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Back to School, Back to Packing Lunches

And so it begins…Yesterday was my daughter’s first day of first grade, and amongst all of the excitement of purchasing supplies (8 jumbo glue sticks? What could they possibly be doing with that much paste?), picking out an outifit (we went with rainbow embroidered jeans from Old Navy), and cleaning out the backpack (was that half-eaten fruit leather in there since June?) was the realization that I was back to packing lunch, every morning, for the next 300 or so days…
Lucky for me, my mom lives with us, and shoulders a lot of the lunch-packing duty—thanks grandma!
And I also gave in long ago to Belle’s repeated request to buy school lunch on Fridays, because Friday is pizza day, so that shortens the work to four days a week.
But that still leaves lots of lunches to make!
I find I always put a lot of pressure on myself to create a midday meal that is perfect: easy to eat, delicious, appealing to a 6-year old, healthful, not-boring…How can a little lunch do so many things?
Here are 5 easy things I do to make it a bit easier on myself:

1. I know it’s trendy but I really do like bento boxes for packing a lunch,. The set dimensions allow just the right proportions for an elementary-school appetite (depending on your kid, of course, mine only has 20 minutes for lunch and spends much of the time gabbing instead of eating) so I don’t overpack and see food go to waste; everything stays orderly (no jelly on the carrot sticks and pita chips pulverized in the bottom of a Ziploc); and the cute box lends an element of a little gift being opened. Despite what you may have seen, using a bento doesn’t mean you have to get all crafty. I personally don’t have the time or ability to carve rice balls into Pokemon characters or turn radishes into origami creatures. I just get the stuff to fit in there and then close it up.
2. Even if Belle is getting sandwiches most of the time, I make sure to switch up the bread and fillings frequently: whole wheat potato roll, pita pocket, crusty baguette; smoked turkey and swiss; hummus and pickles; baked ham and Boursin. And there is no better sandwich-filler then last night’s homemade chicken tenders.
3. I always include a cookie. Life needs a cookie.
4. Fruit is more likely to get eaten if it’s peeled, cubed, or sliced (The fruit in the pic above are slices of peeled plums. Yes, I peeled plums…).
5. Sneak in a note. Even if it’s a doodle on a napkin, or a “I heart you” on a Stickie…who doesn’t want a reminder in the middle of the day that they’re loved? Now eat your carrots.

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