17 January 2008

Make a week's worth of school lunches

Cynthia's batch lunch prep makes so much sense, it's a wonder we aren't all doing this.

We have to bring lunch to daycare 3 days a week.  I used to struggle with getting lunches ready in the morning, and with keeping my husband from eating the lunch supplies before I could pack them.  Then, I realized that the lunch fixings would be just as cold inside their paper bags as they are in their original packaging.  So, here’s what I do on Sunday night:

  1. Buy a half pound of sliced turkey or ham, a package of kid yogurt, 100-calorie packs of goldfish crackers, and a bunch of bananas.  Obviously, you would substitute what your kid likes for lunch.  I’ve used chicken drumsticks, leftover roast beef, hard-boiled eggs, string cheese, artichokes and baby carrots.  Note, though, that sandwiches get yucky sitting in the fridge, so pack the parts separately.
  2. Write my daughter's name on the front of 3 paper bags, and draw a cute little picture on each.
  3. Unwrap the lunch meat, cut it into 3rds, and put 1/3 in each of 3 Ziploc baggies.
  4. Place a baggie of lunchmeat, a banana, a yogurt, and a pack of crackers into each bag
  5. Fold the bags closed and stick them in the fridge.

Each morning, I just grab the bag in front.  Easy.  And my husband knows that what’s in the bags is off limits.

Sounds too simple to make a difference, but our mornings are much smoother, and we haven’t forgotten lunch once since we started doing this.

Anyone with more suggestions for streamlining lunches?

Related:

Favorite easy, healthy lunchbox ideas? Talk amongst yourselves.
Streamlining PB&J sandwich prep
Lead in vinyl lunchboxes: A bigger problem than we first thought

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I pack it the night before. Once my daughter is old enough for sandwiches every day (she's not quite 2 now), I think your solution will be awesome!

Am I wrong in thinking bananas turn brown when refrigerated?

The peel of a banana will turn brown, but the ripening will stop inside. I always toss them in if I have any that start to get beyond "sugar spots". Unfortunately, I hate biting into cold fruit so I then have to plan some time for the banana to come to room temperature before I'll eat it. In a lunchbox it'd be fine (although if the banana was as ripe as mine in the fridge, it'd be a bruised mess by the time my child pulled it out).

@Jill: The best (well, most recent at least) lunchbox invention ever is the banana-guard (http://www.bananaguard.com/) . In 5 years of use, I have only once run across a banana that it didn't fit.

correction: remove stray ) from the end of that url:

http://www.bananaguard.com/

When we were kids, my mom would have a 'sandwich factory' evening. We helped pick out the meat and cheese and buns at the deli, and then we would help mom make the sandwiches at home. (Enough for 2 kids for 2 weeks.)These went into individual bags and then into the freezer. All we had to do was grab one to put into our lunch. It saved time, and by having us pick out the ingredients, Mom knew we would eat them.

If we're having a dish for dinner that I know my son will like, I make a point to cook enough extra and set it aside for lunch the next day. I set out the thermos, pack the utensils and non-refrigerated stuff in the lunchbox. The leftovers are pre-portioned and stored in the fridge in a microwave-safe container, for easy re-heating and packing in the morning.

Also, we get a lot of utensils from every takeout meal we order, and never use them. I've started saving them for lunches so I don't have to worry about losing silverware.

My twins have been in day care for over a year now. I pack 5 pairs of lunches on Sunday evening using re-useable freezer storage-type containers w/ lids. I pack a combination of a protein (egg, tofu pup, tofu, chicken strips), veggie (frozen corn, peas, beans, mixes, maybe add some cheese to the more "challenging" veggies like broccoli and okra), and something starchy like rice or mashed potatoes. The lids are labeled A-E and this way I make sure they don't get similar lunches two days in a row.

It's an intense 20-30 mins on Sunday evening, but well worth it when weekday mornings roll around and I just need to prepare the milk sippys!

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