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To be honest, I’m sloppy at best at kid things. I’m just not a diligent person, unless it concerns writing and photography. With cleaning and cooking and baking, I just add a little of this and a little of that, wish for magic fairies to do the work for me, and then mostly.. often.. it all works out in the end. I guess I have a knack for that – throwing things together in the end.
I have had a love/hate relationship with school lunches over the past year, ever since Scarlet started kindergarten. If it were up to her entirely, her lunchbox would probably be filled with maple syrup, candy canes, lollipops and jelly beans. OR. She’d buy lunch every day. We can’t afford that every day, and we need to work together with the kids to #FuelTheirAdventures with fun, balanced and interesting school lunches. Most importantly – we need to fill lunches with foods she will actually eat!
What I’ve learned between kindergarten and first grade is that my daughter is not measuring how neatly I slice sandwiches and apples, nor how I arrange them in her lunchbox. She just appreciates the fun, humor and thought I put into it, and of course, she cares about what she’s eating and how it tastes. And the truth is – for some of us, packing lunches is hard!
I’ve learned a few things over the years, between preschool and now. I’ve learned that just when I get into a good groove, it changes. Maybe there’s a new allergy in a classmate. Maybe Scarlet up and decides she won’t eat something and that’s that.
1. Consider a lunch box, bag or tin with compartments. I find that it helps me to pack more balanced lunches because I look at each compartment and decide how to best fill them. I also think it cuts down on waste to use compartment lunch boxes.
2. There’s a reason sandwiches are timeless! They work. Do they get boring? Well.. sometimes. There are ways to make them interesting and easier to make. You can make a week’s worth, or more, of sandwiches in advance. I like to make them on Sunday nights and just pull them out of the fridge every morning. You can also keep them in the freezer for up to 4-6 weeks. I have never tried that with cold cuts but for peanut butter, peanut butter and jelly, and just jelly, it honestly works! You can thaw them at home, or put them in the lunch box right from the freezer, where they will thaw by lunchtime. If your child is getting sick of bread, or if you just don’t have any (guilty!), consider tortillas, bagels or even dinner rolls! They’re delicious.
3. Be inspired by fondue. Find a dip or two, and build your lunch around foods that go well in that dip! If your kid loves peanut butter, or any other nut butter, and can bring it to school, also pack apples, celery, bread, crackers, pretzel sticks and more! Also, hummus seems to be a very big crowd pleaser with the lunchtime crowd. You can bring pretzels, crackers, carrots, cucumbers, cold cuts and more. Ranch dip might work well too, but I’ve never packed it for Scarlet.
4. Cookie cutters really shine here. We have quite the collection of cookie cutters in our house – small and large – and they work so well for school lunches. It doesn’t take a lot of time to cut sandwiches, cheese or fruit into fun shapes!
5. Food on a stick/skewer! My kids love to eat kabobs and the sky is the limit here. You can make fruit-only kabobs, veggie-only kabobs, meat and cheese, kabobs, or make really fun food combinations that your kid(s) will love.
6. Ice packs are your friends. Makeshift/consumable ones are even better. Freeze your drink or smoothie drink the night before. Scarlet often complains about warm drinks or warm food. A frozen drink will thaw by lunchtime, and remain cold, but even better – a frozen drink or smoothie drink can act as an ice pack for the whole lunch!
7. Make your own trail mix! Kids love customized snacks and the sky is the limit! Raisins? Nuts? Dried fruit? Cheerios? All?
8. Hard boil a bunch of eggs at the beginning of the week, maybe when you’re making all those sandwiches in advance! I can put them in school lunches, and bonus is that I eat them with my lunch or as a snack every day. I like to dip them in mustard!
9. Pasta CAN happen! Scarlet’s favorite food is macaroni and cheese, but she used to get mad when I put it cold in her school lunch for preschool, because it would be hard and rubbery (her words) by the time noon came around. If you heat mac and cheese, spaghetti or tortellini in the morning before school and put it in a thermos, it can stay warm until lunchtime. Yum.
10. Think with kids in mind, and most importantly – with YOUR kid in mind. Think about colors and shapes and easy-to-eat food. Think about foods and lunch containers that are easy to open, and think about offering quite a few options. Scarlet is a smoothie girl. She always has a lot left over if I give her a large smoothie. Dannon® Danimals® smoothies are the perfect size for her, and she finds them tasty too! I pack one for her lunch, and then she has one after school for snack.
We get our Dannon® Danimals® at Walmart. Recently, our local Walmart has been renovating to be bigger and better, but I was able to find them in the refrigerated aisle with other dairy products.
Dannon® Danimals® suit our family well, because they’re a great on-the-go option for school, after school, during practice or homework, or of course – with breakfast. Right now there’s a Dannon® Danimals® Play 60 contest. If you find the “Golden Bongo” bottle (in specially marked packages), you can win a Play60 Field Day for your school with NFL Pros!
Scarlet loves secret endings of movies, and stays long after the credits roll. I told her I’d do a secret ending here! She wants you to know that both kids loved the smoothies because of the taste and mainly – how well they pair with silly straws. I want you to know that both parents love the smoothies, because they provide “Only the Good Stuff®” – with no high fructose corn syrup or artificial flavors or colors, as well as providing a good source of calcium and vitamin D.