Pack Healthy School Lunches Your Kids Will Eat

Final Main ImageIt’s that time of year again when kids are gearing up for school or are already settling into their classrooms (do I hear a collective sigh of relief?). If you have children in grade school, you may be wondering what to do about their midday meals, specifically whether you should pack their lunches or trust they’ll eat whatever the cafeteria dishes out.

Let me just say if your little darlings are finicky eaters, they’re probably better off bringing their lunches from home. The trick is to make them appealing and nutritious at the same time. I know, easier said than done, right?

Well, good thing I have some ideas for tasty and healthy meals, as well as fun and functional ways to tote food & beverages to school!

Say Goodbye to Boring Bag Lunches

Back in the day, if you weren’t lucky enough to own one of those groovy tin boxes with your favorite TV characters, you had to carry your lunch in a flimsy, worn-out brown paper bag that was barely big enough to hold a sandwich and an apple.

These days you’ll find an awesome assortment of durable, roomy and cool-looking lunch bags, boxes and containers, many at discounted prices during back-to-school sales. Here’s a sample:

Insulated Lunch Bags. These lightweight bags come in so many patterns and styles – from cartoon characters and action heroes to cute critters and bright geometric designs – you’re sure to find something to suit any age and taste. Find fabulous lunch bags. like the one below, at Amazon.com!

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DIY Lunch Box.
Pick up a plain tin lunch box, like the one above from Oriental Trading, and let your child decorate it his or her own way with glitter, markers, magnets, stickers… you name it!

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Rubbermaid LunchBlox®.
  This Bento-style kit includes 3 colorful containers with leak-proof lids to help you organize and store snacks, fruit, veggies, dips and sandwiches, plus a Blue Ice® pack to keep food chilled and fresh. Everything snaps together to fit inside tall or flat lunch bags. See the complete LunchBlox line at Rubbermaid.com.

Best Bets for Beverages and BrothsContigo water bottles

Contigo AUTOSEAL® Gizmo Kids Water Bottle. The BPA-free reusable water bottle is leak- and spill-proof and has an easy-clean transparent lid. Go to reuseit.com for all kinds of clever water bottles for kids!

 

Crayola® Juice Box Holder. No more crying over spilled juice! Just place the juice box in this sturdy, squeeze-proof plastic container and the juice stays put! Get one now for only $3.99!

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THERMOS Brand FUNtainer Food Jar.

The compact, double-wall stainless steel container holds up to 10 ounces and keeps food hot or cold for hours. Choose from a variety of FUNtainers at Target.com.

Kid-friendly (and mother-approved) menu ideas:
* Pita-bread pizzas — If they like pizza, they’ll devour these! Take pita rounds (without the pockets) and top them with pizza sauce from a jar, pepperoni and grated mozzarella. Bake in a toaster oven and wrap them in foil to stay warm.
* Sandwiches in fun shapes — Use crust or cookie cutters to turn ordinary sandwiches into something “magical” like butterflies, hearts or dinosaurs! Get a 5-Pack of Sandwich Crust Cutters at Amazon.com
* Pinwheels — Spread cream cheese on a flour tortilla, cover it with deli ham or turkey, shredded cheese and lettuce, roll it up and slice into bite-size pieces.
* Kabobs — Take wooden skewers and lace them with chunks of ham or turkey, cheese and fresh fruit like pineapple or apple.
* Mini pot pies — make these ahead of time, heat ’em up and wrap in foil to keep them warm. Here’s an easy pot pie recipe from Betty Crocker.
* Pasta — Most kids like mac & cheese, spaghetti & meatballs and ravioli. Needless to say, homemade is better than the pre-made kind you pop in the microwave. Try these delicious, kid-tested pasta recipes from allrecipes.com.
* Vegetable alphabet soup — Heat it up in the a.m., put it in a thermos and it’ll still be “mmm, mmm good” at lunchtime.
* Ants-on-a-Log — A good-tasting, good-for-you snack that’s fun to make and eat! Just spread peanut butter on stalks of celery and sprinkle with raisins.
* Veggies & dip — A great way to get youngsters to eat their vegetables! Fill a container with baby carrots and include hummus or ranch dressing for dipping.
* Yogurt — Click here to find the best yogurts for kids.
* Something to drink — low-fat milk and ice water are the best choices for beverages. Juice boxes are good, too, as long as they’re low in sugar. Sodas are a no-no, of course. Even diet soft drinks have been proven to be unhealthy.
* Include some fresh fruit (grapes, berries, an apple or pear), string cheese, crackers, maybe a granola bar or cookies (from scratch) for dessert, and they’re good to go!

