Our school district for the second year in a row is offering free breakfast and lunch to all of their students, but when you have picky eaters this is not necessarily a good thing. Charlie being on the autism spectrum makes utilizing school lunch impossible because he’s food limiting. Carter, depending on what it is, will eat school lunch, but some of the menu just sounds unappealing and after a while even kids get tired of the same meals served week after week.
So how do you break up the monotony of sandwiches from home for lunch everyday?
- Make a plan every weekend for the upcoming week. If you want to ensure that you have less food coming back uneaten have your child help you plan their weekly lunch menu.
- Now I’m not saying your meals need to be worthy of an Instagram post, but make sure they have a variety so lunch from home doesn’t become dull. Be sure to use containers that they can open themselves to help cut down on the teacher’s time spent opening packages (she needs to eat too).
- Shop your refrigerator and cabinets after making your lunch menu and see what things you have on hand before going to the store. Have your child help make the list of items you need to purchase to fill in the gaps of things you don’t have on hand. I advise adding an insulated lunch box (I love these from Pottery Barn Kids), a hot food thermos, and slim ice packs to your list if you don’t already own them.
Now if you’re like my buddy, Blake who puts us all to shame with her creative streak for her daughter Mary’s lunches, you can have some real fun. I would love to take the kind of time that she does with the boys’ lunch but let’s face it, I’m a procrastinator and well I’m pretty dang good at it! I have started adding fun character napkins and Lunch Box Notes to Carter’s lunches though.
Some things to liven up lunch with accessories- silicone cupcake wrappers, fruit skewers, large cookie cutters for sandwiches, and small cookie cutters for meats, cheeses, fruits, and vegetables. Reusable baggies and plastic ware can be fun too. Don’t forget bright and colorful containers!
But what do I put in there?
Make your own Lunchables (I’m really tempted to order these containers for days I do this!)
Wraps (can cut into pinwheels for little hands)
Macaroni and cheese, soups, stews, leftovers, chicken nuggets, quesadillas cut into strips, grilled cheese sandwich cut to fit, pasta, or taco meat to make tacos or nachos, all can go into a hot food thermos and still be warm at lunch time. When using the hot food thermos I suggest pouring boiling water into it and closing it for ten minutes then dumping and drying before putting in your child’s hot food. This helps ensure your child’s meal is still warm at lunch time.
Sandwiches can still be fun too when not served everyday. I have the Pampered Chef Press and Seals in the old round style and the newer square style that can make their sandwiches look like Uncrustables. If you are a Pinterest parent though large shaped cookie cutters work to liven things up too. Also, try different kinds of breads: panini, naan, pita pockets or kangaroo pouches, Hawaiian rolls, sub rolls, plain bagels are just some of the ways you can change up those ordinary sandwich days.
Pretzel sticks and Nutella
Bars (granola, breakfast, Z-bars, protein)
Apple slices (some stores have them prepackaged with small cups of caramel or peanut butter that are great for dipping)
Baby carrots, cucumbers, grape tomatoes, or broccoli and ranch dip
Plain chips and ranch dip
Tortilla chips and salsa/queso/hummus
Fruit, fresh or freeze dried
Yogurt and let them have something to add in to make it interesting. Crushed graham crackers, granola, chocolate chips, or fresh fruit are just a few suggestions.
Don’t forget the occasional sweet treat too! My boys think getting a Little Debbie or some cookies thrown in from time to time is awesome. At our school the kids also have the option to get items A La Carte that they pay extra for whether it’s chips, ice cream, or some other goody not on the regular menu. I have money in the boys’ accounts so on Fridays if they haven’t gotten any notes sent home they can pick a treat.
Really though your imagination is the limit. You can find loads of inspiration from Pinterest, Facebook groups and pages, and even TikTok. Just have fun with it and make it a way to connect with your kids.