Excited to have a Guest Post from Emily Chapelle of So Damn Domestic:
Sometimes it can be overwhelming to have to come up with lunches to send with your children for school, right? Obviously you need to send something they’ll actually eat. And you probably want their food to be nutritious (because you’re a good mom). And so they won’t be swapping food or jealous of their classmates, they’re lunches should be ‘fun’ too. Plus you don’t want your kids to get bored. Who wants to be bored by their midday meal? Not my kids — that’s who.
My kids aren’t at school for lunches, but I send snacks with them both each day when they go to their half-day school. And – go figure – even though they are at home with me for lunch, I still have to feed them every day. EVERY DAY! They want lunch. Every. Single. Day. I mean, really?
So, I’ve come up with a system for never running out of kid lunch ideas. And it works beautifully. My kids eat a huge variety of healthy foods and they never get bored with their lunches. As a bonus, my three year old daughter regularly exclaims about how I’m, “making a derry good lunch!” which of course makes me feel like a kick-ass mama. Possibly the best part of the whole thing is that it only takes me a couple of minutes to put together my kids’ lunch plates (or snacks for school). So quick and simple!
I love to share my kids’ lunches on Instagram at SoDamnDomestic where you can follow me if you are looking for more inspiration.
So, do you never want to run out of ideas for your kid’s lunches? All it takes are 5 easy steps.
Step 1: Decide on the categories of foods you’ll include in lunches
When I was a kid, my dad had categories of food for each portion of my sisters’ and my lunches. They were the entree, side, dessert and drink. And many moms will have good success using these categories or similar ones.
Personally, though, I prefer to think of my kids’ lunches in terms of nutrition. I want to make sure they have fruits or veggies (or both), some sort of protein, and some kind of healthy fat. My family eats grain-free (similar to paleo, but with full-fat dairy added in), but if you include grains, you might have a category for that too.
Write your categories across the tops of the columns of the blank printable kid lunch planner, or use the ones I’ve set up for you.
Step 2: Add some foods in each category that you want your kids to eat
Think, “In an ideal world, where my children eat the best and healthiest lunches ever, what would that include?” Don’t get too caught up in what they prefer or what they hope for. If you don’t really want to send them to school with cheeze-its or marshmallows, don’t add them to the list.
Step 3: Ask your kids for their input
Now, if you want to gently mold the direction your kids’ lunches are going in, don’t just ask them, “What do you want in your lunchbox?” Instead ask them more specific questions.
For me, that sounds like this, “Hey kids, I’m trying to think of some good proteins to include in your lunches. So far, I have turkey, roast beef, cheddar cheese, string cheese, quinoa, almonds, hummus and chicken. Is there anything I forgot, that you’d like, that is a good protein?”
My three year old says, “Oh, hard boiled eggs are a protein and I really like them.”
I say, “I can’t believe I forgot those. Great. Adding them now. Joseph, do you have any ideas for meat or anything like that you want in your lunch?”
And my two year old answers, “Sa-mommy!” (salami)
So, sa-mommy gets added to the list too. And we repeat the conversation for the other categories until our list looks pretty full of exciting lunch ideas.
This is the step where you can add in some of those ‘treat-type’ foods that you don’t necessarily want your kids to have as a huge part of their weekly diet, but that you are ok with compromising on a bit for the sake of peace (or just because you are nice).
Step 4: Make your shopping list
When you are getting ready to do your weekly (or however often) shopping, ask your kids to help you choose a few items from each column for this week’s lunches. If you laminate your list or put it in a picture frame, you can even circle those items or put a star next to them with a dry-erase marker, so you won’t forget what is in your fridge for the kids to eat for lunch throughout the week.
Step 5: Mix and Match and have fun with presentation
Now each evening when you are packing lunches for the next day, or in the morning when you are getting ready to send your kids off, or at lunch time when you are making their meals at home, all you have to do is look at your ingredients for this week’s lunches and mix and match them.
Once you get the hang of this, you’ll really start to have fun with presentation, too. I don’t mean cutting out bunny shapes of cheddar cheese and making them march across zucchini carefully sculpted into grass with radish flowers all on a bed of rice, with perfectly cut seaweed silhouettes of birds flying across the scene. Unless that’s what you want to do with your time (which is totally valid and cool if you are in to it).
But take, for example, a cucumber, some cheese and a few slices of roast beef. You could present these in so many different ways:
- Cut the cucumber into circles, the cheese into squares, and roll up the roast beef slices into easy-to-munch ‘fingers’. Serve with mustard for dipping.
- Cut the cucumber spears and cheese sticks, and wrap roast beef around one of each, then cut into slices to make sushi-like bites.
- Cube cucumber and cheese, slide on to skewers, alternating with a bit of folded roast beef between each cube. Kids love food on sticks! Don’t ask me why – they just do.
- Cut the cucumber in half length-wise and scoop out the seeds. Fill the empty part with roast beef and small slices of cheese and serve as open faced sandwich ‘boats’.
And that’s only a few ideas for a few ingredients.
Now that you’re armed with your list, you’ll be ready for grocery shopping and meal prep each week with zero frustration and boredom. And pretty soon you’ll realize there are truly no limits to your kid lunch ideas.
About Emily Chapelle:
Emily Chapelle is an expert homemaker, having set up six different homes in seven years of military moves. She’s also the mother of two adorable curly-haired kids, wife to a Navy-fighter pilot, a former teacher, childcare provider and nanny. Now she works from home to spread encouragement and inspiration to other homemakers with a no-nonsense attitude and lots of tough love. She blogs at So Damn Domestic. Get her free eBook: Finding the Awesome: 3 Steps to Doing More & Stressing Less for more inspiration and guided, broken-down exercises to finding your Awesome!