Today I am excited to share some great school lunch packing tips from my friend Laura Fuentes with MOMables! We all know that we should be packing our kids a variety of colorful, wholesome, healthy foods they will love, but sometimes that is just easier said than done. And that’s exactly why Laura, mom of three kids ages 7-years-old and younger, came up with an idea for helping parents make this a reality.
She developed a meal planning planning service with the school lunch box in mind, ensuring that anyone who followed along could kiss the “Sandwich Rut” goodbye.
And, as I’ve mentioned before, aside from this paid meal planning service Laura also has a blog and facebook page where she continuously shares super creative and fun food ideas. It’s honestly one of my favorite Facebook pages to follow – so thank you Laura for sponsoring today’s blog post (and for always keeping my Facebook news feed interesting)!
If you decide to try out the MOMables meal planning service you’ll get 5 real food lunch ideas, a prep-ahead sheet, and a shopping list – all of which can help any busy parent feed their kids a variety of foods – for only $6.50 per month!
Their Classic plan has built in gluten-free, nut-free, and vegetarian substitutions; while the Grain Free meal plan is completely gluten-free and limits dairy and legumes. So there is an option for everyone!
Now, back to all those fabulous little MOMables tips I was telling you about. Here are 7 quick fixes from Laura for those unwelcome lunchbox dilemmas!
School Lunch Dilemmas Solved
by Laura Fuentes with MOMables
- Dilemma #1: Food won’t stay hot in the thermos.
Many people email me weekly asking why their children’s food is cold by the time they open up their lunchbox. I mean it’s in a thermos right? It should stay hot, at least until my child’s lunchtime. This isn’t necessarily true. Remember that you are not heating up the food to eat now, you are heating it so that it can be safely eaten 3-5 hours later. So the key is to really heat your child’s lunch before putting it into a thermos, that way it is still nice and warm come lunchtime! To find out how long it is safe to keep food hot in a thermos, click here.
- Dilemma #2: Soggy crackers.
Many moms tell stories of how their children come home unhappy with their lunch, solely because it was a soggy mess when they went to eat it. An easy fix to this is separating wet foods from dry foods. For example, when you are adding ham and cheese, along with crackers, to your child’s lunch they should be kept in separate air-tight containers or compartments. If separated, the crackers don’t absorb the moisture from the ham and cheese, which is responsible for your child’s soggy food.
- Dilemma #3: Mushy grilled sandwiches.
I also get many comments about how grilled sandwiches don’t stay hot and then become soggy. An easy solution to keeping anything hot is again – the thermos! As far as grilled sandwiches go, remember that the goal of grilling is to marry the flavors. So, first grill your sandwich in order to combine all of the ingredients so they compliment each other. Then allow the sandwich to cool down to room temperature (or chill it) and pack it in the lunch box instead of the thermos. By allowing the sandwich to cool down, it eliminates steam build up in the lunch box, which is the culprit for soggy sandwiches.–
As a mother of three, I completely understand the pressures of time. It takes time to get the kids up, dress them, feed them, and get them off to school on time. What about making their lunches!? Planning ahead is so important and that’s one of the best parts about MOMables – it gives you a plan. I strive to let you know what you need ahead of time and what you need to pre-pack the night before. At the very least, you have a great idea of what you need to do in order to assemble your children’s lunch the morning of.
Another great tip that saves moms every week from stressing out from lack of ingredients to put into their children’s lunches is by using leftovers from dinner from the previous night. Usually people run out of ingredients when they don’t have a solid plan for the week. Again, MOMables lunches helps you plan dinner around the ingredients included in your kid’s lunch. For example, say a staple in your kid’s lunch is chicken. Now you know that you can incorporate chicken into your dinner and use extra leftover chicken in your kid’s lunch! Simple, right?
Almost every week I hear moms saying “I’m not sure a meal plan will work for my pick eaters, but I am completely out of ideas.” Planning for picky eaters can be very difficult whether you do it on your own or use a meal plan. The easiest way to not get overwhelmed and to stop being a short order cook is to start with the foods your kids will eat and generate ideas from there.
I have got another great, and simple, tip to help your children’s cheese sticks stay nice and fresh come lunchtime! Many moms are tired of seeing cheese sticks come home uneaten in their child’s lunchbox because they are soggy and “gross.” An easy fix to this is to freeze the cheese sticks (or pre-cut pieces of cheese)! In the morning add the frozen cheese stick to your child’s lunch and by lunchtime it will thaw and be nice and cool and fresh. Check out how I freeze my cheese here. MOMables offers tons of ideas like this to keep your child happy while also not breaking the bank or the little time you have to put your child’s lunch together.
