I do employ a few strategies to make this chore a little easier for myself though. One of the most important aspects for me is using the right containers, and I'm such a container geek, that I'm going to do a whole separate post about them. (Yay for you, right!?)
My first "strategy" is to not make perfect, Pinterest-y, fancy lunches. I shoot for easy, mostly balanced, kid approved collections of food that don't take more than about 10 minutes to pack up. No themes or cute cut-outs here. If tomorrow is shopping day and I run out of veggies that my kids will actually eat, two servings of fruit are fine. If I run out of fresh fruit, I know I always have apple sauce or frozen mango to fall back on. Done is better than perfect, people.
Next, I follow a formula. This takes the guess work out of what kinds of foods to pack. Morning snack always consists of a carbohydrate (like a muffin, graham or fishy crackers or granola bar) a fresh fruit (basically always sliced apple) and a protein (usually always yogurt).
Lunch always consists of an entree, fresh fruit, vegetable and a dessert. Now, I know of a lot of moms who say their kids don't eat sandwiches and honestly, my kids like them once in a while, but not all the time. So the easiest way to make the entree prep quick and painless is batch cooking and menu planning!
I like to plan two-three different lunch entrees and add them to my weekly meal plan. I can't bear the thought of staring into the fridge in the morning without a plan! My kids don't mind eating the same thing twice in one week, and I'll check in with them and see what they feel like eating in the upcoming days. Then, if possible, I can make up a bunch all at once and just pull out what I need in the morning. Here's a few examples:
- Chicken noodle soup, frozen into 8 oz Bernardinfreezer jars
- 3-4 boiled eggs (N will take one a day with some crackers or mini naan bread)
- pizza muffins
- mini quiche
- bulk sandwiches (use a whole loaf of bread to make up a bunch of sandwiches and freeze them individually)
My last strategy is making the lunches right after I get myself dressed when the kids, hopefully, are still asleep. I creep around the kitchen like a ninja, often in the dark. I enjoy these minutes before they wake because I can get a jump on unloading the dishwasher and making lunches before they emerge, grumpy and ravenous, and therefore avoid 87 interruptions. When I'm trying to multitask breakfast and lunch prep, I swear it takes me five times longer because I lose my focus, and you know, morning fog. If you're totally not a morning person, then you might have better luck doing your lunch prep at night after the kids are in bed? The point is to do it when you don't have other things (tiny people) demanding your attention.
Do you hate packing school lunches or do you have a great system that works well for your family? If lunches are the bane of your existence, hopefully you can employ a few tricks to make the task less painful. AND, if you have an awesome tip, I'd love to hear about it!