School Lunch Solutions

It’s that time of year-back to school for the kids, tweens, teens and beyond!

This year, I have a freshman and a junior and I have discovered it is no less challenging finding acceptable lunch options that cater to their individual tastes and dining preferences.

One of my daughters likes sandwiches, left-overs and a smorgasbord of crunchy snacks. The other likes fresh fruit and veggie finger snacks only-nothing requiring an eating utensil. Go figure.

My goal this year is to bridge the gap between the two without running a restaurant or purchasing two sets of groceries.

After several food-related discussions a couple of menu planning sessions we have come up with a tried and true strategy.  The question is whether or not can we stick to it!


Our plan is simple-on Sunday evenings we will “cook-off” several meals for the week and package them in single portion, to-go containers so everyone can make a selection and grab and go.

However, I do realize that this plan, though simple enough, will still require a great deal of planning and preparation in order to work well.

The first step is making a meal plan, preferably one that overlaps many ingredients. Once we go grocery shopping, we then cook-off 3-4 dishes that will store well in the fridge during the week. This is probably the trickiest aspect to me.

Here are a few pointers to keep in mind…

Sandwiches made in advance should be assembled without the spread to avoid the bread becoming soggy. Lettuce/ spinach, tomato and onion should also be wrapped separately. Spreading a little butter or all natural margarine on the bread before assembly can also help prevent it from becoming soggy. Keep in mind organic and all natural cold cuts tend to spoil faster than those with chemical preservatives so don’t stock up too much or store excess in freezer.

Left-overs work well if they have access to a microwave. Pasta dishes work especially well, cold or hot. I avoid preparing most fresh veggies in advance, preferring the crisp tender hot out of the skillet texture to the limp reheated variety. Just make sure they aren’t overcooked so upon reheating, they hold up well. Stir-fry, potatoes and rice dishes also do well as left-overs.

Salads are great and for some reason I’m particularly proud whenever my girls opt for them. Choose darker greens, avoid fatty cheeses and opt for natural dressings. Chemical-free varieties are widely available in absolutely everything these days. I even found an all-natural Welch’s grape jelly the other day! As long as they like the flavor of the dressing, I can toss in just about any and every veggie I choose. Holiday Market in Royal Oak makes a ranch that is darn near drinkable and when I served it with my famous meal salad they licked their plates! Literally. OK, so did I but I’m just sayin-it is “the truth”!

Snacks of all kinds are important for me to stay stocked up on-we’re a pretty snacky crew in my household. For that cause, I always carry my trusty Costco card with me whenever I shop. One kid can’t get enough Goldfish crackers-ever!-and the other kids made a daily meal out of the baby watermelon this summer. She would cut one in half and eat the center out with a spoon like a giant bowl of cereal! Nonetheless, Costco is definitely the go-to place for bulk snacks from chips and granola bars to fruit and veggies. We opt for Kashi granola bars, salsa, hummus, tortilla chips, popcorn, nuts and trail mix to name a few. They last, in our family of four, for about two weeks.

Armed with a set of quality plastic storage containers and a couple of boxes of Ziploc baggies, I am confident we can make this happen. The first week of school was a bust having just returned from out of town the evening before school started. I will update you as we journey on over the next few months.

Bon Appetit!

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