To keep things fresh, you'll need a variety of lidded containers, and a wide-mouth Thermos for hot and cold items. A thermal lunch tote is a nice extra, too. Have some plastic cutlery to tuck in as needed, and you're ready to go.
When you grocery shop, make a list so you can get your ingredients all at once without forgetting anything. You'll cut time and trouble by having the right ingredients on hand to make the week's lunch menus.
Every day, send a small can or pouch of fruit juice and a snack -- for example, a granola bar, a few slices of low-fat cheese with wheat crackers, or a snack-size box of raisins. Kids love dips, so you might send carrot, celery or pepper strips with a small container of ranch dressing, or apple slices with a cup of peanut butter for spreading. Stuff a few celery sticks with peanut butter or cream cheese and wrap up to tuck in the lunchbox.
Prepare the veggies ahead of time. Slice vegetables for dipping and for loading on sandwiches and in wraps. Store in the fridge so you can grab what you need when it's time to put the lunches together. If you're cooking chicken for dinner this week, make extra to use in a wrap with lettuce and tomato, or stacked on wheat bread with cucumber, pepper slices, lettuce and tangy mustard. Homemade vegetable soup or chili will stay hot in the Thermos for a great lunch treat. Do a Mexican-style wrap on a pita -- black beans, lettuce, avocado slices and chicken chunks. Build a sub sandwich on a deli roll loaded with fresh vegetables and slices of turkey and low-fat cheese. Kids love peanut butter, so sandwiches of peanut butter and jelly or honey on oat bread is always a winner.
The dessert is easy: a small pudding cup, piece of fresh fruit, container of berries or a few cookies.
Smart shopping and planning means that you can tackle a week's worth of school lunches in under an hour, and still send your kids off to school with lunches they won't want to trade.
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