4 tips for (almost) hassle-free school lunches!
My daughter started kindergarten in September of 2016. While I’m still far from an expert on the matter, I’ve developed a few little tricks in the last year that have helped me avoid giving myself a real headache when making her lunches.
So in the interest of helping us all keep a cool head—even on those mornings when everything seems to be going wrong—I thought I'd share some of my tricks now, at the start of the school year.
1. Go for the mix-and-match plate
At the beginning of the year, my mothering heart, along with my nerves, were put to the test. My daughter was coming home with her lunches untouched. It was probably in part due to all the stress that comes along with starting kindergarten, but she seemed to regain her appetite the day I stopped complicating my own life by preparing complicated meals for her.
The mix-match plate has now become our go-to option. Few kids dislike finger food. A simple spread of pita, crackers, vegetables, hummus, dips of various kinds, fruit, or raw vegetables is usually enough to please kids. Bonus points for how quick and easy it is to throw together! Your child can even give you a hand and create a lunch they’re guaranteed to like.
2. The freezer is my best friend
I recently bought a small freezer and plan to put it to very good use this school year. Whenever we have leftovers, I freeze them in small, individualized portions. The kids are not always into the idea of eating leftovers from the day before, but a small portion of chili from the freezer a week after the fact usually escapes their discerning radars.
Some desserts or snacks, like fruit compote and smoothies, or cookie dough and muffin batter can easily be frozen. So if it’s Thursday evening at 8:30 pm, and you suddenly realize that all the snacks have been devoured, don’t stress. Just thaw a pot of compote or some muffin batter, and there you have it. Just think, a batch of muffins—without even dirtying a mixing bowl.
3. One is good, but two (or three) is better
As mentioned above, the freezing individual portions option saves me a lot of time. This is why doubling or even tripling a recipe is so smart. For example, when I cook beans, I like to make a lot of them so I have them on hand for a few weeks. If you thaw them the day before, it’s easy to throw them into a quick salad or make a spread.
The same goes for pasta, rice, quinoa or couscous. It doesn’t take any extra time to double my quantities when cooking dinner, but it does allow me to quickly and easily create a pasta salad, tabbouleh, or a dragon bowl later on—just like that!
Making additional portions of any meal and then reinventing it for your kid’s lunch box is truly a great option if you’re creative in the kitchen. For instance, adding corn kernels and avocado slices to some leftover chili in a tortilla immediately transforms it into a tasty wrap.
4. Lunch—a family affair
I always find it important to get children involved in the kitchen. Beyond the obvious advantages of spending quality time as a family, it’s also a great opportunity for them to develop independence (the kind that parents greatly appreciate later on), as well as the basic skills that will serve them throughout their lives.
Not to mention, kids are much more interested in eating a lunch they’ve had a hand in preparing. You can ask them to cut raw vegetables, dole out a portion of compote, apply some spread to a slice of bread, or simply come up with a list of fun lunch ideas.
When my daughter stopped opening her lunch box, that's exactly what I did. I sat down with her and made a list of all things she liked and wanted to eat for lunch. I’m convinced that this simple exchange made her feel more involved in the process and contributed to helping her regain her usual healthy appetite.
How about you? Do you have any tricks to share with us that might help tackle the return of school lunches and the drudgery they sometimes bring?
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