In the Kitchen · Life

Back to School Brings the Struggle of School Lunches

I am just days away from my two oldest kids going back to school.  I have mixed emotions about it.  I know, I know.  Most parents are jumping up and down and having parties to celebrate school starting back up again.  I, on the other hand, want to hang on to the last bits of summer for as long as I can.  I do always lighten up to them going back and being able to having some “me” time and a routine again. The routine is what I miss the most about summer.  There is one part of the routine that I truly dislike, though, with a passion and that is making lunches. Ughh!  They are the worst!

I’m sure many of you moms, and dads, feel the same way.  Picking out what to pack, making sure you don’t over pack but you don’t under pack, then your kids see what you’re packing and start whining about it. 😦 Do any of you have picky eaters?  You know, the ones that would rather starve than eat the healthy/healthier items you’ve slaved preparing and packing for them. Yep, I’ve got one of those on my hands! 🙋‍♀️  He whines when he sees what I’m packing, then most, if not all, of it comes right back home because he refused to eat any of it.  I don’t get it.

When I was a kid, I would eat mostly everything I got.  There were some exceptions like my apple and mushy peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  This was, however,  back in the day when trading lunch food was still okay, not so much anymore. 😦 I eventually learned that I would rather eat semi tasty food then starve and be hungry all day.

If you ask my son, though, he would choose starvation. He has many do’s and don’t’s when it comes to making his lunches. For example, do pack a Capri Sun but don’t pack apple slices, they turn brown and slimy and are gross! Do pack Spaghettios with meatballs but don’t pack a sandwich, it gets mushy. Do pack fruit snacks but don’t pack dehydrated fruit, it tastes weird. I could go on and on but I think you’ve got the gist of my situation.

I have tried scouring Pinterest to find “kid friendly” foods that he will eat, but do they work? No! So I’m attacking lunch packing from a different angle this year. I’ve gotten some great ideas from coworkers on healthier snack options.  Have you heard of “kid trail mix?”  I’m so dumbfounded that I never heard or even thought of it before but all it is is goldfish/cheez its, popcorn, raisins and pretzels. Bam!  That is one pretty healthy snack if you ask me.  Apparently, I’m the last to know about this, but what’s new?

But anyway, back to my lunch dilemma.  I think I might have found the answer to my lunch packing prayers.  One of my all time favorite bloggers, Jordan Page from FunCheaporFree, has been posting daily in her August Back to Productivity challenge and this week is all about organization which leads us to today’s challenge which is all about pantry organization to get ready for school and, duhn, duhn, duhn, PACKING LUNCHES!!  I don’t know why I never thought to look at her website first but I didn’t and I have learned my lesson.

So the first thing I need to do is organize my pantry.  An organized pantry will lead to stress free lunch packing, hopefully, fingers crossed.  I have 5-6 Thirty One bins that I already use in my pantry for the kid’s snacks, baking items, dry pasta and rice and various other things.  Now I just need to get it straightened up a bit, stock with some decently healthy snacks and make sure things are within reach for my kids to grab and pack.  One of Jordan’s rules is any snack that’s already portion packaged is for school lunch ONLY and any bulk item that can be divided into your own portions is for home snacks.  I love this idea and hope that it will be permanently implemented into my house very soon.

After organizing my pantry, I need to move to my fridge and A.) make a designated kid drawer and B.) stock it with healthy items like fruits, cheese sticks, applesauce, yogurt, etc.  This will be easy for my middle child to eat from, she’s not picky, but my son will have a hard time with this drawer.

So Jordan’s rule for packing lunch is “take 2” from the healthy drawer, “take 1” from the snack bin and “take 1” cookie or treat.  Since Jordan has PB&J sandwiches and lunch meat sandwiches in her healthy drawer I’m changing my plan from “take 2” out of healthy to just “take 1,” and here’s why.  My son doesn’t like sandwiches, he will not eat them no matter how hard I try.  Instead of sandwiches I pack chicken nuggets, pasta, peanut butter cracker sandwiches or spaghettio’s with meatballs in a thermos.  Some of those items aren’t the healthiest but I would rather have him fill up on those than snacks, because in my mind the main lunch dish is more filling than a bunch of snacks that he’s going to run or play off in 20 minutes.

So this is my plan!  What do you think?  I really like it and hope that it sticks.  I know it takes many, many days for a routine/habit to stick so I’ll have to stay strong and consistent with the kids.  Puppy dog eyes and crying will have no effect on me. 😉

If all goes well lunches will look a little something like the picture below 👇🏻

I’d love to know what any of you parent’s of picky eaters do for school lunches.  I’m trying to change our eating habits this year so we’re cutting out, as much as possible, Spaghettio’s, Mac N Cheese and other processed foods during the week and only keeping those as special lunches for the weekend.

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