What's for lunch?
Every morning, there is a rush to get the kids up and out the door for school. It sounded so easy when my boys were not in school yet. I use to wonder what all the fuss was about. Now, with an 11 and 6-year-old, I ask myself every morning, "what am I going to feed them?". That question can be applied to all four (yes, four!) meals as well as the gazillion times they need a snack. But, when I ask this question every morning, it pertains only to lunch and what can I make them.
As a mom, I am amazed at how other mothers are so well put together and I've been 1000% (that added zero is not a typo) certain that their kids' lunches must be fabulous. It wasn't until this year that I realize that wasn't the case. Instead, we're all the the same boat. Once we started talking, we all faced the same challenges:
1- a balanced meal that they kids will actually eat, but won't take us an hour to make.
2- When I made lunches the night before, it never go eaten. Somehow, my kids ALWAYS knew when it wasn't freshly made.
3- We're all BUSY! Whether you own a business, you're a working mom or the CEO of the house, we're all busy.
So, I've worked out a systems of "options" that works for me (and a few other parents tested it out too):
FOOD CHECK: When making dinner or before going to bed, open your fridge and pantry. Make a mental note of what you have and plan on what you'll make.
Option 1/PREP: what you can the night before. For example, I wanted to make fried rice for the boys' lunches. The night before, I just chopped up the meat and veggies while I was making dinner. I was cooking anyway so it was an efficient use of my time. It took only 15 minutes the next morning to make the fried rice.
Option2/REINVENTING DINNERS: Don't knock it until you've tried it. You can always send leftovers for lunch, especially if it's a dish your kids like, but you can also "reinvent" the dinner ingredients for lunch the next day (or even the day after). For example, I had left over chicken and my kids won't eat sandwiches. The chicken was used for two different lunches: chicken tacos and chicken soup. Both had added veggies and tasted different enough that empty lunch containers came home.
Option3/Cool snacks: I have to keep reminding myself that I don't need to make a gourmet meal for lunch. In fact, when I'm stumped on what to make, I've given super-sized snacks for lunch. For example, a filled BENTO box with cheese, crackers, apple slices, yogurt with honey, cucumbers and a smattering of chips will make your child very happy.
Option4/Rice Cooker: When the day will be filled with activities, we all want our kids to eat a little more to keep up their energy. Those days call for rice (or pasta). I find rice easier as I set it up, turn it on as soon as I'm up and it's ready within 30 minutes. You can put sausages, steamed veggies, steamed meats and the like if you have a rice cooker. This is a win-win for any parent because you have a full, healthy meal ready without much fuss.
SNACKS: Don't wait. Instead of doing a daily search for the "perfect" snack. I have the kids pull and put their snacks for the whole week into containers. They prep their own snacks and I get to approve them or help guide them to a healthier choice if I start seeing chocolate as a main food group in their snacks. They do this Sunday while I'm cooking dinner. And, if they don't, they don't get a choice of snacks. Instead, I pull out the weekly snacks and they might not like it because it's a lot of cut up veggies; cheese, crackers and grapes; fruit; granola. When they prep their own snacks, they can put in popcorn, pretzels, and the like in between the veggies,
For all those parents out there who struggle through the "what's for lunch?" dilemma, take a deep breath, relax and try the above tips. For those parents who claim they don't know what I'm talking about....your pants are on fire.
Check out our Facebook page on Fridays as we start posting "Friday Food Recipes" (another request from L3 parents).