This is a guest post by Laura Fuentes, mom of three, author of The Best Homemade Kids' Lunches on the Planet and founder of MOMables, where she helps parents make fresh school lunches and meals their kids will love. You can get a free week of the MOMables meal plan here.
Do you want to know the secrets that make packing lunch a breeze? Prepping healthy school lunches that your kids will love is easier than you think! Plus, you don't have to spend a lot of time cutting food into works of art for kids to find it appealing; most kids like simplicity and appreciate variety.
Here are six of my favorite tips to simplify the lunch-packing process without relying on packaged foods:
1. Plan ahead. Mapping out a weekly meal plan that includes lunches is the ultimate time saver. It's simple to pull out the ingredients and assemble them when you already know what to make!
2. Repurpose leftovers. If you want to pack a variety of healthy school lunches, you'll have to make the most of your family meals by utilizing leftovers in new ways. Variety, in my book, means thinking beyond the sandwich. Repurposing leftovers into something delicious is simple when you have a plan. Have pasta Monday night for dinner? Boil extra and make a pasta lunch on Wednesday. It's really that easy.
3. Pack before you clean up from dinner. Does your kitchen look like a tornado just swept through after dinner? Mine does! Before I begin to put away leftovers and clean up the disaster zone, I look around and see what I can immediately transform into tomorrow's school lunch. Leftover rotisserie chicken can be transformed into a quesadilla. In the morning, all I have to do is grill it and pack it inside a lunchbox.
4. Pack lunches assembly-line style. Henry Ford would be very proud of my lunch-packing skills. All I have to do is line up my family's lunch containers, fill them, and close up! When you focus on a single task at a time, the entire lunch-packing process goes a lot quicker. I highly recommend reusable containers. They are easy to pack and better for the environment than the waste created by disposable baggies. One reusable container can replace the need for 4-6 disposable baggies each day.
5. Prep your fruits and veggies ahead of time. Did you know you can keep apples from browning in the lunchbox and that your berries can last up to a week in your fridge? Slicing and dicing fresh vegetables can seem time consuming when you're trying to hurry and pack lunches during your late nights or rushed mornings. A great time to prep them is when you get home from the grocery store.
6. Bring variety back. When the kids aren't complaining about the contents of their lunchboxes, it's easy to fall into a sandwich rut. But remember that lunch is an important meal of the day, making for about one-third of the food our children consume! So on the nutrition front, it pays to keep things fresh. Some ways I add variety is by switching up the main meal option. One day I send a sandwich, followed by mini quiches, a thermos lunch consisting of dinner leftovers, a wrap, and finally homemade pita pizzas.
As you can see, making food that your kids will love doesn't have to be complicated. It's about using the best ingredients available, switching up meal ideas from time to time, and doing our best. In the end, homemade lunches do make for happier meals.