[Ed: It must be organization week at HDYDI; I planned this post before I knew that RaJen was going to post on how to get out the door in the morning. I love accidental themes!]
Some of my friends’ kids go to daycares that provide lunch. What a dream! Maddie and Riley’s daycare is wonderful and amazing and near-perfect: the provision of lunch would push it to the realm of nirvana. Alas, we remain a step away from enlightenment, so every Sunday night, my thoughts turn to what I will pack the twins’ to eat for the week.
I’ve had almost two years’ of daycare Sundays to think about this, and, if I do say so myself, I’ve gotten pretty good at it. When the twins first got to an age that I needed to send food rather than bottles, I would spend time every evening thinking about what to pack for the next day; it didn’t take me long to realize that my time would be more efficiently spent if I would pack a few days’ worth of food at a time. For a while, I packed lunches twice a week. Now I’m down to once. I do it all on Sundays so for the whole week, I just have to grab and go in the morning. Sweet.
I figured I’d break my system down and share it with you, because only spending an hour a week thinking about this is truly one of my major sanity savers.
Here’s how it works. Every day, the twins get:
- a “main course”
- a crunchy snack
- fresh fruit
I buy yogurt and applesauce in big containers and parcel out the individual servings; I’m cheap, and it doesn’t take that long.
For main courses, I have a menu of items from which I choose each week. I plan two different main courses/week, one for M-W-F, one for Tu-Th. My staples are:
- hummus on mini whole-wheat pita (two pitas per kid)
- pasta with red sauce and “meat”balls
- spanikopita (I buy frozen trays at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods; the trays contain twelve triangles, which makes three lunches of two triangles per kid)
- quesadillas with cheddar and black beans (I cut one each quesadilla into four wedges, which is one lunch)
- mac’n'cheese with peas
- grilled cheese (half sandwich per twin)
- spinach/rice balls (recipe from one of my Moosewood cookbooks; recipe available on request)
- corn casserole
- spinach/rice casserole
I’ll mix it up sometimes with leftovers from the weekend, and I’m constantly adding/revising the main course list, but those are favorites.
I also have a running list of snacks that I choose from. Again, I do two different snacks for the week, one for M-W-F, one for Tu-Th. Some favorites:
- pumpkin seeds
- sunflower seeds
- dried fruit (raisins, apricots, blueberries, cherries, etc.)
- plantain chips
- fruit leather
- popcorn (regular or kettle corn)
- crackers (M&R like Annie’s whole-wheat bunnies)
- rice cakes (sometimes with sunflower-seed butter)
- carrot sticks
- Veggie Booty
- Pirate’s Booty (or the Trader Joe’s equivalent)
- tortilla chips
- Snapea Crisps
- crunchy green beans
- graham crackers
On Sunday during the twins’ nap, I cook any of the main courses that need cooking. Then, after the kids go to bed at night, I pack everything for the week. I set out fifteen of these Snapware containers; five of them get filled to the brim with yogurt, five with applesauce, and five hold the main course. (I pack one yogurt, one applesauce, and one main dish each for the twins to share rather than an individual portion for each kid.) Snacks go in Ziplock bags, and fresh fruit is washed as needed and ready to pull out of the fridge or fruit bowl each morning. And that’s it.
I hope this is helpful to some of you and not just boring. Share your packed lunch tricks and tips in the comments.