How to Pack Healthy & EASY School Lunches

Easy Lunches

Very cute, but would totally unappreciated by my boys.

Very cute, but would totally unappreciated by my boys.

I love to look at all those adorable pictures of the world’s cutest school lunches on Pinterest. I mean, they are absolute works of art! It is almost a shame to eat them.

lunch

Honestly, I just don’t have time to this.

Then I go into my kitchen and get real. Hello, I am a tired working mommy here. As much as I would love to send my kids to school with one of those precious Benito lunches the truth is I don’t have time for that. Not to mention I have boys. Boys don’t eat their food. They shovel it into their mouths in five bites or less and then race out the door to go to recess.

I need quick. I need easy. I prefer organic when I can get it. So what is a tired mom to do? Well it starts with a trip to Costco! The greatest big box store in the world has made it so easy to buy healthy ,and even organic, foods in bulk that I can just toss into a lunch box and forget about it.DSC_2308

Organic milk boxes, nitrate free deli turkey and sliced chicken, Brownberry multigrain bread, organic strawberry jam, low fat high protein Greek yogart, and even small treats.  Costco has it all.  We also love to buy their bananas, big containers of blue berries, raspberries, and grapes.  One exception to the organic rule is my Jif peanut butter.  I love peanut butter, but I can’t stand the “natural” or organic peanut butters because they are practically drowning in the separated oil.

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The containers all snap together, even the ice pack.

I also fell in love with these BPA free containers from Rubbermaid.  The sizes are perfect, the sandwich container is big enough to accommodate the larger sized Brownberry bread, and the built in ice pack totally rocks.

There were $2 coupons for them in this past Sunday’s newspaper, plus Target has them on sale this week for $3 off.  Even if you don’t have the Sunday coupons there are $1 peelies attached to the packaging.

Rubbermaid LunchBlox review

There are high value coupons inside which makes these containers almost free when you budget in the savings, the sale price at Target, and use a coupon.

As you can see I stocked up on them so I’ll have plenty for the new school year!

So once you have your containers and you made your run to Costco, what goes in the lunch box?

I try to cover the four food groups and make sure their is plenty of protein, complex carbs, and nutrition for growing minds.

DSC_2314I am very blessed that both of my boys are allergy free.  So I have an organic milk box.  The picture shows Horizon, but my boys also love the Kirkland Organic Chocolate Milk Boxes from Costco.  I only buy organic and hormone free milk.  I truly believe all the hormones in dairy products are the reason children are entering puberty earlier and earlier.

If your child is allergic to milk then use juice boxes or soy or almond milk.

Because this is a lunch for a first grader, there is half a sandwich which has turkey, sharp cheddar, and spinach leaves.  My boys are not big veggie fans so I compensate with a double fruit serving, fresh blueberries and an Apple Go Go Squeeze.  Finally, a little crunch comes from a Cheeze-It 100 Calorie pack.

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The lunch bag is from Pottery Barn Kids. I love their backpacks and lunch boxes. I especially love that the lunch boxes clip onto the back packs!

The only part of this yummy lunch I actually had to make myself was the sandwich, which is the way I like it!  To keep everything cool I slide the ice pack into the zippered netting on the lid and close it up!  Done, done and done.  I pack 15 school lunches a week, ten for my boys and five for me.  I’m not going to apologize for cutting corners by using prepackaged healthy options!

I also have a small thermos for each of us so I can let the boys take hot soup, chili, stew, spaghetti or whatever leftovers we have from the previous nights dinner.  I cook in double batches frequently.  I have to use a thermos because my children do not have access to a microwave at school.  I don’t know of any schools around here that allow the kids to use microwaves but I have seen lots of articles in Parenting and Parents lately to say to do just that.

Here is a list of really great products from Costco:

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My little guy with his big boy backpack and his matching lunch box.

Brownberry Oatnut Bread
Jif Peanut Butter
Kirkland Organic Strawberry Spread
Nutri-Grain Bars
Kirkland Almonds
Kirkland Organic Milk Boxes
GoGo Squeeze Applesauce
Pepperidge Goldfish Crackers
Honey Maid Graham Crackers
Ritz Crackers & Cheese
Annie’s Fruit Snacks
Yoplait Go-Gurt
Fruyo Greek Yogart
Nature Valley Granola Bars
Kraft String Cheese
Nature Valley Sweet & Salty
Quaker Chewy Granola Bars
100 Calories Snack Packs
Kirkland Organic Tortilla Chips
Tree Top Fruit Snacks
Stretch Island Fruit Strips
Snyder’s Pretzels

I hope this list is helpful.  So often we feel under pressure to do everything bigger and better until it is ridiculously over the top!  At the end of the day kids need to eat nutricious food, appropriate sized portions, and it needs to be a little bit fun.  So don’t feel guilty if your child’s lunch box isn’t Pinterest picture worthy.  If you have more suggestions please add them in the Comments below!

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Comments

  1. These are great and REALISTIC lunches, I love it! The containers snapping together is perfect too, kids are less likely to loose them…or play with them! 😉

  2. shitastrophy says:

    The dreaded school lunch. I must say this is my school year nemesis. My kids go to a Montessori program that emphasizes healthy eating and if there is anything unhealthy they are sent home with it. I think I am going to go check out those Rubbermaid sandwich holders and some of your other suggestions.Thanks!

  3. I love this…People don’t pay attention enough to preservatives, coloring, sugar. They go with what the kid WILL eat and not what they SHOULD eat. Its not that I don’t have a picky eater….I do….Its not like she doesn’t have allergies…She does…But when I investigated the school breakfast and lunches…I found anywhere to 22 grams to 60 grams of sugar. My kid does NOT need sugar…. No matter how tight my budget is…School lunches will continue to be just a treat and I love all the very realistic advice you gave! Rock on!

    • I agree with you about school lunches. My children really only get to have school lunch two days a month, nacho day and Hungry Howie’s Pizza day. I know those aren’t exactly nutritious but the occasional treat won’t kill them. Luckily for me, my kids prefer home lunch and refuse to eat most of the cafeteria lunches. I was shocked however when my son started Middle School. I do keep credit tabs for both of my boys in case of an emergency (lost lunch or forgot it on the bus) because I don’t want them to go hungry. I started getting notices for my oldest that he was carrying a negative balance. Turns out come middle school they sell ice cream, candy, Arizona Ice Tea and my son was eating TONS of crap!! I was fit to be tied. I put an end to that right away.

      • And the school board wonders why A.D.D soars and test taking skills are falling….We typically allow breakfast once a week and lunch once a week…There have been times that the budget was so tight we did do school food and we noticed the difference.

  4. My OCD is applauding your techniques and dedication. *clapping*

  5. Awesome ideas. Thank God I homeschool! I’ll pass this on to my sister!

  6. Great job on covering all the important areas of kids health. I love the fact you said your kids don’t like veggies so you double up on fruits. This is a great thing to do for now as long as they are getting their Vit A and Vit C doses. Doesn’t matter if it is a veg or fruit. I also agree with you on the hormones in milk. I’m going to share this with my peeps at Nurse Mommy Laughs. You Rock!

  7. I found your post because I am a working mom who also is short on time but wants to provide the best lunches for her child. Below is a super awesome link to a creditable source talking about hormones in milk….I would encourage anyone with concerns to check it out.

    http://momatthemeatcounter.blogspot.com/2014/06/whats-in-food-label-raised-without.html?m=1

    Thank you for putting together a nice and easy packing list.

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