Family Matters: Streamline the School Lunch Routine

Friday, August 26, 2011


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My kids dislike buying school lunch because they enjoy hanging with their friends outside of the classroom. Lunch period is short, so standing in line to buy food eats into conversation time with friends and actual time to eat. I should be pleased that they prefer a homemade lunch but on days when food in the fridge is scarce or we’re running late with barely time to brush our teeth, I wish they would take the lunch money.

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Since I am sympathetic to children’s need for unstructured time during the school day and not be rushed while they eat my kids tend to bring lunch almost every day.
Now that school is around the corner, I am thinking about our school lunch routine; how to make it healthy, easy to prepare, and trash-free as possible.
Thanks to trial and error and advice from other parents here are helpful lunch tips:

Involve kids in the process

This helps them learn about foods—what makes a balanced meal—and makes my grocery shopping easier and less wasteful by not buying unwanted foods. Share a list (or pictures) of foods from the different food groups with your children and have them select their favorites. As they get older, have them pick out recipes and help prepare the lunches.

Plan ahead

I shop on the weekend, stocking up on staples like soup, bread, granola bars, fruits and veggies easily packed for lunches. Whenever possible, I divide up dinner leftovers and put in lunch sized containers ready for the morning rush.

Make a trash-free lunch (or close to trash-free as possible)

I keep sandwich-size containers on-hand, and several other small-sized reusable Tupperware containers, utensils and water bottles to reduce unnecessary trash at lunchtime. Far from perfect, there are still days I opt for convenience and use pre-packed applesauce and yogurts.

Recipe ideas

Lunch can be more than just a PB&J or turkey sandwich. Katy Killilea, Kidoinfo food expert asked parents about some of their favorite things to pack for lunch including: Triscuits with whipped cream cheese, Mini bagel with hummus and shredded carrot, nut butter sandwiched between rice cakes, cucumber maki with a side of soy sauce, black beans and rice, frozen cups or tubes of yogurt. For more great lunch ideas, go to Kidoinfo, here.

Label containers

Water bottles and lunchboxes can cost a small fortune. So once you have a collection that works, label all the parts with a sharpie marker or waterproof labels.
Find more lunch menu ideas and cool storage containers, visit Kidoinfo here.

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Anisa Raoof is the publisher and founder of Kidoinfo, the parents' guide for Rhode Island and beyond.

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