You can apply many of the principles of meal planning to planning your children’s lunches. Doing so will save you time and money, and can also improve the healthfulness of the lunches you make. To plan successful and stress-free lunches for your kids:
- Know what your kids like to eat.
- Develop a monthly lunch cycle.
- Use lunch-making time-saving techniques.
Figure Out What Your Kids Like to Eat
Kids are notoriously finicky eaters, so rather than buy food they may soon reject, involve them in the process of choosing their lunches. This does not mean you should oblige their every whim for sugary snacks, but rather that you should work with them to come up with healthy foods that they want to eat. Try some of the following:
- Canned tuna
- Cheese slices or string cheese
- Cold cuts
- Dried fruit
- Fresh fruit (apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, pears, peaches)
- Graham crackers or cookies
- Granola bars
- Juice boxes
- Peanut butter
- Pretzels or crackers
- Pudding cups
- Trail mix
- Fresh vegetables (carrots, cucumbers, celery, cherry tomatoes, peppers)
Turn Dinner into Lunch
If your kids enjoy a certain dish that you make for dinner, make plenty of it to use for their lunches as well. For example, leftover roasted chicken, chicken salad, lasagna, and fajitas all make excellent school lunches.
Develop a Monthly Lunch Cycle
Rather than having to decide each morning what to make your kids for lunch, you’ll save time if you plan a monthly lunch cycle. Doing so will give you a big picture of what you’re feeding your children and make it easy to update your weekly shopping list. A monthly schedule will also help you to see if there are any foods, such as peanut butter, that you should buy in bulk to save even more money.
Use Lunch-Making Time-Saving Techniques
Unfortunately, the most common lunch staple, the sandwich, doesn’t freeze well, so there’s a limit to the amount of advance lunch preparation you can do for your kids. However, there are ways to save time when making lunches:
- Be creative with cold cuts. For instance, wrap them around breadsticks or fold them so they fit on kabobs along with vegetables and cheese. Both of these alternatives to sandwiches can be made in advance.
- Bake a large batch of barbecue chicken wings and freeze them in lunch-size servings. Thaw and pack them as needed.
- Nuts, grapes, banana slices, and hard cheese cubes (such as American, Swiss, and cheddar) all freeze well. Pack and freeze them in individual serving bags. When you need them, simply put them straight in your kids’ lunch bags. At room temperature, they’ll thaw by lunchtime.
- Encourage your kids to prepare and pack their own lunches. Letting them know how helpful they’re being will instill a sense of responsibility and independence, which might keep them interested in helping to prepare lunch on a permanent basis.