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One week from tomorrow, I will pack up two lunch boxes early in the morning. For the first time since June, I will walk the kids out to the end of the driveway and wait with them for the big, yellow buses to roll down our street. Then, I will give them the biggest hugs imaginable, kiss their little heads and send them off to school again.
They are looking forward to going back to school. This year brings some changes — different school schedules, new classrooms, a full day for Paige. It’s exciting.
This month, I have been focusing on making Back to School easy (in the kitchen, at least) here on Sarah’s Cucina Bella. We’ve talked about packing bento lunches the kids will love and how to ensure that your child’s lunch is safe for them to eat. There are a few lunch box recipes coming soon — along with tips for quick dinners and easy breakfasts the kids can make themselves.
But today? Nestle asked me to pop into Walmart to pick up a few of their Nestle meal solutions to make back to school a little easier. Let’s talk about making that lunch box packing a little easier — and incorporating a little fun too.
How to Make Packing Lunch Boxes A Little Easier
- Prep Ahead – Anything you can do ahead of time makes lunch box packing easier. When you can, chop, pack and prepare ahead of time. For instance, some snacks can be packed in little containers over the weekend to make them grab and go.
- Have a Plan – The worst mornings are the ones where I’ve completely forgotten about lunch box packing needs to happen. Those are the days when planning ahead always saves lunch. On the weekends, I make a loose plan for school lunches and make sure I have everything I need to execute. This year, since I will be preparing two of everything for the first time, this planning will be even more important than ever for stress-free mornings.
- Keep It Organized – Our lunch containers are all kept in a wicker basket in the kitchen. The reusable water bottles are in a cabinet together. The lunch boxes are on top of the fridge. By keeping everything in specific spots, lunch making is a little easier since I never have to worry about finding the bottles, containers or bags we need. Likewise, snacks are store together in the pantry so they are easy to find and use too.
- Keep Drinks on Hand – My kids need drinks for both lunch and snack time. While I often will include a water bottle for both, sometimes you want to treat them. On those days, it’s really great to have treat drinks like Juicy Juice juice boxes and Nesquik Ready to Drink Flavored Milk on hand (did you know that they sell small bottles that are shelf-stable? They are perfect for lunch boxes). Since my kids adore apple juice and chocolate milk, these always make the lunch a little more special
We are really close to ready for this school year — just a little more homework and school shopping to do.
But wait … what about my lunch?
Lunch for At-Home Moms
So … I’ve been working at home for the last five years. You’d think that would mean that I’ve got this feeding myself thing down, right? Not so much. Every year has been a little different. Five years ago, Will went to school twice a week in the afternoon. Two years ago, Will had all day school but Paige had to be dropped off three times a week for her afternoon preschool. And this year? Totally different. This year will be the first time when my day isn’t punctuated by running out to drop someone off at preschool or the bus stop in the middle of the day. It’s going to be a big, huge change for me. I’ve made a plan for that time of day: I am going to devote a little time to me.
That’s right. I am jumping feet first into healthier eating and living — and planning to get exercise in at lunchtime a few times a week. I am also looking to break my snack-all-day habit that’s really packed a little bulk onto my not-so-tall frame. What excites me is that lunches like the one above? They are a-okay since they are totally about moderation.
Combining a light Lean Cuisine Simple Favorites dish with a big salad and lemon water makes lunch satisfying and filling without being weight-unfriendly. It’s a great way to give myself a little treat — without derailing any progress.
Plus, there is something to be said for a lunch that is quick and easy. After all, while the kids are at school for quite a few hours, that time can really fly. I don’t know about you, but I really need to make efficient use of all the hours in the day.
Geez, I am going to miss them when they are at school …
Disclosure: I was compensated for this post but all opinions are my own.
Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. She is the author of several cookbooks including The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook and One-Pot Pasta, both from Rockridge Press. A single mother to two kids in middle school, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.