September is the perfect time of year to re-set your packed lunch intentions. Whether you are packing for yourself or your children, a few easy tips can make it all less stressful. Start Fall off right and banish the “I don’t know what to pack” and the “I don’t have time” excuses…your new plan start here.
Packed lunches not only save money and time, they are usually more healthful than most take out and fast food choices. Here are four great tips to get you started.
1. Have the right equipment.
- Consider a divided container or bento style system especially if you are making multiple lunches (less pieces to find and match up)
- Invest in a good insulated thermos if you don’t have access to a microwave
- Use an insulated lunch bag and re-freezable ice packs to keep your lunch cold and safe to eat
- Use cookie cutters, silicon muffin liners and coloured toothpicks to help kids stay interested in their lunch (less uneaten food coming home)
- Store containers together with their matching lids
2. Create a balanced lunch by choosing one food from each of these categories.
- peanut butter, or nut/seed butter
- left over roasted meats (choose over deli meats more often if you can)
- canned tuna/salmon
- cheese (strings, cubes or slices)
- nuts and seeds
- hard boiled eggs
- cottage cheese
- beans, lentils or chickpeas
- Whole Grains
- whole grain bread
- mini pita pockets
- wraps, roti or naan bread
- whole grain crackers
- tortilla chips
- homemade muffins
- hot-air popcorn
- homemade pancakes or waffles
- leftover brown rice or quinoa
- apples, oranges, grapes, bananas (year-round staples)
- frozen berries
- canned peaches, pears, pineapple (choose fruit canned in juice)
- unsweetened apple sauce
- smoothies (freeze in single serve portions)
- snap peas, mini cucumbers, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes
- veggies and dip
- side salad, coleslaw
- homemade vegetable soup
- olives, pickles and salsa on the side
3. Use your freezer as a powerful lunch making tool.
- Freeze leftover soup, stews, pasta and casseroles in single serve portions. Grab a container on your way out the door and it will be thawed in time for lunch.
- Make extra pancakes or waffles on the weekend and freeze individual portions. Cut into fingers or strips, pack with some dip, maple syrup or yogurt…a definite kid pleaser.
- The perennial lunch classic PB & J can be made by the loaf ahead of time and frozen. Use seed butter if your child’s school is nut-free.
4. Plan ahead and keep great ingredients on hand.
- Check online for meal planning inspiration and packed lunch ideas.
- Grocery shop regularly. Make use of store flyers or online shopping services to keep you on track.
- Keep a shopping list handy and be sure to add items as you run out.
- Include your family – everyone can participate in meal planning and food preparation.
- Keep a running list of lunch ideas your family likes. Get their input; kids are great at sharing what they would like more or less of.
Good luck this Fall and enjoy your packed lunches!
For more nutrition information and tips on healthy lunches and meal-planning, sign up for a group Nutrition Tour of your local Save-On-Foods. www.saveonfoods.com/nutrition-tours/
Tiffany McFadden conducts Nutrition Tours at the Campbell River Save-On-Foods store. She enjoys being a Nutrition Tour leader because the grocery store is the best place to learn about food. Tiffany loves watching participants have a “mind blowing food moment” – that’s when they discover information that they just can’t believe they didn’t know before. Tiffany is also passionate about dispelling myths around healthy eating and gut health.