There was a time -- probably shortly before my kids were born -- that I thought I'd be a master at making the most perfect, healthy, creative, fun and delicious lunches for my kids. Yes, I know you're probably cracking a smile right now...I actually let out a little snort-laugh whenever I remember all those lofty ideals I had in mind for parenting, before I was even a parent.
Well, like most moms who get snapped back to reality after being in the day-to-day trenches of child-rearing, I started to recognize the importance of embracing practicality rather than striving for perfection.
By the time my kids transitioned from lunches with me everyday at our kitchen table to taking a sack lunch with them to school, I was ready to put some focus back on creating a more balanced eating plan for myself rather than agonizing over finding the "perfect" lunchbox treats.
Now, don't get me wrong...I still want my kids to enjoy their lunches, but my goal is to make the planning and preparation of those meals as simple, quick and inexpensive as possible. There are 3 ways I accomplish this goal:
- Mentally organizing the kids daily lunches while grocery shopping. By doing this, I buy all of the ingredients and food items that I need each week to make a complete lunchbox meal for every school day.
- After grocery shopping, I create a menu of meals for the week so I don't forget what food combinations go together for each meal:
3. I rely on a few staple dishes that I know the kids love, so I can regularly recycle them if I'm on a quick grocery trip. See below for the 3 most popular lunchbox meals in our house.
The bottom line is that striving to be a lunchbox hero can be a very stressful experience. What is most important to kids, in the long run, is that they sense that you're always striving to show them the best version of yourself, complete with your all-encompassing love for them. Sometimes I put little notes in my kids' lunch boxes that tell them how much I love them or how awesome they are.
And it's their reaction to these kinds of little gestures that always makes me feel like the greatest hero ever.
Our (Easy) Household Lunchbox Favorites
Ingredients: Hot dogs, spaghetti
1. Cut up hot dogs into 1-inch slices
2. Simply stick 4 to 5 uncooked spaghetti pieces into each hot dog piece.
3. Place the speared hot dogs in a pot with boiling water and boil until spaghetti is soft
4. Enjoy the monsters!
Musubi Rice & Veggie Cakes
Ingredients: Rice, dried seaweed, veggies or eggs, meat slices (optional), Musubi Maker
1. Cook the rice
2. Steam or sautee the veggies
3. Cook the eggs and/or meat
4. Lay flat sheets of dried seaweed
5. Place the Musubi Maker on top of the sheet of seaweed and add a scoop of the cooked rice. Spread the rice out until it lays smoothly all the way to all corners of the Mususi Maker
6. Add a scoop of veggies and/or meat on top of the rice
7. Add another layer of rice in the same way as the first one
8. Top the pile with a last layer of meat or veggies
9. Use the lid of the Musubi Maker and press down on the layers until the pile feels firm and compact. Lift the lid and gently slide the Musubi Maker up off of the pile.
10. Wrap the rest of the seaweed around the top of the rice cake pile
11. You can wrap each Rice Cake individually with clear saran wrap. This will keep them from falling apart when placed in the lunchbox.
Funny Face Pancakes
Ingredients: various fruits such as strawberries, blueberries or bananas, chocolate sauce, syrup, pancake mix
1. Follow the instructions on the box for mixing the pancake batter
2. Make one large pancake, followed by two small round pancakes for each ear
3. Use the fruits, chocolate sauce and syrup to create various funny faces
Photo Courtesy of: Zen Parent