Every Sunday afternoon, I drop my tiny dancer off at class and head to the grocery store nearby to stock up for the school week ahead. It's a newer ritual I've started in the past few months, to help me stay organized when it comes to my bento school lunches — something I'm still learning and perfecting after 10 years of lunch-making (somebody pin a medal on me).
Now I realize some of you may find it ridiculous that I make a dedicated trip to the grocery store for school lunches, but I find it keeps me on track for planning and only buying what we need. I also end up with less impulse purchases this way. It helps that I only have 45 minutes before I need to go back for my daughter, leaving me no time for distracted browsing.
I couldn't do it without my list. And, yes, I use one for my weekly grocery trips, too. I created a specific lunch box list on my favourite app, and it's been so helpful (it's easy to add and delete items when changing things up week-to-week. Or you can just ignore an item, but leave it on the list so it's there for a future trip).
So how do I come up with my list? I map out a week of lunches — taking into account glorious pizza and hot lunch days — and then take a peek in my refrigerator and cupboards to see what needs to get topped up. Sometimes, I do a Pinterest search (I've been slowly building a board) for new ideas and add a new food/recipe to the weekly rotation (best not to try too many new things in a week). The kids are allowed (and encouraged) to throw their ideas in the ring, too. I also love this cookbook: The Best Homemade Kids' Lunches On The Planet.
I recently wrote a piece for Savvymoms about how I put my bento boxes together, but here is my simple formula for planning out the week: bite-sized + easy + colourful + familiar + healthy.
I always include one or two foods I know my child will willingly eat, and then I might try something different or not as favoured (but healthy, nonetheless) in the other containers. By not overfilling the bento with too many options, I have also found they are more likely to eat what's there.
Last week, I saved my list so I could share it with all of you for some inspiration/ideas (note: photos don't necessarily correspond with menu...I'm not THAT organized)
- leftover Sunday night roast chicken (shredded)
- fresh roll from bakery
- corn niblets
- mini muffin (I batch bake on Sunday nights if I can and store in freezer)
- ginger snap cookies (store bought)
- cucumber slices
- bagel and cream cheese (I toast it in the morning, put together, and wrap in foil)
- berry and pineapple fruit salad (left overs from a weekend fruit platter)
- carrot sticks
- muffin (again, from my freezer stock)
- veggie straws
- leftover beef stew (in a thermos)
- watermelon slices
- edamame beans
- air popped popcorn (sprinkle some nutritional yeast on for cheesy, vitamin-packed flavour)
- mini quiches
- orange slices
- red pepper strips
- mini muffin
- cheddar rice crackers
- mini naan bread pizzas (naan + pizza/tomato sauce + shredded mozarella for 8 mins at 375)
- cauliflower and broccoli florets (and ranch dip in a dippers container)
- tortilla chips and guacamole
I'm always happy to share more ideas or talk shop with my readers. Feel free to find me on Instagram, where I do the most sharing of the insides of my kids' lunch boxes.