The sheer mention of these three words is enough to raise the blood pressure of even the most calm, creative parents among us. If you have already run out of ideas for making school lunches, take a deep breath and read on.
Who knew before having kids that making school lunches would be such a frustrating aspect of parenting? How come a child who enjoyed cheese sticks and yogurt last week declares this week that he doesn’t want them anymore?
To be fair, maybe our kids reject certain foods because many of us tend to pack pretty much the same thing week after week. So, tired of making tuna sandwiches and turkey roll-ups that are only ever half eaten, a couple of Montreal Families moms went online to seek out websites with great lunch recipes. Here is what they found:
I enjoyed the sheer number of recipes available on this site. Some ideas require more preparation time than most busy working parents have but, for parents who plan ahead or have some extra time, the recipes and lunch ideas here will provide endless inspiration.
This site has whittled lunch recipe ideas down to 15 items that kids will likely love. I enjoyed their use of common foods served in interesting ways, like a fruit shish kabob with a ricotta and honey dip, and any meal in cupcake form – like scrambled eggs! It should make kids bored with jam sandwiches excited once again to open their lunch box.
Better known for its catalogue of recipes from Bon Appétit and the now-defunct Gourmet magazines, this site also has a back-to-school section. I was impressed by lunches made with healthy ingredients in a form that most kids would enjoy – like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich – with a twist; using berries, cream cheese and honey. You’ll find recipes that are wholesome, nutritious and simple, and that will keep your child feeling full all day.
Healthy Lunches to Go
Created by the Dietitians of Canada, this site will convince most parents that creating a healthy and tasty midday meal doesn’t have to be stress-inducing. You’ll find tips and recipes as well as a worksheet to complete with your child, demonstrating how to put together lunches that include items from all the major food groups.
Subtitled “healthy recipes for the speed of life,” this site not only offers lunch ideas and tips, but also helpful articles on food safety, choosing a lunch box and cooking with kids. I really enjoyed “a week in express” section where they explain how to turn leftovers from the night before into tasty lunches the next day.
Kaboose lunch ideas are simple, yet fun and interesting, like a portable taco salad or a banana dog in a bun. There are warm lunch ideas if your child has a thermos or access to a microwave.
Lunch in A Box
In her blog, a mom from San Francisco shares her passion for lunches inspired by Japanese bento boxes, home-cooked meals packed attractively in small containers. The recipes are unusual, drawing on flavours from various countries, and she offers plenty of ideas to appeal to kids of different ages. Bento box lunches are gaining in popularity and the site includes many links to Bento-related and other food sites.
This company sells a Bento-inspired lunch box, but what really impresses me is that its website includes a vast gallery of photos of lunches submitted by readers. While the photos don’t include recipe information, the pictures provide visual inspiration. You can also sign up for a weekly newsletter that includes menus and lunch tips.
For families who lay off the meat, this is a great site for healthy vegetarian meals, like chili with crackers and veggies, and ideas on making waste-free lunches. You don’t need to be a vegetarian to enjoy these recipes.
Helpful lunch apps
LaLa Lunchbox ($1.99, iPhone/iPad)
LunchBag (free, iPhone/iPad)
Both work in similar ways, although LaLa Lunchbox may appeal to younger kids with its colourful monster graphics. These apps allow a user to scroll through lists of items, from apples to chili to saltines then click to add them to a menu for a specific person.
You can add your own items and, in LaLa Lunchbox, you can upload a lunch photo and save items to a grocery list. Kids will get a kick out of planning their lunches and parents will appreciate being able to save and review different menus.