When lunchtime swings around I push it off as much as I can because I just can't stop what I'm doing. Or it'll all crumble beneath me.
Can you relate, or is that just me and my ridiculousness?
Well, hungry kids usually make sure that I don't forget to feed the family.
Can I get an amen?
To help not put off lunch time, and make it super simple, I make-ahead as much as possible; it's really the only way. How can I not feed them lunch if it's already been made for me? Er, by me...
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If something is a project, I'll be sure to schedule it into my week or day and get 'er done. Don't ask me to explain my brain.
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There's a variety of ways to do it:
These won't make you work too hard. I'm all about efficiency and not putting more work than necessary into something.
Make an extra batch of lunch for a week.
Say, I'm making classic PB&J's on Monday. Instead of my usual 5 sandwiches, I'll make 10. Serve the 5 and freeze the other 5. That's one day of lunches already prepped for me.
Each day that week I can make-ahead an extra batch, for whatever it is. I can freeze it, or just pop it into the fridge for the next day.
Make a week's worth
Pick a day of the week that works for you. You don't need a whole bunch of time to do this, unless you're making crazy meals. Then, by all means, take more time.
Grab the ingredients for a week's worth.
I usually count a week as 5 days, for school days, and then leave the weekends open for whatever spontaneous meals we'd like to have. Go over to grandma's and eat her sandwiches. Use puppy dog eyes and words like pretty please with cherries on top.
Assemble one meal for each day.
I do one meal at a time to make it efficient. Assembly line the stinkers and it'll go so much faster. Seeing as you're a parent, you figured that out eons ago.
Make ahead for a whole month!
Now, before you click away, this is not as complicated, nor as crazy as a month's worth of dinners. I tried that a few times and I nearly died.
You can take a few days to do this. Do half of the lunches on Saturday, and the rest on Sunday. Or do it all in one go. It's up to you, obviously.
To make it simple I decide on 5 - 10 lunches. Then, I'll look at the calendar. 4 weeks in that month? Spectacular. Now, all I have to do is make 2 or 4 batches of each lunch. That's 2 or 4 days worth of PB&J's.
I assign days for the lunches as well. Monday is PB&J, Tuesday Pizza, Wednesday Hotdog, etc. That way when that day rolls around, I just pull it out.
Another option is just to have the lunches in the freezer, labeled clearly, and tell the kids at breakfast to pick what they want. When the mini pizzas are gone, they're gone and they have to wait for the next month's batch to be made. There's still a bunch of other lunches ready to be scarfed.
Well, okay, but what am I cooking here?
Nothing fancy, I promise.
- Ham & Cheese mini bagel sandwiches
- Southwest Roll-ups
- Pizza pockets (homemade)
- Ham & Cheese pockets/croissants
- Turkey & Cheese wrap
- Mini Pizzas
- Corn Dogs
- Homemade Lunchables
I clearly lied right to your face when I said there were 10 lunches. I might have remembered some more and was too excited about it to remember to change the number. Whoops. My bad.
I've seen people say that when you freeze them you need to cut them all crazy like a Crustable (is that what they're called?). Not so. Just slap the PB&J on the bread, wrap in foil, slip into a freezer bag and voilà. You speak french and you've got some sandwiches.
[Tweet "I can speak french + make ahead a month's worth of school lunches."]
Ham & Cheese Mini Bagels
Just as they sound, put some ham and cheese on a mini bagel, wrap in foil or saran wrap, stick a whole bunch in a big freezer bag. Now, if you want to have condiments on them, I'd wait until they're defrosted before slapping that on. Or if you want to add any lettuce or tomato, wait until the day of. You'll be sorry otherwise.
You can pre-cut or shred any topping you'd like and put them in baggies so the kids can just grab what they want and you can sit back and sip your herbal tea or change that alligator-of-a-baby's diaper.
Who doesn't love muffins? Don't answer that.
Grab some of those huge Costco muffins and freeze 'em. Make a batch of homemade ones and freeze those. Do whichever kind you'd like and freeze them. For this lunch, you will probably want to add in two sides with it to make it a more well-rounded meal.
Grab your favorite burrito recipe (I'll share ours soon), and assemble. Wrap them in foil, but let them cool before you plop them in a freezer bag and the freezer. Don't ask me why, that's just how it works.
I don't freeze these. Sorry, there really isn't an easy way to pre-assemble these. Gosh, I just ruined everything didn't I? Well, you can't win 'em all, right?
You can do these for days when you're feeling extra motivated to whip up some lunch. You might have just lost respect for me when I said making hotdogs makes me feel like a champ.
Kebabs (or kabobs)
I don't mean the real-deal kebabs, though you're certainly welcome to fire up the grill and make some awesome kebabs. I've got my stick, I'm on my way over.
Grab a wooden skewer, carefully, and fill it with ham, cheese cubes (or sliced up string cheese), some veggies, and now I've really earned my "champ" award.
Pop 'em in a baggie, freeze. Wipe your hands and give yourself a high-five.
These are fun if you serve them with a strawberry & banana mini kabob.
These are very much like burritos, except they're made of chicken.
Here's a recipe I have used for these roll-ups, I usually change it each time I make it, because that's the way I cook. Add a spice here, add a veggie there. I'm one of those annoying people that don't measure their spices: I just toss it in.
Now, you could really cheat and bust out some Hot Pockets, but those can get expensive. They're pretty simple to make.
Get the recipe in the download.
When you want to eat them, just pull them out while you're making breakfast and then heat them up for a bit when it's lunchtime. About a minute or so in the microwave, or 10-20 in the oven.
Ham & Cheese Pockets/Croissants
These are nearly the same as the pizza pockets, but with fewer ingredients.
