Everyday Living July 25th, 2016

11 Lunch Box Hacks That'll Have You Nailing Parenthood

It’s back to school season! A time to buy new school supplies and clothes, meet your kid’s teachers, and get back into that oh-so familiar routine. And also … making lunches.

Maybe your children are different, but my finicky boys rarely want to buy hot lunch. That’s all fine and dandy, as it allows me to monitor their healthy, and non-healthy, foods. But by the end of the week, I’m oftentimes tired from work and running an entire household. Some days, the struggle is all too real.

To ease the burden of packing cold lunches, I’ve found these 11 tricks of the trade to be a lifesaver. It helps make lunch prep fun and a whole lot simpler for my boys and me. Hopefully you’ll find them just as helpful. You’ve got this, mom and dad!

1) This may sound obvious, but be sure to label the lunchbox with your child’s name. Soft lunch bags are all the rage these days, and it seems that several other kids in the classroom have eerily similar tastes. Instead of etching their name in black Sharpie, get it embroidered or monogrammed for that personal touch. Not only will this prevent your kid from misplacing his or her own lunchbox, but also losing their food to a hungry classmate.

2) If you can, food prep the night before. Mornings can be a rush to get everyone dressed, teeth brushed and out the door. By portioning fruit into Baggies or containers in advance, or packing the entire meal and putting it in the fridge, you’re saving precious time in the morning.

3) If your little one enjoys hot foods like mac ‘n’ cheese or pasta, it’s smart to invest in a high-quality insulated container. It’s amazing how it can keep hot foods hot for hours. Helpful tip: Fill the container with hot water while you’re heating the food; it helps the container retain a bit more heat since you’re not putting hot food into a cool dish to start with.

4) Kids love to dip! For a while I couldn’t get my son to eat his veggies at school. But once I included something to take away the taste, he stopped bringing home the leftovers. My advice is to buy those small plastic disposable containers with lids at stores like Costco or Smart & Final. Hummus or ranch dressing is my typical go-to to pack.

5) Leftovers from the night before — why reinvent the wheel? Using dinner leftovers like pasta, lasagna, chicken and potatoes or rice and beans can save on both time and money. We’re talking hours and hundreds here, people!

6) Stock up on individually packaged snacks like chips, string cheese and crackers to save on prep time. This is also a way to provide a fixed serving size.

7) Freeze yogurt overnight and pack it in the lunchbag in the morning. The yogurt will thaw by lunchtime and, BONUS: it helps keep the other foods cool. (Don’t forget to include a plastic spoon!)

8) If your kids are older, have them help pack their own meal! They may be more likely to eat their lunch if they get a say on what goes in it. This helps give them a sense of ownership and it’ll also eventually free up more of your time!

9) Give their sandwiches some personality! From Spongebob to Cinderella, Pinterest has hundreds of ideas to help you transform a boring sandwich into something amazing. Not the next Picasso? No problem. Keep things simple with smiley face PB&Js or use cookie cutters to make fun shapes they’ll love.

10) Go green and use reusable containers! Stock up on an assortment of different sizes with lids for cutup fruit, veggies, sandwiches, goldfish crackers, etc.

11) Send along a little love … I still write notes on a napkin or 3x5 card to my sons and put it in their lunchboxes. Even now that they’re older and most likely roll their eyes, I think they secretly like to know that I care. A brief word of encouragement or just an “I love you” can make their day.