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Sunday, October 2, 2022

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Back to School Lunch Ideas with Jenny P of @LunchBoxMafia

Setting your family up for success in August is about more than just back-to-school shopping. Here are some tips to help you prepare for new schedules and ease back from the lazy days of summer:

The Best School Lunch Boxes and Bento Boxes for Kids:

When choosing lunchboxes, keep in mind your child’s age and lunchtime routine.

  • Younger kids (Pre-K & elementary) need an easy-to-open latch. Check out Planetbox, Bentgo and Yumbox for lunchboxes, lunch bags and other accessories (linked in my bio on Instagram @Lunchboxmafia). Older kids (middle school and beyond) would enjoy the Planetbox Launch, Bentgo salad bowls, Bentgo Pop and OmieLife Go.
  • If you plan on sending hot lunches, remember that most kids do not have access to reheat their food. You’ll want to invest in a thermos. Check out Thermos Brand and Yumbox for thermos options. My go-to lunchbox for hot lunches is the OmieLife bento with built-in thermos.
  • Smaller lunch boxes for snacks or reusable snack bags are great because you save money buying bulk and they’re dishwasher friendly. If you’re a fan of stainless steel, check out Lunchbots. One of my favorite lunch bags is from PackIt Cool with ice packs built right into the bag. You store them in the freezer until ready to use.

Why I love leftovers for school lunch:

I love cooking and my kid loves home cooked meals. I repurpose leftovers all the time for our lunches.

  • Taco meat = nachos or quesadilla.
  • Leftover chicken can be added to wraps and salads.
  • Veggies can be mixed into pasta, soup or rice.
  • Garlic toast from dinner tonight = tomorrow’s pizza.
  • If you have leftover pasta, add Italian dressing with a handful of peas and corn for a quick and easy kid-friendly pasta salad.

The Easiest Go-To School Lunches:

  • Homemade Lunchables – what’s not to love? You can customize them, use up odds and ends from the fridge, and they’re great for picky eaters. Use pretzel crisps, naan or pita chips instead of crackers.
  • There is something that feels so easy about sending breakfast foods. Who wouldn’t love waffles, pancakes or French toast sticks with sausage links and syrup to dip? Add a hardboiled egg and some fruit for a satisfying brunch and one happy kid.
  • You can pizza-fy just about anything! Make it on an English muffin or baguette. Add pepperoni slices and mozzarella to a salad with Italian dressing. Add pizza sauce to a grilled cheese. Slather some sauce and cheese to half of the bagel you didn’t finish for breakfast.

School lunchtime hacks:

  • Use premade items from the deli and freezer section of Sprouts and Publix. My freezer stash usually has pierogies, waffles and chicken nuggets.
  • Supplement boxed meals and take out. Add a handful of peas to boxed mac and cheese or leftover fried rice.
  • Kabobs are just fun, aren’t they? Put cocktail meatballs, cherry tomatoes and mozzarella cubes on a stick for a super fun lunch. (Food picks are generally safe for kids ages 3+.)
  • Muffins and scones are so underrated! You can make them sweet or savory – just mix in berries or bacon bits and cheddar. Bake them yourself or grab them from your favorite bakery.
  • Freeze juice boxes, yogurt tubes and apple sauce cups. They help keep your lunch cold and they defrost just in time for lunch.
  • Make it mini! I love sending appetizers for lunch. Chicken sliders, mini hot dogs and pizza rolls always bring smiles. Make a “subway sandwich” using a hot dog bun for your little one. They’ll love it.

Tips on how to pack hot lunches for the lunchbox:

  • Always preheat your thermos with boiling hot water. Put the lid on and set it aside while you prepare or reheat the hot food.
  • When you’re reheating rice or pasta, add some broth, water or pasta sauce and put the lid on so that it warms through.
  • Anything previously baked or fried like empanadas should be reheated in the oven or airfryer at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes and covered with aluminum foil so that it doesn’t overcook. Cut the time in half on your airfryer. Let it come to room temperature and place a napkin underneath to absorb any moisture.

Easy food prep tips to make-ahead:

  • Wash and cut carrots for the lunchbox. Store them in water just like at the store.
  • Berries should go in airtight containers lined with paper towels until you’re ready to use them.
  • Hardboiled eggs can be stored in the fridge for up to seven days. Enjoy them for breakfast, in salad and ramen or just add them to your lunchbox with a dash of everything bagel seasoning.
  • When you grill chicken, grill extra and use it in pasta, salads and sandwiches during the week.

Visit my page for more lunch box ideas, video tutorials, easy recipes and to shop these lunchbox products in my Amazon store. Wishing you a safe and happy school year, Jenny @Lunchboxmafia

Photos provided by Jenny P. | Originally published in August 2022 of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.


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Jenny Phttps://linktr.ee/Lunchboxmafia
Hello! My name is Jenny. Wife, mom and boss behind @lunchboxmafia on Instagram and Facebook. As a corporate executive for 20+ years, I traveled a lot and away from home most week days. Now that I'm home every night, I get to pack lunch for all of us. It's one way that I care for and show love to my family. As I started sharing ideas on social media, I discovered an amazing community of lunchbox parents and enthusiasts. It's become a creative outlet for me. Follow me for easy recipes and lunch packing tips. From toddler to teen (and even for yourself), I've got you covered at @lunchboxmafia

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