Would you think I was weird if I told you one of my greatest joys as a mother is packing my son’s lunch every day?
There’s something so maternally satisfying about packing that little boy’s lunch box jam packed with all the food I can fit into it. No joke. Sometimes I spend hours a day on Amazon researching the latest and greatest in lunch box supplies. #Momlife at it’s finest.
Last year, Coop has only opted for hot lunch ONE day, and he immediately came home and declared that he wouldn’t be doing that again. He was going through a phase in his life called growing, and he’s crushing it. Sadly, the lunches at his school just don’t provide enough food to keep him full during the day until he can come home and snag that after school snack.
Which means it’s Lunch Mom to the rescue. Da da da da! (secures superhero cape and swings it over one shoulder in a dramatic flair). Packing this kid’s lunch box five days a week, while it brings me a lot of joy, also has its fair share of struggles.
One of the common questions I keep running into is how to keep his meals fresh without it being the same dang thing every single day? Not to mention – how do I find the time to make his lunch healthy, satisfying, and fun – while still juggling the other 799 balls I have in the air?
While I’m definitely working on compiling a list of all my school lunch meal ideas (so stay tuned!), here are some tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way that help keep Coop’s lunches checking those must-have-mama boxes – aka my healthy school lunch ideas for busy moms.
Healthy School Lunch Ideas for Busy Moms
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Plan Your Meals in Advance
Just like I preach the importance of meal prep (because it makes our lives SO MUCH EASIER), think about your kiddos’ lunch in a meal-prep sense as well. Keep a calendar handy and write down in advance what you’ll be packing each day.
Not only will this help you keep things fresh (aka so you don’t pack the same thing every single day), but it’ll keep your life more organized, help you stay on track when you go to the grocery store and Target (husbands, you’re welcome), and actually save you time each morning when you’re packing those lunch boxes to the brim.
As part of your planning, make sure that you’re including a variety of the types of foods, too. Pack a protein and a complex carb, a fruit and a veggie, and then I like to include some form of a “treat” – whether it be Coop’s favorite organic fruit snacks, or the occasional Oreo cookie packs or Rice Krispy treats.
Make it Colorful
Just like they say the more color you find in your refrigerator the healthier your foods are? There’s a direct correlation – seriously. Make your kiddos’ lunch pretty colorful, too. Not only will it look more appealing, but it’ll be more likely to be full of all the nutrients we want our kids to get.
Mix it up each day between colorful fruits and veggies. Some of our favorite go-to’s include carrots (with ranch), apple slices, strawberries, cuties, and sliced peppers.
I also like to buy meal prep containers from Amazon and fill them with all of Coop’s favorite finger foods. You can mix and match to keep it interesting, but some of our favorites include:
- Chopped veggies
- Deli meat
- Mini sausages
- Cheese cubes
- Apple slices
- Nuts or trail mix (here’s a trail mix recipe you can make at home!)
There’s a spot for this in the FREE Weekly School Lunch Planner opt-in I included above, but I always like to make sure Coop will have everything he needs with his lunch!
So.. I make sure to pack all the extras! Things like paper towels, spoons or forks, dipping sauces if applicable, and then I top everything off with a surprise from mom. This is typically in the form of a note. I either write a few words of encouragement for the day, a reminder that may be important and he won’t want to forget (like hey dude.. don’t forget to bring home your watch at the end of the day), or a hilarious joke he’ll give me props for later.
I’m not a regular mom. I’m a cool mom. 😉
How fun are these joke cards for kids’ lunch boxes on Amazon?
150 unique joke cards with a spot on the back to personalize a note from mom or dad. Keep your kids smiling while they’re chewing with these fun notes!
Don’t Stress It
It’s a well known fact in parenthood that your child’s favorite food one day might make him shudder in repulsion the very next. So, don’t spend too much time stressing if he or she comes home at the end of the day and it looks like lunch was barely touched.
They’re not going to starve, and skipping out on that beautiful, well-thought out lunch one day every now and then isn’t going to hurt them.
It’s true. Other parents might be judging what you’re packing in your kiddos’ lunch boxes. But who the heck cares? Packing a treat that’s full of sugar or processed ingredients every now and then is normal. Now – I don’t recommend packing nothing BUT that kind of food. But slipping a piece of candy, cookies, or Cheetos into that lunch box every now and then is FINE.
I mean.. how else are you supposed to get rid of the leftover Halloween candy that you’re trying super hard not to chomp on? Throw a piece or two in there on Fridays and call it a day. It’s balance. Teach ’em young.
Healthy school lunch ideas for busy moms doesn’t have to feel overwhelming. Create a list of your childrens’ favorite foods and then mix and match, and rotate through. And if they have a tried and true favorite, it’s okay to pack it on repeat.
What are some of your best tips and tricks for packing the ultimate school lunch? Comment them below!