Wednesday, January 28, 2015

My School Lunch "System!"

I was so overwhelmed when Sam started first grade this past fall...all day school, having to figure out a lunch, working in time for homework, starting up Cub Scouts, church devotions and memory verses...with so many to-do's and suddenly less time to do them, I was pretty stressed for the first week or two of school! I set alarms on my phone for everything...including pack his snack, remember gym shoes, put his homework in his bag, return library books, and pack lunch!  Going from afternoon kindergarten to getting up early to catch the bus in the morning made me wonder how I was going to make lunch every morning, too.  Well, I ended up putting together a pretty good system and I thought I'd share it in case there are any other moms looking for a way to streamline lunch!!

My goal is to get in all of these categories of food each day: Sandwich, Dairy, fruit, snack, beverage, dessert. 

I make a couple weeks of sandwiches at a time, bag them and freeze them.  This is what my mom did, and it works well...of course there's no lettuce in the sandwiches but meat & cheese freeze and thaw fine, and so does pb&j!  I do put mayo on the meat sandwiches too, but I make sure to spread it between slices of meat and/or cheese, so it doesn't soak into the bread.

In the freezer I have a container of sandwiches, and on top of that a container of dairy items.  This includes Gogurt and string cheese.  I mix it up so he doesn't have the same thing EVERY day.  Did you know that you can freeze string cheese too?! You can!! I stock up when they go way on sale!

On the pantry shelf I have three bins, all labeled: Fruit, Snacks and Dessert.  I put "Sam's Lunch" on them so people don't just snack out of them!

The fruit bin has a rotating variety of applesauce cups, fruit pouches and diced fruit cups.  If we have some good fresh fruit I'll bag some up in the frig, but this way I always have SOME kind of shelf stable fruit ready to go.  

The dessert bin has another rotating variety depending on what awesome coupon deals I am getting at the moment.  Sometimes it's a cookie, sometimes a pudding cup, etc...a homemade dessert we have around the house at the time, or a pre-packaged's always changing too so that makes it fun for Sam.  I just have to remember to add a spoon if I'm giving him pudding or fruit in cups!

I love the little snack size Ziploc bags. I know this is not at ALL "green," and I'm probably wasting a lot of money, but I may someday get some re-useable bags.  For now, they work great.

Lunch snack + a little chocolate treat = snack time treat
For the snack I usually put some kind of crunchy thing...a few crackers, pretzels, cereal, etc. 

In addition to lunch, he has to bring another snack every day.  For a while I did granola bars, then found out we couldn't send any snacks with peanuts to school, and all of ours had peanuts.  So, now I'll send another one of any of his other lunch items (an extra snack baggie, extra fruit item, etc).  Lately I've been sprinkling in just a few of these mini M&M's that I have left from my Christmas baking to add something special to the non-lunch snack.  They are so tiny that they last forever if you just add a few, and it's fun to find a few little chocolate treats in his snack, even if it's only a few teensy bits!  My boys get SO excited when they find one mini chocolate chip among their snack!

For the beverage, I got a little 2-pack of short Cool Gear water bottles at Target that have an ice stick that attaches to the sippy top.  I just pour in a little milk, and he has his milk to drink that stays extra cold.  Yes, he can get in line and buy a carton at school, but I don't see the point when we have milk and we have a way to send it with him. It actually gives him more time to eat rather than stand in line.  With only a 15 minute lunch period, he often doesn't have time to finish everything, so any extra time is great!

SO, now my morning lunch packing process goes like this...

I open the freezer and grab the ice packs, a sandwich and dairy item. I stick them in his lunch bag, put the ice pack in the bottle that I've filled with milk and add that. Then I just grab one item from each of my 3 bins, toss them in with a napkin and I'm done.  I don't have to get out sandwich items or even think about whether he has a balanced lunch. I don't have much time or brain power for thinking early in the morning!

I hope this is helpful to someone and not totally boring...ha!  Happy lunch making, Mommas!

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