Over the years I have gone from packing healthy lunches for my kids to making my kids pack their own lunch. We’ve gone from packing cheap lunches to packing nutrient dense, paleo (or at least gluten free/dairy free) lunches. We’ve done Pack It Punch It. Sometime around mid-year we devolve into them using their allowance for school lunch and picking through it for the stuff they can eat. I repeat this mantra: I cannot control what they eat outside of my home. I can only hope I have given them the ability to make good choices.
That mantra works for everything, not just food, by the way.
Last year we did a lot of these lunches. They worked for part of the year. My kids are picky. What one will eat another won’t. The big one took chicken caesar salads for weeks. Every day, that’s all he wanted. Then one day he wouldn’t touch a chicken caesar salad. Lunch is such a struggle. Even at home. No one wants to cook, no one wants “dinner food” for lunch. I don’t want to take out stock in lunch meats or take out food. Lunch is like the bastard step child of the sit down meal world.
This year my plan of attack is to make sure there is plenty of good stuff in the fridge and freezer for them to just grab and go. That means leftovers, pre-made food, pre-made frozen food, hand fruit, applesauce containers, you name it.
Some of my favorite pre-made grab n go’s? I’m glad you asked!
First of all, leftovers! I try to always plan for leftovers. This doesn’t always work because there are so many people in the house, but when it does work, it’s a beautiful thing. Chicken legs, pulled pork, chili, soup, pulled chicken, steak, fajita chicken, extra waffles to freeze, hard boiled eggs (I always made dozens and dozens of these at a time), grilled chicken breast, you name it, I want leftovers! While I hate to eat leftovers, they are pretty good for lunch when you just don’t want to cook.
Some standalone recipes I like? I have those too!
- soaked oatmeal blueberry vanilla muffins (nut-free, gf option) – Oatmeal with a Fork
- oat flour carrot cake muffins (gf, nut-free) – Oatmeal with a Fork
- no-pasta mac & cheese cupcakes – Oatmeal with a Fork
- no-bake almond butter bars – Oatmeal with a Fork
- 10 mouthwatering meatball recipes – Eat Drink Paleo
- Hawaiian Style Slow Cooker Kalua Pork – Pineapple and Coconut
- pizza pucks – dj foodie
- baked pork taquitos – Pink Parsley
- Korean beef – Elizabeth Bryant
- Moroccan inspired flank steak – food.com
- Copycat Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad Topper – onceamonthmeals.com
- Paleo Ginger Chicken Breasts with Green Spinach – onceamonthmeals.com
- Gluten Free Dairy Free Sausage and Peppers – onceamonthmeals.com
My list goes on and on and I don’t want to just wind up with a link farm. But you get the idea. Anything turns into a good lunch, especially things that store well or that are easy to make leftovers out of. That’s the key. Make it easy to do without actually doing it for them. My older kids have access to a microwave at lunch, so that opens up their options (if they’re willing to wait in line for it anyway). My little one is happy with lunch meat roll ups and an applesauce. Throw in a bottle of water, some fruit, a vegetable, and maybe something else and you’re done!
Lunch doesn’t have to be a headache and it doesn’t have to be a chore. My kids know that if they don’t make their lunch, they don’t eat. This puts the onus on them to make something they like to eat, and gives them the type of responsibility that will help make them responsible adults. It’s a win-win situation. Sometimes the big child doesn’t want to make lunch and comes hone ravenous. That’s ok too! He can come home and grab a snack before dinner. A snack, by the way, that he makes himself ;)
I’m sure you’ve seen the primary colored “How to pack your lunch” chart that is all over Pinterest. I made one up for my brood. It’s paleo/gluten&dairy free and lets them pick one item from each section and have a pretty good lunch put together. You can download it here: lunch.pdf