer; the frozen tubes will defrost by lunchtime and stay cool at the same time.
Speaking of squeezable products, Stonyfield recently sent us some Justin’s Honey Peanut Butter and Maple Almond Butter Squeeze Packs and Chocolate Hazelnut Butter-Pretzel Snack Packs. And I’m not gonna lie: I kept them for myself.
Part of my reasoning was practical: Buddy’s incoming class has some tree nut allergies, and he actually prefers soy nut butter, even though he’s not allergic. And while Mimi loves herself some PB, she’s only 5 and even though the Squeeze Packs are easy to open, I don’t think she could do it all by herself in the cafeteria.
But mostly I was selfish. Because the Squeeze Packs are my new favorite pre-run fuel (I put them on bananas, on my Van’s protein waffles, and I’ve even been known to eat them right from the package). And because the Snack Packs have Hazelnut Butter that tastes JUST LIKE Nutella. And I am obsessed with Nutella—to the point where I can’t buy it because I will eat the whole container with a spoon in one sitting. Seriously. Ask Dr. G.
But for those of you who don’t have allergies to take into consideration, or do not have a hazelnut butter addiction to contend with, all of these products are healthy—and easy—lunchbox options.
Other go-to options for us: Trader Joe’s Organic Carrot Applesauce. Sticks of string cheese. Individual snack size bags of baby carrots.
Invest in a bento box
I purchased these bento boxes from Easy Lunchbox from Amazon (<–affiliate link) years ago and they have been a lifesaver. They fit into every lunchbox I’ve run into, and there are separate sections for a sandwich and two snacks. The way the cover snaps on keeps everything in their individual compartments, preventing the dreaded mixing of food. Plus it’s environmentally friendly (no plastic baggies!) and, more importantly, no having to dig up separate plastic containers and (ugh) matching lids.
While we’ve generally opted for LL Bean lunchboxes over the years, Stonyfield recently sent us a Pack-It Freezable Lunch Box in an army print (perfect for Buddy) and, boy, did it come in handy this summer while he was at soccer camp!
I hated the idea of his lunch sitting there under the hot sun all morning, and while I could have thrown in an ice pack in his regular lunch box, I wasn’t sure how cold it would really keep things. The Pack-It Lunch Boxes keep their contents cool for up to 10 hours, making me more apt to pack perishable items in his lunch.
For those in warmer climates, or for those kids who like foods that really should stay cool until lunch time, I highly recommend the Pack-It.
As a Stonyfield Yo-Getter blogger, I received free products from Stonyfield, Justin’s, and Pack-It in exchange for my review. All opinions expressed here are my own.