School lunch tips

Better Lunches!

It's that wonderful time of year that lightens your heart and fills your soul with peace and tranquility. No, I'm not talking about Christmas! I'm talking about school starting! Yes! Yes! Yes!

It's a bittersweet time for most moms. Bitter because you're back to hectic mornings, finding everyone's books and papers and trying to get them out of the door on time -- because you now have 180 lunches to make over the next nine months if you have one child and 720 if you have four. But hey, who's counting? It is sweet because the peaceful quietness that penetrates the house is like gentle music to your ears and you can take a lovely relaxing bubble bath without what sounds like the whole US Army trying to break down the bathroom door.

Now, while I can't help you find time for that bubble bath, I can help you with those 720 lunches. Here are a few lunch and snack ideas from Not Just Beans: 50 Years of Frugal Family Favorites that will satisfy even the pickiest of eaters.

  • To keep drinks cold in lunch boxes, pour a small amount in the bottom of the container (not glass) and then set the cap loosely on top. Put it in the freezer overnight. The next day fill with the rest of the drink. The ice should slowly melt all day long, keeping the beverage cool.
  • Have the kids pre-package chips and cookies in bags on the weekends. Store in a basket. Grab one out as needed for lunches.
  • Make a large batch of puddings and gelatins on the weekends. Pour into individual containers and refrigerate.
  • Save the catsup and mustard packets and napkins you don't use from the fast food restaurants. Use them in lunch boxes.
  • Puddings -- sprinkle with marshmallows, coconut, nuts, chocolate chips, butterscotch chips or peanut butter chips (for chocolate pudding) or berries (in vanilla pudding).
  • Banana, pumpkin or zucchini bread
  • Tuna, egg or chicken salad sandwich
  • Tuna salad and crackers
  • Sandwiches made from last night's dinner meat (ie. roast beef, chicken, turkey)
  • Pickles
  • Ants on a log -- celery with peanut butter inside and raisins on the peanut butter.
  • Hot dogs
  • Canned fruit
  • Carrot sticks, celery sticks or radishes with Ranch dressing
  • Homemade granola bars or cookies.

    Granola Bars

    Ingredients:
    1 cup brown sugar
    1/4 cup sugar
    1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
    2 tablespoons honey
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla
    1 egg
    1 cup flour
    1 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1 1/2 cups rolled oats
    1 1/4 cups crispy rice cereal
    1/2 cup wheat germ (optional)
    1 cup chocolate chips*

    Directions:
    In a large bowl, cream sugars and butter until fluffy. Add honey, vanilla and egg. Mix well. Blend in flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Stir in remaining ingredients. Press firmly into the bottom of a greased 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes.

    To microwave: Press ingredients into a microwave safe dish. Microwave on medium power for 7 to 9 minutes. Rotate dish every three minutes. Bars will firm as they stand. Cool and cut into bars. Save the crumbs for yogurt or ice cream topping. Makes 24 bars.

    Per serving: 25g carbohydrates; 2g fiber; 3g protein, 7g fat, 18mg cholesterol; 105mg sodium; 171 calories.

    *The following may be used in addition to or to replace chocolate chips:
    1 cup coconut
    1/2 cup creamy or chunky peanut butter
    1/2 cup nuts
    1/2-1 cup raisins, dried apples, apricots
    1/2 cup fruit preserves



    Related back-to-school articles

    Keeping your kids on healthy diets while at school
    Back to school lunch treats: Delicious cookie and nut bar recipes

    Quick breakfast tips
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