With three kids at three different schools for the last four years our mornings have been and continue to be beyond chaotic! My oldest just started her Sophomore year in college, my middle is a Junior in High School and my baby is starting Kindergarten this year. To say we are busy in the AM is an understatement. We needed a system… and fast!
Set a morning routine that works
I began looking for ways to speed up our morning so we could save ourselves some frazzle during the week. Part of the problem was rummaging through the unorganized fridge looking for snacks to pack. I knew I had bought something but somehow it was always swallowed by the sea of condiments, nine packages of tortillas and overflowing produce. Sound familiar? Operation organize the fridge was step one.
One day while shopping for bins for the toy room it dawned on me… I could organize snacks the same way I organize Barbies and Shopkins! In a bin! All in one place so we could pull it out in the morning and pack away! Then put it back in the same place so it was ready again for tomorrow. Genius! I made one for the fridge, the pantry and my car!!
Meal prep your school lunches
So, every Saturday I hit the store and re-stock the snack buckets. Our go-to’s for school lunches/fridge bucket is always the same: mini waters, flavored water, lightly sweetened juice boxes, yogurt & applesauce packets, cheese sticks, single serving dip cups (we love hummus and guacamole), clementines and protein bars- G2G bars are a staple, everyone in our house loves them! We keep crackers, pretzels, trail mix, fruit leathers and individually portioned bags of granola and nuts in the pantry bucket, along with some healthier fun snacks and treats. Beef jerky, nuts, fruit leathers, and RXBARS are car bucket staples for hangry moments on the run!
I always add a little school prep to my Sunday weekly meal prep– I chop up extra veggies for dips (mini cucumbers, carrots and bell peppers) and put in individual snack bags. I make a double batch of banana and egg muffins for breakfast and freeze half for later in the week. Hard boiled eggs are always on hand. Tuna salad, pasta salad, and quinoa salad are on rotation and perfect for my older kids. A little extra time on Sunday goes a long way during the chaos of the weekly rush.
My favorite School lunch lunchbox systems
I like to have fun and pack playful/themed lunches from time to time, but most days I’m in a hurry and just need to get the kids out the door! In our ebook Clean Eating Simplified we dedicated an entire section to packing bento lunches for kids with an awesome food/snack guide by section to include all food groups. Its been a lifesaver. I printed the page, laminated it and keep it on our fridge for daily reference! We rotate between the Planetbox Rover lunch system (on our 3rd year with the same box), yumbox and the Omiebox (first year and loving it) which is perfect for hot lunches during the fall and winter! We love these ice packs too. Super slim and they stay cold all day!!
Stay consistent and empower your kids choices
I get so many questions on how I get my kids, especially my teens to eat healthy. It’s not easy and it’s a work in progress, but baby steps and consistency have been key. I learned early on that getting your kids to join the whole foods bandwagon is to include them in the process. Let them help pick out their snacks at the store, food prep, and menu plan. Kids like choices. Chances are they will not have the same lunch choices as their friends but throwing in a few fun healthier options they chose themselves + a small sweet treat will help!
Teenagers are hard. Most days mine will come home for lunch and eat what I have on hand, others its Taco Bell or McDonalds. That’s a whole other blog post, but in short control what you can at home and let them have the free agency to make good choices (and some not so good) when they are out. They will feel the difference. I always do.
My rules for enjoying school lunch:
- Eat your veggies first.
- Main dish second.
- Treat last.
- No sharing (mainly due to food allergies)
- Don’t waste. Whatever is still edible and leftover becomes your afternoon snack.
My rules for packing school lunch:
- Get the kids involved.
- Use all food groups.
- Don’t over pack. My little is a chatty Kathy and spends most of her lunch hour talking with friends. I’ve learned to pack her smaller portions and have a second lunch ready when she gets home.
- Hydrate. Skip the juice. Flavored waters, low sugar juices or milk are good options if water is a hard sell.
- Replace processed food with homemade as much as possible. My kid famous Powerballs (recipe here) have replaced cookies for the most part at our house.
- Always add dip. Its surprising how fast a stack of veggies will disappear with some yogurt ranch or hummus.
- Make food fun. If you have time. Cookie cutters, toothpicks, skewers, mini fruits and veggies or themed lunches are a great way to excite young eaters.
- Have zero expectations. You’re doing the best you can. I learned long ago that once kids hit elementary school you lose almost all control. Junior High and High School even more so. They learn what a hostess cake is and your no longer the cool mom. You’ve taught them well, you’ve sent them with healthy options, the rest is up to them. Trust them to make good choices, 9 times out of 10 they will.
Dont forger to feed yourself
Ok, you’ve made a healthy breakfast + lunch for your kiddos, you’ve sent them off to school, the kitchen is clean, now it’s time for YOU. Its time to enjoy yourself a quiet healthy breakfast and go get active! This was a hard concept for me to grasp. I always found something else that needed to be done. No longer. I am embracing ME time and I’ve never been happier. The laundry can wait and so can the dishes. You however, cannot.