17 thoughts on “School Lunch Dilemmas Solved: Advice from Momables!”
Put a folded napkin in the bottom of the thermos or container to wick up extra moisture.
Don’t wrap the bread in it tho as it may stick or wet the bread. I also pre-cut a stack of wax paper to use to keep things separate for my picky ones. It’s not healthy if it’s not eaten!
Any suggestions on how to keep a grilled cheese warm but not soggy? Same question for a bean and cheese quesadilla? My little one loves these but not if they aren’t at least warm.
Using a thermos is the only way to keep them warm but they will be a bit soggy. It took a bit of time but my kids have adjusted to cool and room temp items. :)
My kids complain the ice pack will make things soggy especially the bread they take with hummus.
We avoided a picky eater early on. When I found her refusing or complaining about food at dinner we implemented a rule – she could pick ONE ITEM on the dinner table that she did not have to eat at that meal. Everything else had to be eaten. No more fighting at the dinner table. She is 33 now, and quite the foodie! She will try anything.
my son is in 4th grade and has taken a packed lunch every day. I suppose I’m lucky that from day one he has taken basically the same thing: ham, or turkey lunch meat
Mozzarella cheese stick
Apples or strawberries
Cashews or almonds
And always something special like fruit snacks or small pc of choc. I’ve never had any complaints about soggy cheese w/ mozzarella sticks. I pack everything in separate containers that isn’t already pre packaged. Add an ice pack and cold water to the top half of lunch bag where all the things that need to be kept cold are and the cashews and special snack in bottom compartment. So If your child likes these variety lunches it becomes easy because it’s routine and they have a variety everyday. Also having the separate compartments on the lunch bag helps with a lot of issues.
The other way to keep food hot in a thermos is to not only heat the food but the thermos too. You do this by placing boiling water into the thermos and closing the top for 5-10 minutes then to fill with hot food. Stays really warm :)
On keeping food hot in a thermos, I actually heat the thermos up by running it in really hot water. This gets the inside pretty warm. And I think it keeps it warm. Once opened though, it cools down pretty fast. But its the best I could do. Also, I saw in a catalog a lunch box with a liner to keep keep the warm stuff warm. I don’t own it, but I am tempted. For things that can’t go in a thermos, I wrap it in foil, put a paper towel wrap on it, then stick it in one of those reusable sandwich bag.
The real question is … are kids pickier today, or do we just not remember being picky? I think it’s hilarious the hoops we all jump through to get our kids to eat what is being served. I am guilty of it too. Then again, maybe my mom just repeated the same 5 things every week so it wasn’t an issue? The rotation went something like spaghetti-stir fry-chicken w/ green beans-pork chops-overcooked fish. Hamburgers on the grill in summer.
It’s funny reading about lunch dilemmas, because I spent my entire school years eating sandwiches every single day and I don’t think I thought anything of it. I never knew parents found making lunches so difficult. Having said that, I reached my early twenties and went right off sandwiches – couldn’t stomach them anymore. Now I love variety in my lunches. I copy Lisa’s lunch box ideas for my own lunch (thanks Lisa!). Last nights dinner left-overs also provide great variety. I love looking forward to lunch each day now.
You are suposed to fill the thermos with boiling water and let it sit for 5 minutes. Then empty the thermos and put the very hot food in. If you put hot foor in a cold/room temp thermos it will most definitely not stay warm. I have had my kids tell me their food was too hot to eat at lunch! 4 hours later! I am pretty sure these are the instructions that come with the thermos brand thermoses.
I made and packed lunches for my three school-aged kids last night–it was the first time in 5 years I’ve ever done lunches the night before–and it made a HUGE difference in our morning today! I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to figure it out! :) the idea about freezing cheese sticks is great too– my kids complain about them being soggy and gross all the time, but now I have a solution. Yay!
And now I see you wrote that too lol Awesome :)
I loved the tip about putting the thermos in the freezer for cold items. I never think about using it for cold items. I’m going to start! One of the things I like to do when using it for hot items is to boil the kettle and fill the thermos with hot water first. I let the thermos warm up while I heat the food (extra warm like you mentioned) and then dump out the water and put the warm food in the warm container. It works well!
Ahhh – blueberries and strawberries have been a staple around our house this summer. Never have we eaten them so regularly and enjoyed them so much. They are now gone out of our store. sigh I guess we’ll be moving on to fall fruits. :)
I love all these bento/lunchable ideas!
My son told me just the other day to stop packing cheese in his lunch because it was soggy by lunch time. Why didn’t I think of freezing it?! That’s why I love this blog!
Thanks so much for the tips! :D