tips and tricks

Back to School Lunch Packing Tips

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September kicks my butt every year. And though every August I try to will it away and tell myself that this year will be different, it never seems to work out that way. 

The fact is, everything is a struggle in September. It stinks to get back into a routine, and it's hard work to figure out who has to be where and when on which day. On my crankiest days, I even have a problem adjusting to the weather change — and I love fall. 

Its underatandable, then, that just a month or so into a new school year, parents are already over packing school lunch.

Listen, I'm totally with you. I'm over here trying to get my work done, showing up for curriculum night, returning long overdue library books and remembering to buy sneakers in the right size for each kid (how on earth do feet grow so quickly in summer?!). I might have three brain cells left to dedicate to lunch packing. 

I definitely don't have all of the answers, but I have some tips up my sleeve to share with you, and I promise, they don't require more than three brain cells to process.  If you're looking for some lunchbox inspiration, head over to Instagram, where I share loads of lunches regularly. If you're looking for allergy friendly ideas, I've got you covered

Produce Prep

1. Cut your fruit and veggies in advance. Just do it. If setting aside the time is hard, I understand. It's probably not the best thing to do on, say, a Monday morning before school and work. How about at some point on the weekend though? Buy your produce during the week and set up shop with your cutting board and your knife for 20 minutes on the weekend. Your future self will be incredibly grateful. I love produce prep not only because it makes my lunchpacking and cooking easier, but also because it's quiet solo time for me. I take it where I can get it, so I'm calling it a win-win. 

Packed Lunch

2. Stop reinventing the wheel. You really don't need to come up with something new and interesting for lunch all the time. Your kids can do all of that heavy lifting for you. If it's a busy week ahead for me, I let my kids know what's available for them to choose based on what I know I'll have time to pack. Sometimes that's yogurt, fruit, veggies and frozen waffles. Sometimes it's more elaborate. My kids use the LaLa Lunchbox app, but however you hand over the reigns to your brood, make it a system that works for you. 

Using LaLa Lunchbox

3. Meal Plan. The LaLa Lunchbox meal planning app is the only one that involves kids in the process of choosing what's for lunch. It's a fun, simple and interactive platform that engages kids, empowering them to make better choices when it comes to the food they eat. For parents, it generates an easy-to-use grocery list to help them stay organized and on top of their lunch game. The best part is, it's free to download (only available right now on iOS). Give it a try and let me know what you think! 

School lunch can be challenging, but we're in this together. However you handle it at your house, I'm wishing you the best.  

The Thankful Tree

I can't remember where I first came across the idea, but the Thankful Tree has been a huge hit with everyone around our Thanksgiving table for the last several years. It's the spirit of Thanksgiving in a beautiful centerpiece: each member of the Thanksgiving feast has to contribute at least one leaf with what he or she is thankful for and it becomes a bouquet of gratitude. 

The Thankful Tree is basically a hands-on family craft project that immediately becomes a conversation piece. For the wee ones, of course, parents can contribute. Two years ago, for example, my youngest said she was thankful for "yellow," and that's what we wrote on one of the leaves. On a more serious note, my family has had a couple of stressful years, with one member who had breast cancer and another who had open heart surgery, and the Thankful Tree has been a wonderful channel for us all to express our gratitude for their recovery, their medical care, and our family's ability to get through tough times together. This year we'll be adding some more color to our Thankful Tree with the new Gratitude Tree Notes from Lunchbox Love, a company whose lunchbox cards we love and use regularly. Thanksgiving is my most favorite holiday, and this is something I'm looking forward to immensely. See below for instructions on how you can create your own Thankful Tree. 

the Thankful Tree
Thankful Tree branches

Here's how to do it: 
1. Gather long thin branches.
2. Cut colored construction paper into leaf shapes and use a hole puncher to make a hole in each.
3. Have each person at your holiday gathering write at least one thing they are thankful for (make pens readily available).
4. Use kitchen twine or any other string to fasten the leaves onto the branches. 
5. Assemble in a vase and place at the center of your table. 

We talked about these all night long last year, and I'm looking forward to gathering branches soon. I can't wait to read the leaves this year!