by Kelly Bryant
Instead of leaving your kids at the mercy of the cafeteria menu or sending them off with another ho-hum PB&J, try these fast, easy and fun ways to up your lunchbox game.
1. Get It Together
Before you head out for your weekly grocery run, create a list of items you’d like to make, taking into account ingredients you’ll need for each.
2. Get Personal
Kristina Micallef, culinary program manager for Sur La Table, bakes up homemade muffins and adds a sweet message to the bag before throwing it in her son’s backpack. “I make my child a batch of homemade fruit muffins, usually depending on whichever fruit is currently in season,” she says. “I use a blend of whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour to ensure I am providing him with some nutrients. After the muffins have cooled down, I use a sharpie to write cute little messages on Ziploc bags, place the muffins individually into the bags and place them in the freezer.”
3. From Drab to Fab
Instead of simply making the sandwich, cut it into appealing shapes. Does your girly-girl love hearts? Is your little guy obsessed with spaceships? Grab a cookie cutter or freehand it for a special lunchbox surprise.
4. Think Outside the Box
“Jell-O® mixed with fruit (such as berries, watermelon or orange segments). This is a great way to get some liquid and fruit into your active child,” Micallef says. “Freezer smoothies are great for providing fruit and beverage. Its other feature is that the container will be cold enough to act as an ice pack too, keeping your child’s lunch cool.”
5. Favor Make-Ahead Meals
Consider meals that can be made in large batches and frozen into lunch-size portions, like applesauce, soups and even pasta. “Cheese ravioli with tomato sauce is a great one for the colder months,” says Micallef. “Make a batch of ravioli and freeze them in small containers. In the morning, heat the pasta and transfer to the thermos so your child has a warm lunch.”
6. Contain Yourself
You don’t have to spend big bucks on a fancy lunch pack to send your child off to school. To keep items separate in a lunchbox, fit smaller containers into one larger one to form a bento box-style unit. Invest in a thermos for warm lunches and an ice pack for cold items.
7. Just Desserts
If you want to add something sweet, Micallef has a few ideas for that, too. “Try a fruit parfait – a small container of yogurt mixed with fresh fruits,” she says. She also suggests homemade banana or zucchini bread, blueberry pancakes, granola bars or apple slices with peanut butter.
8. Involve the Kids
From the planning to the execution, if your kids are invested in the lunches on a personal level, chances are they will take pride in them and actually eat them.
Kelly Bryant is a freelance writer.