A few weeks ago, I was invited to speak to a local preschool co-op about lunchbox ideas. When I first got the call there were so many thoughts running through my head. They want me, yes me, to speak about lunchbox ideas for an entire hour? But, I’ve never spoken in front of an entire group of adults before! I work with children, that is my comfort zone–NOT public speaking. But it was something she asked me to do that intrigued me. She asked me to come up with lunchbox ideas that could get parents out their lunch-making ruts, but that weren’t too “Pinteresty”.
Now, if you’re like me, you probably have hundreds of pins (Okay, I actually checked my Pinterest account and I have over 2,000 pins. I think I might have a pinning problem…but back to my point). We all love our kids, our husbands or wives, our homes and we are trying our best to give the people we love the very best of ourselves. When I look at my Pinteret account I haven’t done 90% of the things I have on there. Just keeping it real. But I love the thought of doing them and I’ll forever be a “pinner” because I’m always looking for great tips and ideas for my family.
When it comes to lunches, I get it — you don’t have time to make your child’s sandwich look like the next Picasso. Honestly, who does? But we still want the best for our kids in an attainable and every once in awhile fun way. So here you go – these are my tried and true lunchbox ideas that work in my house with 3 busy kids to get out the door. Now full disclosure, and I told the school this as well, there are going to be a few “Pinteresty” things here. I mean, the advice is coming from a kids cooking school owner! I do own about a million cookie cutters. I DO cut my kids sandwiches into shapes (this really has to do with the fact that they won’t eat the crust and they waste more of the sandwich by not eating the crust than if I just take 5 seconds and use a cookie cutter). Once in awhile, we cut veggies into shapes but that is only when we wake up early…and that doesn’t happen often these days!
Now, these things work for ME, and if it doesn’t work for YOU, don’t do it! I enjoy doing it and my kids will do it on their own too. But sometimes we simply run out of time and we totally don’t do anything creative because it’s Operation Get-Food-Into-the-Lunchbox-As-Fast-As-You-Can!
I will say, one of the biggest things that helps us with packing our kids’ lunches for school is our lunchboxes. I absolutely LOVE our Planet Box lunchboxes. They are durable, super easy to clean, the compartments make the food look attractive for the kids, and the portions are appropriate. However, the downside is that they are a little expensive. So, I borrowed a less expensive Bentgo Kids lunchbox from my friend and it worked just about the same (the pink lunchbox below). The compartments are a little smaller so I would recommend this one for a preschooler.
These are some of my kids’ favorite lunches. We probably have about 10 different flavors of cream cheese in our fridge. My kids each like something different. The bagel on the left has strawberry cream cheese with strawberry slices on it (my middle daughter’s favorite). It would be fun to do brown sugar cream cheese on a pumpkin bagel with pumpkin seeds for fall! I also used a cookie cutter for the cucumbers but, like I said above, that isn’t something we do every day! I will say that when I have picky veggie-eaters at Sprouts Cooking School, I always break out my cookie cutters, so if you have a picky veggie-eater, try making them into shapes! My kids love the DIY lunchables pictured in the middle and we do that a lot. They also love yogurt with sprinkles…leave off the sprinkles and you might as well forget abut the yogurt! What I love about these lunch boxes is the little dessert tray. I tell my kids they can’t have dessert if they don’t eat all their other food first and it works 9 out of 10 times! Are you ready for my lunch box fail?! It happens to me too! I make those quesadillas on the right ALL the time but since I was speaking for a bunch of people I wanted the apple cutouts to be green. My kids HATED the spinach flavor!!! And they aren’t picky eaters. So we are a plain tortilla household! So my other advice…don’t try new things at lunch time. 😂
Here are a few other tips for you as well:
— Involve your kids in meal planning. Before you do your grocery shopping for the week, ask them 2-3 things that they might like for lunch that week. Kids are really no different than adults in that way. Any parent who has had a mealtime battle with their child knows that kids will end up having a say in what they eat. So try including them in the process before you buy and see how that goes. And parents, I know it can be frustrating. I’m a Mommy too — just when you have their favorite lunch all figured out and you have bought it in bulk from Costco, they go and get sick of it! But hang in there! Go back to the list below and have them pick something else.
— Try including your Sprouting Chef in their lunchbox-making. You don’t have to do it every time but maybe on a Sunday night so the morning isn’t too hurried. You can refrigerate it for the next morning. Remember that kids who cook are more inclined to try new foods. Their little taste buds and palates are still forming. You’re also creating independence and responsibility. They are going to be so proud of themselves
— Shapes, Dips, Sprinkles! These are my tips for the picky eater! If your child is struggling to eat their veggies what could you do to make it more fun for them? Have you gotten a little cookie cutter and cut in into their favorite animal? Have you tried ranch dressing? Kids love to dip!! If you are struggling to get protein in their diet, how about Greek yogurt and letting them add sprinkles and other toppings? Sometimes it takes a little bit of creativity to get our kiddos the nutrition they need, but it really is so important for their growing bodies.
So without further ado, here is a lunchbox printable organized by Main Dish, Snack Items, Veggies, Fruit, and Drink. I hope this list finds it way into your pantry, cupboard, or even on your fridge and you can go back to it time and time again as a reference. Happy lunch making!