By: Holley Grainger
Moms, if I could give you a trophy (or, more realistically, a massage and a nap!), I would. You’ve made it through one semester of lunch packing, survived the holiday break, and are now almost out of the bitter cold of winter—you’ve done a great job!
Now isn’t the time to lose steam, though. After a break in routine (hello, Christmas candy!), it can be hard to get back into good habits, like packing lunches for your kids. In reality, lunchtime is a huge moment in your kiddo’s day—they get to recharge, refresh, and refuel so they can power through the rest of the school day, afternoon activities, and homework before dinner. Take advantage of that moment to load them up on the good stuff.
If thinking about packing lunches from now until summer break makes you want to cry, check out my three clever tips for making lunchbox packing fun both with and for your kids:
1. Don’t wait until the last minute. Bedtime seems like a natural time to prep for the next day, but that’s an easy way to open the floodgates for snack requests and extra post-dinner treats. If, like me, you close up your kitchen after you wipe down the counters, don’t create extra work for yourself by making lunch once everything’s cleaned up. Do it right after dinner while tummies are full, kids have stable blood sugar, and the kitchen is already in a natural (disaster) prep state. While the kids portion their ingredients into their lunchboxes or baggies, you can load the dishwasher and supervise. (Shhh! This clever trick teaches them how to make their own lunches down the road.)
2. Lunchboxes don’t have to be works of art. There, I said it. While that perfect lunchbox featuring apples made into teddy bears may look adorable, I can assure you that your yogurt art will be a swirled mess by the time lunch rolls around. (Trust me…been there and learned that!) Instead of making it perfect, make it beautiful by encouraging kids to fill their lunchboxes with a rainbow of foods. Colorful carrots, ripe fruit, and crisp veggies are natural additions, but don’t forget tangy condiments and filling proteins to round out the meal. Make it fun by opting for unusual shapes or clever additions. When you want to get fancy and have some extra time, use a biscuit cutter, cookie cutter, or edible markers to let them spruce up a sandwich, or sprinkle some dye-free sprinkles on the yogurt to jazz up the lunchbox so your little ones can smile extra wide when they open their lunch the next day.
3. Choose foods that give back. It’s always been a habit of mine to look for Box Tops for Education while shopping. My kids have a rotating carousel of “favorite snacks”, so it’s easy to pick and choose the ones that help me provide more support and funding to my school. Right now, you can get a $5 Shipt grocery credit and earn cash for your school when you spend $20 or more on Cheerios, Annie’s, Nature Valley, Old El Paso, Go-Gurt, and other participating products. Just use your Shipt app to shop for groceries, load up on the above brands, clip the box tops after your delivery, and enjoy your $5 credit toward a future purchase. That’s a win win!
Grab 2 more tips to help beat lunchbox fatigue on my blog, Cleverful Living, plus find loads of clever lunchbox inspiration such as 125 Healthy Lunchboxes for Kids or my video, the ABCs of Lunchbox Packing.
Creative, adventuresome and creatively clever, Holley Grainger, is a nationally recognized
expert on “good for you” nutrition and “fun for you” living. She’s also a loving mom who
enjoys bringing healthy fun flavored with creativity, ease, and sheer enjoyment of all things
food, family—and beyond. She brings nutritious food to life with creativity, ease, and a
contagious excitement, plus a couple of pint-sized helpers. Holley’s new blog, Cleverful
Living features solutions to make life tastier, more interesting, and definitely more fun—and
that she created, as a registered dietitian, to be creatively healthy. Holley is bringing smart,
surprising ideas to every room of your home that will improve the lives of every member of
your family. When she isn’t traveling nationally and internationally for work, Holley lives in
Alabama with her husband, two adorable, quick-witted daughters, and a very grumpy