In the constant race to not be tardy and stay sane, I am always looking for ways to make school mornings run as efficiently as possible. And with a daughter known to burst into song at a moment’s notice and a husband with health issues, this is an uphill battle!
One way that I have been staying on top of my ‘Mom Game’ is by making all of my daughter’s lunches for the week on Sunday night. (As I type this, I am still questioning what in the world has happened to me!)
In planning the week, I kept thinking of how my daughter loves Lunchables, but a week’s worth of them can definitely add up. I also knew that I wanted to put together lunches that are fresh and healthy while still being affordable. So I decided to give it a shot!
How to Pack School Lunches for the Week (Plus Snacks!)
Shop What You Have
The first thing I did was take a look in the pantry to see what food and paper goods we already had on hand. I knew that I didn’t want to pack a week’s worth of pre-made and pre-packaged food, so I made sure I had plenty of staples to bake with just in case.
Find Fun Lunch Containers and Tools
My first stop was the dollar store. If you haven’t embraced the ways of dollar store shopping, you are missing out! While not everything is a great value, there are always great finds in the store! On this particular trip to my dollar store, I bought plastic lunch containers, small plastic bowls with tops, silicone cupcake liners, Disney snack and sandwich bags, brown paper bags, and fun plastic forks and spoons.
Shop for Food Your Kids Will Actually Eat
After I was done shopping at the dollar store, I went to Walmart to pick up all the food items that I needed. I have always found the prices at Walmart to be extremely fair and their produce has come a long way!
At Walmart I picked up low-sodium & low-fat lunch meat, low-fat mozzarella cheese, organic carrots, grapes, strawberries, yogurt tubes, and crackers. I already had cute napkins and school lunch notes, so it was time to pack her lunches!
The first thing I did was whip together some chocolate chip cookies. I love Alton Brown’s Chewy Chocolate Chip recipe! While I made a full batch, I split it into 4 servings that I then rolled into logs and wrapped in plastic wrap to throw into the freezer to make my own cookies whenever I needed them. When I put the chocolate chip cookie rolls into the freezer, I also put the yogurt tubes in there with them. They thaw by lunchtime and help keep everything in her lunchbox cool!
As the chocolate chip cookies were baking, I made what we call ‘Monkey Mix’. To make Monkey Mix, all you need to do is throw a whole bunch of stuff in a bowl and portion it out…really that’s it! I like to use the last of things we have around the house, so this time around our Monkey Mix had pretzel rods, rainbow goldfish crackers, mini-marshmallows, Teddy Grahams, and M&M’s. It is not the healthiest Monkey Mix I have ever made, but for snack time I try to give her a treat to help get her through the rest of the day!
Once I portioned out the Monkey Mix, I put a few fruit salads together. This time I went simple, and just used strawberries and grapes. But, I can get pretty fancy with my fruit salads, even creating fruit monsters!
The last thing I did was package up eight crackers and two chocolate chip cookies in snack size baggies for the week. Once they were together, I put them with the Monkey Mix containers in a basket, so they would be easy to grab in the morning.
Now, it was time to tackle making my version of Lunchables!
Pre-Pack School Lunches for the Week
The first thing I did was take cupcake liners and make areas for the different foods that I would be putting into the plastic lunch containers. Then I cut up the meat, cheese, and carrots. My daughter loves pickles, so I put two liners together and cut a small piece of paper towel to put in the bottom of the liners to catch any extra pickle juice before I put a few in for her. Once everything was cut up, I put everything together inside of the container.
Organization is Key
I have re-purposed my kitchen junk drawer to be a place I keep all of the things I need for my daughter’s lunch and snacks. You will see that I have also pre-written little notes for her and decorated her brown paper bags. My mom always did little things like that for me when I was younger, so I want to keep the tradition going!
All in all, it took me about an hour to put together my daughter’s lunches for the week and make the cookie dough. It has made our mornings easier and since we aren’t running around, we’re able to enjoy some time together to start our day off right!
What do you like to do to simplify your school mornings?
Shelley Caran is the wife & mom behind On the Go in MCO and a contributor for WFTV Channel 9’s icFlorida.com. She loves theme parks, especially Disney, Hello Kitty, WWE, and shopping! Keep up with Shelley and her Central Florida adventures on Twitter and Facebook!
Photos: Shelley Caran