Back-to-school lunch tips and snack ideas
My kids’ school lunches always start out strong in September. Balanced snacks, a cute note tucked in with the fork and spoon, water bottles labelled and filled. But admittedly, my enthusiasm definitely starts waning after a few weeks.
In an effort to alleviate some stress this year, I’m going to incorporate these snack and lunch tips and make an effort to have the kids help out as much as they can by choosing meals and prepping them themselves.
Make ahead and freeze
Avoid the morning chaos with these make-ahead and freezer-friendly main dishes that’ll save time and ensure you’re not searching the cupboards for sandwich bread at the crack of dawn.
For a twist on a classic, try out these cute corn dog muffins from Hip2Save. For younger kids, cut up the hot dogs into smaller pieces. Once they’ve cooled, freeze in individual Tupperware containers or freezer-safe Ziploc bags. Recipe here: hip2save.com/recipes/mini-corn-dog-muffins-recipe.
Instead of trying to stuff a large triangle slice of pizza into a small square sandwich container, try a make-ahead and more easily portable version like these pepperoni pizza rolls from Ahead of Thyme. They can be taken out of the freezer the night before and they’ll thaw to room temp by lunch, or warm them up at school in a microwave. Find the recipe and instructions here: aheadofthyme.com/pepperoni-pizza-rolls.
While you can’t bring a PB&J sandwich to school, how about a Wow Butter or pea butter and jam sandwich? The secret to a non-soggy sandwich is to add the “peanut butter” to both sides of the bread, then add the jelly to the middle. Send it straight out of the freezer and it will keep cool through the morning and be thawed for lunch.
Make and freeze homemade or store-bought smoothies in individual freezie bags that can be found in kitchen supply stores or on Amazon (such as Zipzicle Ice Pop Pouches). They don’t need to defrost overnight. Instead, toss them in lunch bags and they will slowly defrost during the morning.
Fruit and veggie swords
According to my kids, food on a stick just tastes better than the same food not on a stick. “Mommy, It’s science,” says my 9-year-old. Fruit or veggie kabobs are a simple and fun way to serve up some variety for snack or lunchtime and are fun for kids to make themselves. Rotate between halved grapes, berries, melon pieces, mango, and other fruits and you can even add cubed cheese, pitted olives, deli meats, or any other favourites. Just be careful of those sharp skewers for younger kids. Look for reusable ones without pointy ends or you can even use popsicle sticks.
Sandwiches can get pretty humdrum day after day. Using different kinds of breads and wraps such as croissants, naan, and pita can turn a lunch staple into something more inviting. For an easy wrap, add sliced meats, fresh veggies, cheese, hummus, or cream cheese to a tortilla or pita bread, roll up and cut into pinwheels.
Kids can help make tasty banana wraps before school. Spread a tortilla or pita with Wow Butter and applesauce. Add a banana and roll it up. Secure in aluminum foil or plastic wrap for a wholesome lunch.
Both my kids like apples, but only if they’re cut up. To keep apples from browning, slice them at home and secure the apple back together with a rubber band. You can also soak apple slices in pineapple juice or lemon juice, or toss pieces with a touch of granulated sugar and cinnamon for a tasty snack.
DIY freezer packs
I’m always looking for just the right-fitting freezer pack that’s big enough to keep foods cold, while still allowing the lunch bag to close. DIY ice packs made using sponges can be a real space-saver. Freeze a water-soaked sponge inside a Ziploc and use them instead of ice packs. They’re slimmer and work just as well. You can also use frozen juice boxes, chocolate milk containers, grapes, and yogurt tubes. They’ll double as extra cold packs, and be defrosted by lunchtime.