In my last article I encouraged back-to-school families to join a cold lunch revolution. Amidst increasing concern about the quality and funding of school lunches programs, packing a cold lunch puts responsibility and health back into your hands. But do you have the time?
Time spent making lunches might be one of the biggest reasons we stick a couple of bucks into our kids’ pockets and send them on their merry way.
Before you spend those dollars on Salisbury steak, check out the following tips to help you save time in the kitchen:
If you are highly organized, you can shop and prepare food more efficiently with a little menu planning. If you are more chaotic like me, make general lists of “grab and go” lunch items that appeal to your family but require little prep time. Think finger foods. This saves you from zoning out in Aisle 5 or staring blindly into your fridge. Companies like Annie’s or Organic Valley offer single serving lunchbox goodies, but I usually like to save packaging and money by buying larger sizes of their products and portion them out into reusable containers.
Quick tip: Save 20% on ReUseIt.com’s waste-free lunch items!
Make good use of the time that you are already in the kitchen. When I cook dinner, I’m already thinking “lunch”. Hard boil eggs while dinner cooks. Peel and cut ten more carrots than you need. Make double batches of cookies, homemade trail mix or extra of your kid’s favorite dinner. Create salad bar fixings for the week. If you have more than one lunch to make, think “assembly line”.
Avoid the morning rush
Accomplish this by doing what you can the night before. Trust me on this one. I’ve noticed a significant change in the tone of my day based on whether I’ve made lunches at night or during the morning rush. No one likes starting the day with a bitter and resentful Lunch Lady.
Involve the kids
Why do it all yourself? Solicit suggestions from your kids for the grocery list. Young kids can wash fruit and help pack items. With some guidelines, older kids can make their own lunch. These activities not only save you time and teach your kids a little personal responsibility, they spark discussions about healthy eating choices.
Practice lunchbox Zen
Packing lunches does take time, approximately 10 minutes per lunch. Not so bad, right? Instead of protesting this reality, embrace it. When we perceive tasks as “chores”, we wish our time was spent on another activity. Make the choice to view this as a nurturing act. You are actively participating in the well-being of your family. Settle into the kitchen and enjoy what you’re doing for them.
Pretty soon, creating healthy lunches becomes more efficient and part of the daily routine. With a little planning and a lot of love, you will soon realize this is time well spent.
What are some of your lunch-packing tips and tricks?