What a Week’s Worth of School Lunches Really Looks Like
One mom opens up her kids' lunchboxes to reveal what she packed them.
School lunch. Is there anything more relentless? Well, yes, laundry. But here’s the thing. With three kids in elementary school and one half-pint in preschool, I pack a whole lotta lunches every week. Now, I don’t have a fancy meal plan, but I do rely on a few strategies that make it possible to pack four lunches in about 15 minutes every day.
1- I repeat key ingredients so we get the most out of each one and thus spend less on groceries. Plus, once I have something like eggs on my mind, it’s easier to think of three or four ways to use them than consider ALL the things one could pack in a lunch.
2- We aim for at least two servings of fruits and veggies in each lunch (since experts say five servings per day is a good benchmark for healthy eating). Again, it simplifies the process to just stock up on a bunch of fresh produce at the store — peppers, apples, snap peas, kiwi, plums, whatever is on sale — then chop it up and throw that good stuff in.
3- Above all, bento boxes make the “planning” easy at our house because I just keep filling compartments, food stays put and, honestly, everything just looks more appetizing!
So, here’s what that looks like on a Monday through Friday:
MONDAY: Magical Mac & Cheese Muffins (photo above)
The “magic” is in the pureed sweet potato that’s mixed right into the cheese! This hand-held mac and cheese may be favorite way to handle weekend leftovers, but it’s the rascals’ favorite lunch ever. Also, these Muffin Cups require eggs. We have backyard chickens and a lot of eggs on hand so you’ll see eggs as the star of the show this week. Also included today: walnuts and M&MS (a makeshift trail mix!), kiwi, sugar snap peas and red bell peppers.
P.S. Today we used different lunchboxes because the muffins are too tall for our stainless-steel version.
TUESDAY: Egg Salad on Flat Everything Bagels
Very Pickly Egg Salad requires exactly four ingredients and happens to be another lunch my kids actually cheer for. Fresh pineapple, a clementine, pretzels and a DIY S’Mores kit just for fun.
Yep, there’s NO shame in a good ol’ fashioned peanut butter and jam sandwich. This really hearty bread adds tons of fiber and protein but so does that Zucchini-Banana Muffin. We also have hard-boiled eggs (which peel like a dream when you cook them in the Instant Pot), fresh plums and a handful of trail mix.
THURSDAY: Granola Bars
Our kids get out of school early on Wednesdays so we made a batch of Ina Garten’s Chocolate Chip Granola Bars to enjoy for the rest of the week. There’s also cucumbers, Cheese and Turkey Roll-Ups, apples dusted with cinnamon sugar and a gummy treat from a bin that my husband brought back on a recent work trip to South Africa.
FRIDAY: Mini Quiches
Quiche Cups (baked in a muffin pan) are awesome because you can make them ahead of time and fill them with ANYTHING. Ham, cheese, spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, bacon. WHATEVER you have/the kids like. Plus, everything is more fun when there’s a shard of Rainbow Meringue Cookies (AKA, Unicorn Poop) for dessert!