What’s For Lunch?

School Lunches:

1. Before school starts, find out about your kid’s school lunch program. Call or go online to find out the types of meals, how much they cost and how to pay for them. I’ve done payments by cash, check and online and let me tell you…online is totally the way to go! Most online programs not only show you your balance, but they can also let you set reminders of when your account is low, automatically deposit money when the account get down to a certain level, allow you to monitor what your kids eat, and even let you to establish “off limit” foods for your kids. How cool is that?

2. Get a copy of the school menu and make a habit of checking it at least weekly or every night. That way if there is meal that your kid doesn’t like, you can be prepared to pack a lunch.

3. Set up routine payments to the school. This is easy to do online but if you are paying by check or cash, make sure you set up a weekly, biweekly or monthly reminder on your calendar to write a check for your kid to take to school.  Be sure to establish a place in your kid’s backpack or folder and remind them where it is.

4. If paying by cash on a daily basis, establish a routine of making sure your kids get their lunch money.This can be part of a nightly or morning routine where you put the lunch money in a wallet and then in your kid’s backpack. It seems like a no brainer, but making a habit of doing this every night or every morning cuts down on the chance of forgetting to give your kids their money.

5. Store the cash in a cute wallet or other creative container like a wrist wallet or zippered armband. You could even use a 35mm film canister decorated with stickers to hold change.   But just like #3 above, establish a routine of putting the wallet or container in the same place in your kid’s backpack every time. Believe you me, your kids love routines and knowing exactly where to find things!

Packed Lunches:

1. The key to planning lunches is to, well…plan!  I recommend just planning one week at a time to keep things simple and lessen the chance of food spoiling or not getting eaten.  Decide on what meals you want to have for the week, create a grocery list and go shopping.

2. Shop once or twice a week and put on your calendar the day/days you will shop. Creating a routine and staying consistent is good because when you know exactly what day you’ll do your shopping, it’s more likely you will actually do it and not cancel or bump it to another day.

3. Make lunches the night before. Please don’t save this task for the morning. You have way too much to worry about like: dragging those sleepy-eyed kiddos out of bed, feeding them breakfast, brushing their teeth, gathering their backpacks and making sure you get them off to school on time!

4. Get your kids involved! Let them have a say on what they want to eat for lunch.  Of course you can still establish guidelines on what types of food you’ll allow in their lunches, but giving them ownership in the process may encourage them to not only eat healthy and teaches them responsibility.

5. Set up a lunch making station. No matter if you or your kids are making the lunches, you want to make it as easy as possible. Try having one area in your kitchen that has all lunch containers, drink bottles, utensils, lunch boxes and baggies in one location. You could even dedicate one bin in the refrigerator and pantry specifically for lunch items and snacks.

6. Pick meals and snacks that are easy to prepare. Save the complicated meals for dinnertime or for the weekends.  The important thing is to make the lunches healthy.  Use whole wheat tortillas for wraps, whole wheat bread for sandwiches, low fat cheeses, fruit slices, sliced veggies, low fat milk, low sugar drinks, nuts and dried fruit.

7. Pack individual snack-sized items to save you time.  Things like fruit bowls, pudding cups, chips, crackers, cheese sticks, fruit chews, fruit roll ups, yogurt cups, etc. make it a lot easier to pack a lunch and can save you time and frustration.