March 13, 2014

Plan Ahead School Lunches

Yes- we pack our lunches on Saturday morning!  Actually, we pack 60 lunches every other Saturday.  Ha!  That's 10 days of lunches for 6 kids.

(I have a friend who does PB and J, as many as they want, an apple, and frozen, homemade baked goods.  Her kids drink from the water fountain.  That is definitely the cheapest way to do lunch.  I was raised on free lunches with packed lunch envy.  I want my kids to have fun lunches, so I sacrifice a little money and a little healthiness.  Sometimes I make creative, fun lunches for them. But, lately we're in survival mode.  So this is how we roll.)

Who doesn't like a little extra time in the morning before school?
Although I thought we had a pretty easy lunch system- making six sandwiches every morning took time and was messy.
We decided to try packing all our lunches on Saturday!  

On weekday mornings, my kids just grab their snack/chips bag, grab a frozen sandwich, and grab a drink.  
Quick and easy!

I borrowed the concept from Uncrustables.  
If they can freeze PB and J, why can't I?
(I bet I could freeze ham and cheese too- but I'm scared of nasty cheese thaw.)
We make 60 (yes, 60) sandwiches on Saturday morning.
It takes about 7 loaves of bread.
So, count on about 8 sandwiches per loaf.

We do 30 peanut butter and honey, 30 peanut butter and jelly. 
(We write a H on the honeys.)
We use the pampered chef circle cutter for the little kids- just like Uncrustables, and cut the bigger kids' in half (diagonal is better, obviously).
Then, we pop them in the freezer.
(I started making some extra sandwiches so the bigger kids can take two if they want.)

The kids say they are perfect by lunch time and not soggy at all.

I buy 2 weeks worth of lunch snacks.
I think the key to fun lunches is variety.  That is also how I deal with picky kids.  They might prefer one snack over another, but I teach them to eat what they get knowing tomorrow it will be different.  (Make sense?)

In general, I buy categories--
Each lunch has 
-bag of chips (veggie straws, pretzels, trail mix, etc.)
-a dairy snack (yogurt, string cheese, etc.), 
-a real-fruit snack (applesauce, pears, etc.), 
-a granola bar (hard or soft), 
-and a fake-fruit snack (fruit by the foot, fruit snacks, etc.)

(That sounds like a lot- I actually bought only enough for one chips and 3 other snacks.  They had to choose between a fake fruit snack and a yogurt/string cheese.  But that was more confusing to explain.  Plus, they all eat part of their lunch during snack time so honestly 5 things isn't too many.)

Originally, I planned to give them 4 packaged snacks and one fresh snack like carrots, celery, peppers or apple slices.  I do make snack bags of carrots and keep them in my fridge door.  I have tons of fresh fruits and veggies.  My kids can grab that stuff in the morning to add to their lunch. I don't worry if they don't bring fresh food for lunch though- because it's all they eat after school.

So, since I shop every two weeks, I have six kids in school for ten days.  I buy 60 snacks in each category.  See- I do math!

So, 30 yogurts, 30 string cheese, 30 applesauces (no added sugar), 30 pears (in pear juice), 30 hard granola bars, 30 soft, 30 fruit snacks, 30 fruit by the foot or fruit leather.  
Does this make sense?
If the math doesn't work out, I'm ok with extra.  Eve and I eat the extra at home during the week.

Aldi or Costco is cheapest for my lunch snacks.

I buy big bags of pretzels and veggie chips that we put into snack bags.
A small bag of chips makes 10 snack bags.  So, three small bags per week or two big bags (trail mix or pretzels).
Sometimes I grab a bag of Cheetos to mix in for fun and they love bringing popcorn (we make real- not microwave popcorn).  

I also like to grab a bag of starbursts (or something like that) every now and then to throw in.  Just one starburst makes lunch exciting!  
See- that's how I become the fun mom.

Drinks, I buy 30 small waterbottles and 30 fruit juice only Capri Suns.  (My youngest can't open the water bottles and my oldest don't like Capri Suns so it works out.)

On Saturday we set everything out on the table.  Big kids make and freeze sandwiches, little kids put chips in snack bags. 

Then, they have a tray with their name on it and 5 sandwich bags (one for each day).  They pick their snacks for each day and stick them in their sandwich bag.
We have everyone pick one week then do our second week.

What I really want to do is write cute/dorky/funny notes (with stickers) on index cards and have the kids pick them up with their snacks each Saturday.  I'm going to do this next week.

I store the trays on a shelf in my cold garage.  If I had less kids I would store them in my fridge.  I'm still looking for a storage system that is cuter.  But these trays work for now.
(Like my messy cabinet?)

Honestly, this system is fun, easy to shop for, and really makes mornings easier.  My kids love that they got to choose their snacks so they are really excited to make their lunches each day.

(Sometimes I'm embarrassed to share these things with you because my family is not super fancy or super organic.  Just take it or leave it as another idea from a regular mom.)

Works for me!
Life is good when weekday mornings are peaceful!


cheryl cardall said...

great idea! I have 4 in school and this would simplify my mornings greatly!

Rachel said...

Brilliant! Thank you. Thank you! I see nothing there to be embarrassed about. This is exactly what I wanted to know: How can we conquer the sack lunch problem? Thank you for sharing the real life, everyday things.

Anonymous said...

I just found this blog and Im loving it. I have 4 children and 2 stepchildren and they are all with us most of the time. I love this lunch idea. It would even be good for summer so they could just help themselves! Anyway, great ideas and some of your posts are seriously funny. :) Keep up the good work.

Debbi said...

Love this idea! I only have 2 in school and 3 still at home but this would be helpful! I usually make their two home lunches the night before, but this is a genius idea! I am going to try it.

Mari said...

I love it! My big kids are always asking for lunch and I just can't find enough time to plan it out. This is just great and my kids will forever love you!

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