My School Lunch Packing Formula

Over on instagram (@venisonfordinner over there) I’ve been sharing my 6 yr old, Mac’s, school lunches. If I don’t post them, I seem to get haggled about them, as well as I’ve hinted and promised to share my lunch packing formula for ages, yet never delivered. I love my instagram followers! It’s the best community over there and we have loads of fun. Marius is playing lego with the boys and holding Freja, specifically so I can blog! This is my next idea up on my list, so here we go! The pictures in this post are lunches packed from September to December, so those are some of the seasons of produce we are hitting up!

{Half a granola bar, leftover venison, mini lemon cucumber, mini apple and mini pear, yogurt+hemp hearts}

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Some things to note about our lunches;

-First off, all these photos are taken on my phone, right before I chuck them into his lunch kit. Sometimes they have a filter on them and are edited, sometimes it’s just straight shootin’ bebe.

-Mac is 6, in grade one, with a fairly small appetite for a kid his age. You may need to size up or down depending on your child’s hunger.

-He has a LOT of time to eat during the day at school. I know we’re really lucky to live in a school district like that.

-We currently don’t have any restrictions on what we’re allowed to send. Last year there was no nuts or seeds whatsoever due to a child with allergies. His allergies are ingestion only, not airborne, so the rest of the school was allowed to bring them. His school manages allergies by; only allowing the kids to eat when they’re in their own classroom, having specific eating times before/after their three outdoor breaks (2×15 min and 1×45 min are their formal outdoor breaks, plus he’s in an outdoor program that spends a lot more time outside.) as well as having a strict no sharing policy even within their own class.

{Venison Jerky, sweet bell pepper slices, a mandarin orange and a small bagel with butter}

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-Mac has been dealing with a sensory processing disorder basically his whole life, but more so since about 1 yr old. This means, in relation to food, he has troubles with different textures and things mixed together. He gags on foods like cold slices of cheese, eggs, cooked vegetables and I could go on and on and on. We are so lucky he likes pretty much all fresh produce!

-We eat a lot of local, organic and NEITHER produce. I don’t label foods on IG or here as organic, local or from mexico because guys, its food. And it’s more important that we’re eating real food, and we’re sending real food with our kids in their lunches.

-You’re going to see some processed and packaged foods in his lunch. We find ones we’re okay with sending as a treat, and use them as the “easy button”.

-You’re going to see lunches packed in plastic, glass and bags. The only “special” thing we have is his lunch kit, which is a thermos brand one I bought off amazon for $13. Everything else is containers and water bottles we use year round, in and out of lunches.

MY MOST IMPORTANT NOTE!! Your child, from the time they go to kindergarten (can’t vouch for earlier ages as this is as young as Mac went to school) CAN unpack their backpack, including lunch kit. Put empty containers in the sink, leftovers in the fridge, hand you any notices/their planner and hang up their backpack. Yes, I have to remind Mac every dang day to do so, but one day I’m hoping it clicks, and until then I’ll keep reminding because it’s his job! 

{Applesauce, Lemon cucumber, apple, tamari roasted nuts, que pasa chips and salsa}

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So how do I go about packing his lunch? Well, since you asked, here’s my formula;

2 produce+1 protein+1 treat+waterbottle (and sometimes a bulky item to round out the carbs)

{Watermelon, brownies, pepperoni, que pasa chips and sweet pepper}

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Now, I obviously don’t stick to this like a law. This is an outline for those days when I go, holy jeez, what am I packing in his lunch?! I open up the cupboard where I have it written out, and I look at the categories for ideas. So here’s some items off my cheat sheet to get your brain moving.

Protein/Bulky Items

-Plain high fat yogurt with jam/maple syrup/hemp hearts

-Leftover meat from dinner

-Pepperoni

-Salami

-Cold Cut sandwich

-Chips+Salsa

-Muffin

-Sprouted bread sandwich

-Nut butter for dipping fruit

-Leftover pancakes/big dutch babies/french toast

-Leftover Pizza

-Leftover ANYthing that your child wants to bring!

{Leftover Pizza, lemon cucumber, small apple, sweet pepper slices and cocoa dusted almonds}

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Produce

Always start with what you have in your fridge that needs to be used/your child likes! those are good bets! When you’re shopping, look at what’s in season, whether it’s in season where you live, or in another country, it’s going to be what’s on sale. Watch those produce sales! If apples and pears are on sale, I’ll buy a few weeks worth as they’ll keep well in a cool place in our house. I just keep a bag of each in the fridge.

I’ll list some produce ideas that Mac likes to take, but more importantly, in my opinion, is ideas for how to send them. Carrots, broccoli, cucumber, sweet peppers and celery are always popular. Firm fruits and ones that travel well like apples, pears, watermelon and grapes. Applesauce and pickles count for produce too!

Dip is a terrific way to make produce more exciting. There is cream cheese or peanut butter fruit dips you can make for fruit. You could make or buy a dip for produce like the traditional ranch, or switch it up with hummus and tzatziki. I like to make my own dips using good healthy fats because then I know I’m packing more nutrition into his growing body.

{I packed two lunches that he took one after the other. Did he love me for it? No. But I needed easy lunches and he liked everything in them. Mini cucumber, half a pepperoni stick, a mandarin orange, applesauce and a fig bar}

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Treats

Treats in our house are usually a homemade affair, but in his lunch he sometimes has;

-granola bar

-fishy crackers

-fig bar

-chocolate milk or hot chocolate

-cookie or other treat square

-dry cereal

{Mixed raw veg with dip, mandarin orange and homemade animal crackers. I believe I added a little container of tamari roasted almonds after they cooled down as well}

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{Mandarin orange, veg+dip, granola bar and chocolate covered dried mango}

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The most important thing, is that I don’t get fancy, don’t feel like I need a lot of different things, and don’t make a bunch of extra work for myself. You’ll see most of the same produce, treats and proteins on repeat, in different combos in almost all these lunches. He likes them, so why make it more difficult at the grocery store. 

{Yogurt with jam, sweet pepper slices, apple and peanut butter for dipping}

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{Applesauce, fishy crackers, small carrot, lemon cucumber, small pear and half a pepperoni stick}

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{Carrot sticks and dip, sliced pear, mandarin orange and a fig bar. He took these carrot sticks and orange three days in a row before finally eating them. They went back in the fridge at night, and I packed them again the next day. You don’t get to eat your treats and not eat everything else in this house!}

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So go forth, and make life easier for yourself! Write a cheat sheet of half a dozen things in each ‘category’, or make your own lunch packing formula, and tape it up inside a convenient cupboard. Do this for your kids, for yourself if you leave the house to work and need a lunch, and heck, if you’re kids are old enough to pack their own lunches, get them to make a cheat sheet with you. Figure out items they like to bring, that you’re willing to keep stocked in the house, so that packing their lunch is another item delegated off your list. 

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