Back to school means back to lunches and for many parents it’s a task met with as much enthusiasm as a root canal would elicit. I feel you. I used to dread school lunches too. For years, I packed lunches for my kids stressing about whether I was hitting all the nutritional high notes. Then, as the kids matured, I handed the task over to them, and all balance immediately went out the window.
I watched in horror as lunch went from mixed green salads, with two fruits and a wholesome snack to potato chips and an apple that would rot in their backpack. It was clear to me last year that I would have to intervene, but I didn’t want the job back entirely. That’s how lunch prep became a game changer in our home.
Every Sunday, I hit our local Walmart for fresh produce, meat and snacks first thing in the morning. When I get home, it’s all hands on deck to prepare a week’s worth of healthy lunches and snacks, not just for the kids but for my husband and myself as well. We’ve been running this drill since last September now and it works like a dream.
The first thing you need to do is make sure you have lots of stackable containers in different sizes and shapes. I don’t know what happens to lids and containers, but there is clearly some cosmic force that prevents them from staying together longer than six months. Start the year off right by stocking up at Walmart.
The next thing you need to do is have a roster of recipes to pull together so your lunch time routine doesn’t get boring. There are a ton of great ideas in this month’s Walmart Live Better magazine, but for today I’ll share one of our personal favourites with you that we make over and over again.
Finally, assign jobs and get to work. It’s not enough to bring lettuce into the house. If it doesn’t make it into a container, trust me when I say, NO ONE, not even you will get up and put together a salad on Monday morning. This is where follow-through matters, and as head of the household it’s on you to delegate.
Have someone at the sink washing and drying produce. Another person chopping and someone at the stove. When all your food is prepped, line up your containers in assembly line fashion and fill them up. It’s true that many hands make light work.
Our favourite recipe throughout the school year is Chicken Fiesta Bowls, and this recipe is so simple it barely needs any instruction. All the ingredients you’ll need for this come to $23.74 (less than $3 per bowl). I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating; if you’re buying your chicken anywhere else but Walmart, you are paying way too much. Walmart sells chicken breasts for $10 for four!! That’s a math I like.
Here’s what you’ll need:
1 package Prime Chicken Breasts
1 package Great Value Fajita Seasoning
1 can Great Value Corn
1 can Great Value Black Beans
Preheat oven to 375°F. Pour fajita seasoning into a resealable bag and add chicken breasts. Seal and shake to cover. Place chicken breasts on large sheet pan or in casserole dish. Cook in oven for 15 minutes, then remove and add a spoonful of salsa to the top of each breast. Return to oven for an additional 15 minutes, or until internal temperature of chicken reaches 165F.
While chicken is cooking, prepare Great Value Chicken & Herb Rice according to package directions (I cook the whole bag and divide between eight containers).
When chicken is done, remove from oven and slice into strips.
Assemble Chicken Fiesta Bowls by layering rice on the bottom of each container. On top, place chicken slices, a scoop of corn, a scoop of black beans and a bit of shredded cheddar. Place lids on tightly and refrigerate until ready to use. Serve with salsa and sour cream packed separately in small dressing size containers.
Don’t forget to also make some alternatives. Fresh salads are always ready to go each week, so we have some variety. Keep sliced grilled chicken on hand to add some protein.
Finally, I keep fresh fruit cups with yogurt in the fridge for quick snacks. To keep berries from going moldy, place berries in a large bowl and add eight cups of water and one cup of vinegar. Swirl berries in water for a minute, then pour into colander and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Voilà! Your berries will last you the whole week!
Since we’ve adopted this small change on Sundays, I no longer stress about the contents of my kids’ lunches. My kids are also picking up some new skills in the kitchen and are responsible for determining each week’s menu. By having lunches ready to go every Sunday, we also start the week off in the right frame of mind. The ultimate bonus is we get two hours every Sunday in the kitchen together.
This post is sponsored by Walmart Canada as part of the Back to School Lunch and Snack Solutions program. In exchange for this review, I have received special perks in the form of products and/or compensation. All opinions on this blog are my own.