Packing a school lunch is a bleak affair.
On my best days, there is a cute heart-shaped peanut butter sandwich, packed alongside fresh fruits, veggies and a yogurt. On my worst days, there is an apple and a clump of deli ham.
Fortunately other moms have figured out how to pack a healthy lunch more efficiently than me, and they’re willing to share their best tips:
Prep over the weekend
Mom Shaquatta Benson says that her top tip for a healthy school lunch is to start preparing early. “Shop for lunch ingredients over the weekend,” she suggests. “And remember that sandwiches and fruit are your friends.”
Stick to a formula
Marisa Owen is a mom of two little ones, and she says that she masters the packed lunch by sticking with a tried-and true-formula. “Protein, fruit, veggie and something crunchy,” she says. “Pack it the night before!”
Enjoy leftovers when possible
Finally, mom of six Elizabeth Hammon takes a different, even more efficient tack. “Homeschool, and that way you can just have leftovers,” she says. Alternatively, you can pack leftovers that don’t really need to be heated or refrigerated — like noodles and marinara sauce.
More: 16 Healthy versions of your kids’ favorite recipes
Even though these everyday moms have slightly different techniques, they share the common denominator of simplicity. The packed school lunch doesn’t have to be amazing, inspiring or include competitive bento box apple sculptures. It just needs to give your child long-lasting nutrition so he or she can get back to learning. So, how can you creatively embrace simplicity?
Make a checklist
Blogger Wendy Copley at Wendolonia says that both moms and kids can benefit from an easy-to-use checklist. You can print Wendy’s guide, which provides fresh ideas for carbs, fruits, veggies and proteins, so you never run out of good ideas. Better yet? Laminate the printable and have your kids pick their own lunch ingredients by checking them off with a dry-erase marker.
Keep it fresh with a note
If your kids are bored with the simple routine, you can freshen it up — with a note. Seriously. There’s no need to do something fancy with lunch when you can include a fancy lunch printable or note to liven up the routine with little extra effort.
Finger foods are the best
When in doubt, select finger foods. No refrigerating, no re-heating and no prep work required. What could possibly go wrong? All you’ll need is a bento lunchbox with dividers to keep crackers, cheese, fruits and deli meats separate.
Tell us: What are your top tips for mastering a packed school lunch?