Saving on School Lunches Part 2: Preparing School Lunches for Picky Eaters

Last time, we discussed the merits of bento boxes. This week we will go over packing school lunches. Again, if you are looking for cute or cutting-edge recipes, this article may not be for you. I’d suggest you visit Pinterest for some picture perfect bento box ideas. However, if you just want a few ideas to mix it up, with everyday options, I hope this article helps!

First, let me say that I am not a nutritionist. I am just a mom who is trying to help her kids make healthy food choices while still providing food that they will eat. I would love to be one of the parents who is able to make everything from scratch, but this can be difficult for working parents who struggle just to make sure all the homework is done while getting everything else taken care of too. I know that pre-packaged foods are not the ideal choice. However, given the time and money constraints that many families have to deal with, they are a reality for many of us. The best we can do is to try to find the healthier options and send a variety of food to meet our kid’s nutritional needs.

There are many good reasons to send bagged lunches instead of buying them. For us, the goal was saving money. Other factors that families need to consider include:

  • Allergies: For some families, food allergies may severely limit lunch options. Making lunches gives parents control over ingredients so they can be sure their kids are safe and healthy at school.
  • Time: Kids have a limited amount of time to eat during their lunch break. By sending a healthy lunch, parents can eliminate the time it takes to wait in line. This gives your kids more time to enjoy their lunch. For slow eaters like mine, this is a necessity.
  • Life Skills: Finally, when parents involve their kids in the process, it can help them make healthy food decisions that can last a lifetime.

We are lucky that we don’t have any food allergies in the family, but that doesn’t mean making lunches is easy! Even if your child doesn’t suffer from food allergies, please check with the school before you send in certain foods. Last year, my youngest was in a peanut-free classroom. In some instances, you may learn that the entire school is nut-free.  Please be mindful of school guidelines.

I have one child who will eat just about anything and another who doesn’t like anything! Finding foods my picky eater will eat is a struggle. She has a few favorites like chicken nuggets, Nutella™ sandwiches and granola bars but she is reluctant to try new foods. She has a sweet tooth so it can be a struggle to get her to eat healthy options. Luckily enough, she also likes fruit so we always send in lots of fruit with every meal!

So, let’s get to it! I started by making a shopping list of things my kids like to eat.  Then I added healthy items so the list included lots of fruits and vegetables. I wanted to include my kids in the process, so I gave them each a list and asked them to check off a few things they wanted before we went food shopping.

Some of the staples we get each week include 100% juice pouches or fruit flavored water, apples, bread, sliced cheese, yogurt or Gogurt™, fruit cups, cucumbers, salad, lunch meat, Nutella™, popcorn, crackers and lots of fruit. Here is the shopping list we use: School-Lunch-Shopping-List.

Below, you will find a few of the lunches we packed. Each day includes a snack that they can enjoy during snack-time or after school.

Week 1:

Monday:

  • Juice Pouch
  • ½ Nutella Sandwich
  • Yogurt
  • Apple
  • Goldfish
  • Snack: Carrots with Ranch Dressing

Tuesday:

  • Flavored Water
  • Fruit Cup
  • Cheese, Ham & Crackers
  • Grapes
  • Snack: Granola Bar

Wednesday:

  • Milk
  • Salad
    • Carrots
    • Cucumber
    • Sunflower seeds
    • Craisins™
    • Ranch Dressing
  • Pita
  • Snack: Apple & Cheese Stick

Thursday:

  • Juice Pouch
  • Ham Sandwich
  • Popcorn
  • Mandarin Oranges
  • Snack: Yogurt (Frozen Gogurt™)

Friday: Hot lunch

Week 2:

Monday

  • Chicken Salad
  • Raisins & Peanuts
  • Celery
  • Triscuts
  • Cantaloupe/Melon slices
  • Water

Tuesday

  • Pasta Salad (with ham and cheese cubes)
  • Pear
  • Almonds
  • Fiber One™ Brownie
  • Flavored water

Wednesday

  • Milk
  • Chicken Nuggets (cold)
  • Apple Slices
  • Popped Chips
  • Raw Green Beans

Thursday

  • Cucumber sandwich with mayo
  • Fig bar
  • Water
  • Pretzels
  • Apple

Friday: Hot lunch

In my third, and final post about lunches, I will discuss leftovers and foods that are surprisingly good cold!

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