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How To Pack Cool Lunches

packing lunches, lunch, Mama Knows It All

Starting next week, Ayva will be joining the ranks of legions of preschoolers before her. In addition to moving up to the afternoon class at her school, she’ll also be eligible to participate in Lunch Bunch! She had a sneak peek during summer camp, where she was able to stay for an extra hour at the camp and eat lunch with her friends. During the school year, she’ll have lunch before class starts, twice per week. As I discovered during our Lunch Bunch trial run, coming up with lunches day after day is not easy. Yeah, I know Pinterest has a ton of ideas, but who has time to make a sandwich that looks like a blooming flower in a garden when I can barely remember to make the lunch in the first place?

I learned a lot about lunches this summer, though, and feel totally prepared to amaze Ayva with my packed lunch skills. It’s really simple, even if you’re not one of those super crafty, “how in the world did you come up with that???” type of Mamas (I’m looking at you, Jillian. And Brandi. And Sarah.).

Think Outside the Sandwich

Sandwiches are cool, but our school doesn’t allow peanut butter. I’ve heard there are other kinds of sandwiches besides PB&J and turkey, but I have no idea what they are. Not wanting to bore Ayva with a turkey sandwich every day during our Lunch Bunch test drive, I thought about what else she likes to eat. The answer was simple. Snacks. Fortunately, every preschooler I know loves snacks, so I packed a healthy lunch with bite sized nibbles. Whole grain crackers with cheddar cheese and turkey pepperoni was one of Ayva’s favorite lunches. I added a Stonyfield yogurt tube, a few apple slices, and her water bottle. “Snack lunch” completely satisfied her, and held her until her afternoon snack of raisins or applesauce. Other non-sandwich ideas you might consider include boiled eggs, kid-friendly salad, and pasta with pesto. Just make sure you get a lunch box with an ice pack, and you’ll be good to go!

Take the Easy Way to Creative

Okay, so one of my life goals is to master a few bento box lunches so that I can surprise Ayva when she goes to kindergarten next year. Until then, I’ll just have to stick with my creative hacks to make her lunch special. One of the things that I did this summer was purchase a sandwich cutter and cut her sandwiches into fun shapes. The sandwich cutter only cost $1 at Target, but cookie cutters work just as well. The day that I sent a star shaped sandwich for Ayva’s lunch was her favorite lunch. When I picked her up after Lunch Bunch was over, she couldn’t wait to talk about how cool her lunch was! She was super excited, and it only took me an extra minute. Seriously, anybody can cut a sandwich! Ayva also loved the little notes that I’d put in her lunchbox. She’d ask her teachers to read them to her, and they reported to me that she would beam after they were finished. You know, children are so easy to please sometimes, it’s definitely worth a few extra minutes to make their lunch special.

It’s All About the Bag

Alright. I get it. You don’t have time (or desire) to cut a sandwich into a twee little shape. You’re right. Our kids should appreciate the fact that they have lunch at all, am I right? Yeah. I still want Ayva to have a cool lunch. Even if the inside of the bag is your basic protein/dairy/fruit & veggie, a cute lunch bag can make the middle meal memorable. You definitely want to let your little one participate in choosing the bag that they like. I’ll admit, I didn’t do that this summer, and while Ayva totally appreciated her Minnie Mouse lunch bag, she never let me forget that she would have LOVED a Hello Kitty bag. Having a couple of different lunch bags that your child can switch out as they please is such an easy way to get them excited about lunchtime.

Listen, Mamas. I know that we’re busy and all, but school is hard, even for preschoolers. Between being challenged to learn new things, to social pressures (that I TOTALLY had no idea started so early! Aaah!), children are being pushed to their limits every day they go to school. Why not take a few minutes to do something to remind them that no matter what, Mama loves them and they are special and worth the effort? The good thing is, you don’t even have to be a craftynista or a foodie to do that!

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  1. MommyTesters says:

    Are you talking to me, you fun lunch ninja? I love the idea of having a few bags to switch out. And puhlease. Nothing so amazing here. In fact, I have that sam Target dollar section star sandwich cutter sitting on my desk waiting to go into action 😉

    • BrandiJeter says:

      Yes, girl, I am talking about you! @mommytesters:disqus, I love the little pizzazz that you add to K’s food. It just makes eating extra special. Even if we just take a little time, it can make such a huge impact on our kids’ childhood memories. I love how your blog inspires that!

  2. Sarah Mock says:

    You crack me up! What you don’t see is me freaking out every morning because I over slept and running around trying to get ANYTHING healthy in the lunch box! I hear you about switching up the punchbag. My first grader loves to ‘borrow’ my Vera Bradley lunch box. I don’t let her do it all the time but it is her treat and something special between her and me.

    • BrandiJeter says:

      Oh, @sarahmock:disqus, you are the QUEEN of lunch! Loved your post, and will definitely try smoothies with Ayva this week! Yes, the lunchbag makes such a big difference! I had no idea, but Ayva promptly schooled me. LOL!

  3. Kristin Wheeler says:

    Your site is looking awesome Brandi!!! I was a bad mom the first week of school ~ LOL! I let them take Lunchables all week! Not this week though! I am stepping up my game!

  4. Wow, who knew packing lunch was so stressful! What is a bento box? Is it like at the Japanese Restaurant, when they have bento lunches? Glad I have a few years to take some notes! Sarah from How I Pinch A Penny always has such cute things for their kids… I don’t know how she does it all.

    • BrandiJeter says:

      I know, @areliscintron:disqus ! You know, there are times when I almost FORGOT to pack Ayva a lunch, let alone a delicious one! Thank goodness for her brilliant, sharp, 4 year old memory! Yes, take notes. This is one parenting thing no one told me about!


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