Traverse City Christian School mom and Science teacher, Erica Boven, shares her tips for packing healthy lunches for her elementary school-aged children.
Its that time of year again! My family LOVES the back to school season, but if I’m honest, the thing that I like the least is packing lunches! Let’s be real…kids eat a lot! I want to send my kids to school with healthy options. I want convenient options. I want my kids to actually EAT the food I send, rather than trade it to another student for something they would like better. Or, worse yet, throw it away and waste it all together!
So, it was time for a change and I knew that change could not be something that fell on my shoulders as mom. I needed my kids to be involved. It was a great opportunity for them to grow in responsibility and learn a bit about healthy choices. Last year, I tried a new strategy that was a big hit with my kids and a huge relief to me on busy mornings!
I bought two plastic baskets from the dollar store. One went into the refrigerator and one into the pantry. On Sunday evenings, we pull those baskets out, grab a box of snack size baggies, and starting filling the baskets with ready-to-go snacks for the week. (I have found it helps the budget if I buy bulk-sized options and pack them into individual serving containers myself rather than buy the already convenient portion sized bags at the store.) We pack enough into each basket for each child to choose two a day. When its gone for the week, it’s gone. We won’t pack new things into the basket until the next week.
The basket in the refrigerator is filled with healthy sides that need to be refrigerated. Some of our favorites are fruits, hummus, cheese, veggie sticks with a small dip container, and so on. The basket in the pantry is filled with granola bars, pretzels, crackers, nuts, chips, etc. I will admit that packing those serving size bags is not always my favorite part. But when we do it as a family, it goes quickly and is much more enjoyable.
But here’s the BEST PART! On school mornings, my kids get to do all the work! We usually pack up our “main entree” the night before based on what is left over from dinner. In the morning, they grab their entree and THEY get to decide what else they put in their lunchbox that day. And, because they have to choose two things from each basket, I know they are getting healthy options and not all snacks! It has been so freeing for our family! They love the choices, and having the responsibility of packing their own lunch, and I love knowing that they will have healthy food.
And, I didn’t have to do all the work!