A Page from My Back-to-School (BTS) Playbook

6:17 AM

Since I’m still in denial that summer is over (as I mentioned I would be doing in my previous post), I haven’t been thinking too much about Back to School, or BTS as retailers have dubbed it. But I did get a wake up call when I was recently interviewed for a story in the Boston Herald on lunch packing ideas (yes, that was a humble brag!).

You’ll find your fair share of articles on ways to shake up PB&J, healthy after school snack ideas, or how to re-invent the “sandwich.” I thought I’d share a couple of pages from my playbook when it comes to packing my kids’ lunch. And because my boys hate sandwiches (with the exception of PB&J and different versions of it), you won’t find a sandwich idea in the bunch!

Leftovers are key. Pasta, soups, rice dishes and stews reheat well. Make an extra batch to serve for lunch the next day.

Go-To Weeknight Dish: Pasta with Rosemary, Sausage & Tomatoes
Tip: Fill a thermos container with hot water for at least 10 minutes before filling it with food. It will help keep the contents warmer longer. We spring a little extra for the vacuum insulated thermos food jars. They keep the food hot longer and never leak. 
Always pack fresh fruit and veggies. Raw baby carrots are convenient for sure. I find slicing an apple is more likely to get eaten than if I were to pack an apple whole. My boys might not always eat all of their fruits and veggies I pack, but it sends them a message about what makes a healthy meal.

Sliced apple trick from The Kitchn
Tip: Apple corer/slicer will be your best friend. Core and slice an apple and then assemble it back together and hold together with an elastic band. It will help keep the slices from browning!

Pack breakfast for lunch. My boys love hot oatmeal. I add diced apples, raisins, nuts and a touch of brown sugar and cinnamon.

Our favorite steel cut oatmeal brand (it's the uniformity of granulation!)
Tip: Soak steel cut oats the night before. You’ll have perfect oats the next morning when you are packing their lunches. Just add your mix-ins, reheat in the microwave and pack in a thermos container.
I’m a big fan of Easylunchboxes. The bento-style container helps me organize what to pack. The single lid is great for younger kids, especially when lunch is less than 30 minutes long.

Easylunchbox compartments make it easy to pack lunch quickly
Tip: I save small condiment containers whenever we order takeout. They are perfect for holding dips/sauces, dressings and usually fit neatly right in the Easylunchbox.
I try not to introduce new foods at school lunch. This often results in a barely-touched lunchbox. I want to make sure they have a good meal to get them through the day. I torture introduce them to new recipes on the weekends.  

Pizza from Pizzeria Bianco: not your everyday hot lunch (but sure wish it was)
Tip: Give yourself (and your kids) a break and let your kids buy hot lunch at school periodically. My son looks forward to Fridays when he can buy lunch (which happens to be Pizza Day at school).
It’s tempting to turn to convenience foods or tried and true (PB&J) when it comes to packing lunches. Establishing healthy eating habits takes a little bit of work – but not much. Maybe an extra five minutes. Seriously.

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