A couple weeks ago my son brought home a form reminding him (me) that the class would be celebrating the 100th day of school and that he (I) needed to collect 100 of something to show the class. When I saw the form I thought “Sweet mother, this means I have made 400 school lunches since September.” March is upon us and it is usually this time of year that my kids are getting sick of the old standby lunch options. When the Lunch Lady menu came home a few days later I took it as a sign that it was time to rev up lunch ideas and get school lunches back on track.
While sandwiches are often thought of as a lunch box staple, three of my four kids don’t eat them (unless there is peanut butter involved which is obviously a no go for school). Even still, 100 days of the same sandwich for my daughter that does eat them is just cruel.
It’s pretty easy to get creative with sandwiches. Switch up the bread, meat, cheese, and veg. For breads you can go with plain bagels, high fibre white bread, English muffins, cinnamon bread, tortillas, etc. For us, our main meats are: turkey breast cold cuts, honey ham cold cuts, left over chicken breast, or bacon (if we are really lucky and there are left overs). There’s always a ton of cheese in our fridge and we usually have a selection of havarti, provolone, mozzarella, gouda, brie, and marble cheddar. As for veg, lettuce and baby spinach are the main options, but roasted red peppers and avocados have been know to make appearances as well.
You can also deconstruct your sandwich and have your bread separate from the rest of your sandwich if you want. This is especially good when your kids’ favourite ingredients don’t really go together well. Like, if they really like blueberry bagels, ham, and provolone. Not a great sandwich, but still tasty on their own.
Wrapping a couple things up in a tortilla or stuffing them into a pita does not a sandwich make. They are close, but no, especially when the stuffings are non traditional sandwich fare. If you are going the tortilla or pita route you might want to try some of these:
- apple slices and marble cheddar
- banana and Wow butter (if your school allows it)
- banana and chocolate cream cheese
- cream cheese and jam
- sour cream, salsa, and shredded cheese
I make a lot of muffins, four to six dozen a week. Pumpkin bread muffins and banana bread muffins are my go tos and often take the spot reserved for carbs in my kids’ lunches. If I’m really on my game, I will add a fibre booster like Clearly Fibre to make it that little bit healthier. Some other things that have found their way into the lunch bags are:
- Cinnamon bread or bagels with a side of raisins
- Toasted baguette with garlic butter and mozzarella and apple slices
- Left over pizza
- Dry cereal and a banana
- Grapes, crackers, cheese cubes, and rolled up deli meat
- Vanilla yogurt with a little container of granola and maybe a chocolate chip or two to make it feel like a treat)
- Sunflower seeds
- Homemade popcorn
- Graham crackers and mandarin orange segments
- Veggies and dip
If you get yourself a good thermos and take the time in the morning to fill it with boiling water and let it sit for a few minutes, you can try a warm lunch too. Our favourite thermos lunches are:
- Left over rice and corn
- Beef stew
- Pasta with tomato or alfredo sauce
I don’t really feel the need to make an “entree” for school lunches. Sometimes there is a main item, but it is not necessary. My kids are perfectly happy to have a lunch bag full of “snacks” that they can eat in any combination they like. I do put some thought into what food groups they are getting and making sure there is some variety in there. If anything comes home at the end of the day, well then they are looking at their after school snack.