My family loves these. They couldn't be easier. Well, I suppose if someone else made them for you, they'd be easier.
You guessed it, the recipe is in the -- ? Download.
Turkey & Cheese Wrap
It's a turkey and cheese sandwich, in a tortilla. If you put it in a tortilla it's not a sandwich anymore, it's cool. Don't make the mistake I did one time and put lettuce in it before I froze it. Ew. Slimy lettuce is no bueno.
Roll them in saran wrap or foil before you put them in a freezer bag. You can add anything you want day of, or just eat it as is.
[Tweet "Put sandwich fixin's in a tortilla and it's no longer lame sauce #lunch"]
Okay... well, I lied. Again. This would be labeled under fancy.
Make some chili, some good, homemade chili. Put it in tupperware containers. You can put it in a container that will hold a meal's worth, and stick it in your crock pot, or just defrost it and warm in the microwave. Or, you can put it in individual-sized containers and just heat up one serving at a time.
My recipe is in the free download. It's pretty great, so check it out.
These are super easy. Some people use english muffins, but we use those Sandwich Thins . Each sandwich thin makes 2 mini pizzas. Spread on your sauce, cheese, seasonings, and add-ons (if any). Broil for 1-3 minutes, depending on how hot your broiler is and how done you like them. We like our cheese a bit brown.
You can pre-assemble, freeze on a cookie sheet, then put in saran wrap and a freezer bag. Take them out and broil them day of.
We get these in the freezer section, so this has little to no prep for me. Just bake (or microwave if I'm in a hurry). Eat. Yum.
This is another easy mom-victory meal in our home. Ritz crackers, slices of cheese, slices of ham (or whatever lunch meat you love), and a plate.
To make ahead just slice up the cheese and ham, put one person's worth in a snack bag, put them all in a freezer bag. Put the crackers in a snack-sized bag, and set aside in the pantry for safe keeping.
I ate these every time I went over to my cousin's house to play. Tortilla + cheese.
Recently, I made these for my kids and they said to me, "So-and-so's mom puts other stuff in her quesadillas. Like chicken and tomatoes." I held my tongue. Parenting win.
For dinners I always have extra yumminess in them, for lunches, sometimes they just don't get more than cheese. I put out sour cream and loads of salsa for dipping. If you have some pre-made chicken, or heck, even deli sliced chicken, torn into bits, put that in there. You can cut up some veggies to your liking, sprinkle them inside as well.
A quick note
We do re-use the ziplock bags, and the foil and saran wrap as much as possible to cut down on waste and cost. Let's be honest, cost is my main motivator, planet takes second place. I know, I know, respect has just dropped even lower.
Just pop the lunch out of the freezer at breakfast time, and unless your lunch is 30 minutes later, it'll be ready for you when your stomachs start growling.
Grab the FREE download with recipes, planning sheets and full instructions.
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What goes with all this goodness?
- Orange slices
- Baby carrots
- Apple slices
- Strawberry & Banana mini kabob (on toothpicks)
- Apple Sauce
- Mini Salad
- Crackers (of any sort)
- Frozen Gogurt
- String Cheese
We'll put the refrigerated sides in a container in the fridge, or the bottom drawer. I do have them pre-portioned out into snack bags. They just go in there and grab the side they want, or to make sure they get a specific side, I just grab it myself.
Pantry sides go in snack bags in a container set aside from the other snacks inside the pantry. It helps keep Mr. Barlow from munching on school-snacks without realizing it.
To help manage kids eating when they're not supposed to, or eating too many of the ready-made sides, I tell them, once they're gone, they're gone. If you eat all the sides in two weeks, you have to wait until the next month to get new ones. A few days of testing me and they realized it wasn't worth it.
What does Mom eat?
I have a unique situation in that I have major dietary restrictions thanks to Hashimoto's and adrenal fatigue. I don't eat what they eat.
Making ahead their lunches really helps me in the day-to-day. There are days when I'm feeling extra grumpy that I can't eat what they're eating, or extra tempted to just sneak a bite. When I just set the food out, and have to handle it as little as possible, it helps my mental state.
For some reason it's not tempting to grab some PB&J when I'm making 50 of them.
I have two options to make it simple on myself.
Fruit + spoonful of peanut butter. Or I'll make a protein shake. It's pretty good.
- 1 c almond milk (or 1/2 c almond milk + 1/2 c water)
- Sea salt, a pinch (I use Celtic SS)
- 1/2 t caramel extract
- 1 scoop (I have to use a special kind, but you use what you can)
- 1 T PB2
- 2 T cocoa powder
- 1 T Swerve Sweetener
- 1 t Stevia
- 6 ice cubes
Blend it up. This fits just perfectly in my single serve blender. I often have this for breakfast too.
When you cut out all sugar, gluten, wheat/grains, most dairy, and more you usually get really full on your heavy protein meals really easily and you don't need to eat as often. I could probably go a whole day without eating and not really get hungry.
Because of this, I don't really need a lunch, I just eat a bit of fruit and peanut butter just to keep my blood sugar level. When I do have lunch, it's a late lunch and this smoothie is perfect.
Click the picture to grab your free download.
For the summer
This summer I have thought about doing bento-style lunches, but I'm not sure if I'm ready to set myself up for failure.
The kids are fascinated with lunch boxes though. We'll probably do more picnic lunches this summer and the coming school year as well. Even if they're in our own back or front yard. Then they can use their lunch boxes and feel awesome.
Maybe I can get my mom to send me my New Kids On The Block lunchbox and thermos, then I could have my own cool lunchbox, too!
What do y'all do for lunches? I'm all for adding new goodies to my files. Feel free to share your links and such.
Oh, check out my pin board for school lunches and snacks. Follow Rochelle Barlow's board School Lunches and Snacks on Pinterest.