As a mom of four school-aged kids, our editor-in-chief, Karine Ewart, packs 20 lunches a week. She realized early on that even young kids are capable of packing their own food, with a bit of parent prep. Here’s how to get the fridge ready for your little ones to join in the lunch-packing fun.
Step 1: Designate a lunches-only spot in your fridge.
This could be as simple as labelling your produce drawer, or placing a multi-drawer desktop organizer inside. (You may need to move or remove a shelf to make it fit.) Communicate to everyone in your house that the food in this area is to be used for school lunches only.
Step 2: Stock up on your kids’ favourite snack items.
We all know homemade food is best, but look around at the grocery store to find healthy, prepared options. Better yet, have your child shop with you — they’re more likely to eat their snacks if they helped choose them. Here are some of the Ewart family favourites: cheese, crackers, meats, granola bars, yogurts, applesauce, vegetables (baby carrots, sugar snap peas and tomatoes) and fruit (apples, clementines, grapes and berries).
Step 3: Purchase snack-sized glass or plastic containers.
Make sure you enough for your entire family’s needs, if you haven’t already.
Step 4: Set aside some time for snack prep.
Choose a time during the week or weekend — like Sunday afternoons while watching a movie or a football game — to prepare individual portions of each snack for the coming week in the containers. Some of the items may already be pre-packaged. Leftovers that don’t need reheating work perfectly, too.
Step 5: Sort the containers into food groups.
Once filled with different snacks, place the containers (in their food groups) in your fridge’s “lunches only” spot.
Step 6: Pack lunches every night after dinner.
The kids go to the fridge with their lunch bags and grab at least one container from each food group. You’ll only need to get involved to make sure they have utensils if necessary, and that they have included at least one fruit and one vegetable. The lunch bags go back into the fridge, ready for knapsacks in the morning.
A version of this article appeared in our January 2014 issue with the headline “Spend less time on lunches,” p. 55.