Visit our Kid Stuff Pinterest board for more school lunch ideas!

Smart Perks blogger Catherine B. tried brown-bagging her lunch once in first grade but gave it up after the paper bag ripped and she lost half her meal on the sidewalk.

Back-to-School Shopping: It’s not just for kids anymore

 

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Target sells black chalk board tape! Love it. Here it’s used with chalk markers.

It’s Back-to-School Time!!! The most wonderful time of the year!

Yes, I know that this kind of enthusiasm is typically reserved for that OTHER best time of the year, which believe me, I go nuts for, too.

Here I am, a married adult woman. No kids. It’s the middle of August, and I’m giddy like the proverbial school girl.

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August 1982 B-T-S issue of Seventeen – The memories!

I still remember the summer when I was twelve years old, and my mom bought me my first Seventeen magazine. It was the Back-to-School issue, and I was sure all of the mysteries and wonders of being a cool teenage girl were contained inside those smooth and shiny, uncreased pages. Along with my new Seventeen, she handed me a shiny, marbled hard-plastic compact in navy blue, with Bonne Bell printed in silver on the top. I opened it gingerly, and inside, I remember so vividly, were a rainbow of six eye shadows, three lip glosses (in colors!!!) and a blush, with a mirror on the top of course. My first make-up! I think I may have cried a little. Bonne Belle was the Coco Chanel of my childhood.

My tastes have changed a little since then. Instead of Seventeen magazine, now it’s the Fall of issue of Vogue I anxiously wait for, all 500-plus pages of it. One thing that hasn’t changed however, is the thrill I get from school supplies. Fresh notebooks. Clean white, college-ruled pages, in a colorful new three-ring binder. A virgin, fine-tipped pen. A number two pencil sharpened to an exquisite point.

Why should kids get to have all the fun? So I did some school-supply shopping and thought I’d share some of the goodies I found, in hopes that it will inspire you to let your inner kid out to play, and perk up your desk or office.

11885079_1199219460104223_5621247479853338702_nNo plain old Trapper Keepers for this girl. Notebooks and folders are inspired by textiles with bold prints and vibrant colors, with color-coordinated accessories to match. Summer might be over but I want to keep the hot colors and floral prints throughout cool fall months.

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Washi tape is a huge trend that doesn’t show any sign of slowing down any time soon. I use it to customize my file folders and journal. No manila folders for me.

I visited a couple of local paper boutiques and book stores and found some new takes on classic items, mixing humor and technology, with some great retro flair.

11887846_1199218216771014_4565567492953652332_nHey preschoolers! Nana-nana boo-boo! Adult coloring is cool. We’ve got the coloring books to prove it. Who doesn’t want to color the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air?

Kids these days! No puffy stickers or scratch n’ sniffs for them. Now it’s all about emojis. But they still use Number Two pencils! 😉

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I like to have a flash drive handy at all times. So Clark Kent is always at the ready on my key chain or in my drawer at work, for those quick Power Points in the conference room.

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I’d like to say I was giving this new paperback version of The Outsiders to one of the teenagers in my family. But I have to admit, I’m rereading this one by S.E. Hinton. I’ve read everything she’s ever written. Maybe I’ll pass it along to cousin Isabelle after I’m done. “Stay gold, Ponyboy!”

And because I’m not a complete scrooge, as long as I was out shopping, I picked up a few things for the neighbor girls, as well as to donate to schools in my neighborhood.

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Check with your local school or businesses to see if they host school-supply drives. I like to think every kid deserves to start the new school year fresh and excited, with a clean slate and endless possibilities, like the blank pages of my brand new Mead notebook.

College-ruled, of course.

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Blogger Mel B, a Smart Perks employee, refuses to grow up and still buys Dr. Pepper-flavored Bonne Bell Lip Smackers.