Happy back-to-school season, moms! It’s the January of parenting, no? So full of goals and hope and the sense that maybe THIS year, you’ll finally get a handle on everything?
Here’s a little secret: Just like the wellness industry aims to capitalize on our hope and insecurity every January, there’s an industry out there that seeks to profit from the gaggle of tired moms with the desperate hope that this year won’t be quite as chaotic as the last. Big box retailers, morning news shows and yes, bloggers like me all want your eyeballs this time of year.
Of course there’s an industry for the flip side, too, for when you’ve thrown in the towel in exhaustion (I’m looking at you, Lunchables). But can’t there be a happy medium? What if we don’t aim quite so high in the first place? You and I both know very well that those Pinterest-perfect lunches are a pipe dream. But hey, kids don’t need panda-shaped sandwiches or bento-box taco bars to eat well. I promise you, fruit, veggies, an entree-ish thing and some fun foods will keep them well-nourished and happy.
Thus, I present you with 7 Decidedly Un-Pinterest-Perfect Lunches. Keep in mind that I’m just trying to get your mental juices flowing; you definitely don’t need to pack these “food-for-food!”
And about the lunch boxes: These are Bentgo boxes and I love them! But there are tons of similar options and of course you can always go the old zip-top bags within a brown bag route. The easiest and most affordable bento-style ones are probably EasyLunchboxes, especially if you want a bunch of them so you can batch prep. I just use the Bentgos because I happened to get them for free through a previous job (these are affiliate links but this post is not associated with Bentgo, by the way.)
Fruit: Freeze-dried strawberries (so convenient for when you don’t have fresh fruit on hand!)
Veggie: Sugar snap peas (& ranch dip!)
Entree-ish thing: Bean and cheese quesadilla (leftover from dinner, score!)
Fun food: Oreos
Veggie: Spinach mixed into the egg muffin
Entree-ish thing: Egg muffin (recipe coming soon!)
Fun food: Granola bar
Bonus carb: Cheez-its
Also: Sunflower seeds
Fruit: Pineapple and single-serving prune
Veggie: Cooked broccoli (my kids love this, if your kids have another veggie fave don’t feel that it has to be broccoli!)
Entree-ish thing: Turkey and cheese roll-up
Fun food: Animal crackers
Veggie: Bell pepper slices (& ranch dip!)
Entree-ish thing: Sunflower seed butter and jelly sandwich
Fun food: Hershey Kisses
Bonus carb: Wheat Thins crackers
Entree-ish thing: Ehh, hummus + cheese? Kinda hard to tell in this one but I swear it counts.
Fun food: Teddy Grahams
Bonus carb: Pretzels
Veggie: Tomatoes in the pasta and sorta kinda the pea crisps
Entree-ish thing: Pasta…also yogurt
Fun food: Chocolate chips…also pea crisps
Bonus carb: Pea crisps (3 categories! What are these things, even?!)
Fruit: Thawed frozen mango (also super convenient when you don’t have fresh fruit)
Entree-ish thing: Sausage
Fun food: Fruit snacks
Bonus carb: Tortilla chips
You’ll see that each lunch mostly follows a formula but it’s not a hard science…many foods count in more than one category. As long as you have fruit + veggie + carbs + protein (a.k.a the entree) you’re good. Although if one day you pack only fruit and no veggies…I swear your kid will still make it through the day!
And I personally like to always include a “fun” food, a.k.a. dessert. It’s small, it’s fun, it makes school lunch more bearable. Yes, they will eat it first and yes, that’s fine.
And lest you think that these ARE Pinterest-worthy lunches (because the photos actually turned out much better than I was expecting them to…once I edited them) here’s a before picture which is probably a lot more like what such a lunch will look like in your house. And that’s okay!!!
Also note that these are NOT what I would send for my kids sequentially. No way, Jose! It’s way more likely that the items in, say, two of these lunches would be mixed-and-matched on repeat all week long so that I don’t have to keep 40 different things on hand.
So are you inspired? Will this finally be the year that your kids eat well while you stress less? Would your kids even eat these suggestions? Let me know. My own kids like all of these foods when the mood strikes, but their lunch boxes are sure to come home half-eaten on any given day. So long as they’re not going hungry, it’s no biggie to me.