Back-to-School…what emotions does that statement bring to you? Joy, sadness, glee, fear, a mixture? For me, I crave the routine that school brings, it brings the joy of a schedule back into my own life, call me weird, it’s okay, others do! I am so grateful to no longer hear whiney phrases like, “I’m bored!” or “I don’t know what to do?” and I’m sure my kids are happy to not hear, “If you can’t find something to do, I’ll give you something to do;” I’ve had more than one wall, baseboard and window washed when someone told me they were bored! By the way, that’s a quick cure for the “I’m Bored” Syndrome. I started that pretty young, a 3 year old is just the right height to wipe down baseboards, and guess what? They actually think it’s fun!
I so enjoy seeing all of the first day of school pictures that everyone posts! Here are my boys first day of school photos, I actually got my 13 year old to crack up! And I love that I captured this smile, it’s totally him! He just doesn’t show it all the time, being 13 and all.
Pencils, paper, folders, backpacks, super-expensive calculators, new clothes and lunch boxes; I have had quite a few friends ask me for some new ideas for lunches.
The beloved and yet dreaded lunch box, we actually still use lunch boxes vs. bags, they have sportier ones now for older kids, just a simple Nike swoosh on the front; gone are the days of The Backyardigans, Power Rangers and Captain America, sigh. But the daily quandary still arises; what to put in your child’s lunch? You want healthy, they want sugar; so how do you come up with tasty and different lunches that will be fun and yet provide good nutrition and be something they want to eat.
Just like you, I certainly have had plenty of experience, my boys have never liked the school hot lunch and have always preferred a homemade lunch. Which in the end, I am more than happy to oblige since I know what is going into them.
With approximately 5 lunch-making days each week and roughly 39 weeks in the school year, that’s 195 lunches, per kid! Taking holidays and breaks into account that reduces the number by about 27 days, that is still 168 lunches a year, per kid!
x 11 years for my 10th grader = 1,848 lunches
x 9 years for my 8th grader = 1,512 lunches
Totaling approximately 3,360 lunches to date! I’m tired already!
All kidding aside, while I sometimes see daily lunch making as a drudgery, I try and remind myself of all the blessings that involve making all those lunches, but I don’t always succeed in this reminder, sometimes I’m racing around like a chicken with my head cut off slapping something together at the last minute, blessing being the farthest thing from my mind. But on those rare moments that I have to ponder while making their lunch, I remind myself of these blessings: I have two healthy, beautiful boys to feed each day, we have plenty of food to be able to provide for them, I have eyes that can see, hands that can work; we are blessed with wonderful schools and I try and pray a quick prayer of protection over their day at school while I make their lunches. Perspective, suddenly it’s not such a drudgery.
So let’s get started! Here are five days of lunches plus a bonus one for the weekend. I’m not sure my lunches are super original, but hopefully it will get your own creative juices going. Know your child, it’s okay if they aren’t a traditional eater. My Gabe is a non-traditional eater, he’d much prefer his lunch to be filled with anything but sandwiches, he prefers fruits and veggies over his protein, but he needs protein and while not a big meat eater, he does love sausages and hot dogs, so I’ve found nitrate, nitrite free items that I feel good about putting in his lunch each day.
Lunch # 1 | Non-traditional
- Uncured summer sausage (I buy from our local health food store, Vitamin Cottage|Natural Grocers, I’m sure Whole Foods also carries the brand)
- Carrot Chips
- Z Bar
- Fruit Leather
- Juice Pouch (Which I froze, to replace the ice, however he’s got an early lunch at school so it hadn’t completely thawed yet, live and learn!)
- A couple of Lin(d)t Balls (that’s what we call them around our house, that’s my kind of lint)
Lunch #2 | Traditional
- Turkey & Provolone Sandwich on Organic Whole Wheat Bread
- Carrot Chips
- A Protein Bar
- Yogurt Tube
- Strawberry Milk (or chocolate)
- And a couple of Lindt balls (antioxidants, right!?)
- Uncured Honey Smoked Ham (I like Applegate), rolled up with a toothpick
- Petite Dill Pickles (my 8th grader LOVES pickles)
- Grape Tomatoes
- Nut-Thins (again trying to get a bit of protein in him)
- Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies (make these ahead of time, freeze them in packs of two and toss them straight from the freezer into the lunch box, they’ll be perfectly thawed by lunchtime)
- Juice Pouch
Lunch #4 | Using Leftovers | If people like leftover cold pizza for breakfast why can’t you do it for lunch?
- Leftover pepperoni pizza, wrapped in wax paper, in case he wants to heat it at school.
- Fruit Leather (buried)
- Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Strawberry Milk
Lunch #5 | I love these TW Franks, they are preservative free, with nothing but good stuff in them.
While they are grilling, I fill the Thermos with hot water so the thermos heats up, then when the hot dogs are finished I pour the water from the thermos, dry it out and toss in the Smokies! He tells me they stay warm until lunch! Do this for any items you send to school in a thermos, it will keep things hotter longer.
- Lil’ Franks
- A little BBQ or other dipping sauce
- Celery with Peanut butter (or other nut or sun-butter)
- Brownie Sandwich Cookie with Cookie Dough Frosting *Recipe on blog (wrap separately, freeze and toss in lunch box, will be thawed by lunch)
- Juice Pouch, Milk or Water
- Don’t forget the fork or toothpick
- Grilled Quesadilla | In a pan large enough to fit your tortilla, put in a smidge of butter, melt over medium heat, then add tortilla (flour or corn), place desired cheese evenly over the tortilla, top with second tortilla. Cook until slightly browned, then flip and brown on second side. Wrap in a wax paper bag, tuck into bottom of lunch box so it doesn’t heat up the cold stuff.
- Place chips or popcorn on top of the warm quesadilla, making a buffer between the warm and cold.
- Fresh Snap Peas
- Brownie Sandwich Cookie
- Strawberry or Chocolate Milk or Water
There you have it, be creative, I’ve sent all sorts of things to school; such as make your own taco, chips with salsa, cereal with milk and sausage or bacon, chicken noodle soup, homemade ramen soup; if my kids liked humus I’d do humus and veggies. The skies the limit! My key things are good fresh ingredients, things I keep in my pantry at all times are: Healthy chip and popcorn, cracker options (I generally don’t have individual sized packages, but found a bunch on sale these last few weeks), protein bars, turkey jerky sticks, crackers, and organic fruit leather.
As for sweets, I try and make my sweets so I know what is in them, it’s so easy to do, make up a batch of whatever, leave out enough for your family to enjoy and freeze the rest into individual sized servings. I tend to do this on Friday’s, I seem to have a bit more time on Fridays. Plus it’s a fun start to the weekend to come home to fresh baked cookies. Click on these links for the Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies and Brownie Sandwich Cookies.
I hope I provided a little bit of inspiration! What unique things do you throw in your lunch boxes?