Planning and prepping ahead lessens the stress of preparing school lunches. Check out these five school lunch hacks to make the new school year a little easier for everyone. (Special to The Praire Press)

Hacking and packing

It doesn’t seem possible, but Edgar County students will be returning to classrooms in less than two weeks.

There are few things your kid can’t leave the house without and one of them is lunch. But shoving a ham-and-cheese sandwich and whatever bag of chips you grab into a lunch box isn’t exactly ideal — for either of you. To think outside the box  when it comes to lunchtime, I’ve found these five game-changing tricks will make it easy for you to get through the morning rush faster — and still provide a healthy and tasty lunch.

Confession time. I can count on one hand the number of times I ate lunch at school growing up. We attended Tanner School — until it was closed — and we lived only a couple of blocks away. My sister and brothers and I walked or rode our bicycles to and from school — and home for lunch. I’ve always considered us to be lucky. Mom did not work outside the home and there was always something to warm us up in the winter or something she made just for us for lunch.

These tips I’m sharing I’ve found to share are not recipes but to help Mom and Dad and the kids pack lunch without a lot of stress — and that’s a winner in my book.

Here’s an easy backup to your ice packs, especially if you’re packing a lot of lunchboxes or filling a big cooler. The idea is simple: Wet individual sponges, squeeze out excess water, drop them in a sealed baggie and freeze. These packs are less bulky than traditional ones, making them perfect for even the littlest of lunch boxes. Another keep-cool trick: Freeze bottles of water and pack them alongside all your other goodies. The water will thaw by lunchtime and will keep your fresh food cool all morning.

Did you know there are reusable juice box containers on Amazon? If you’re having a hard time weaning your kid off the sugary stuff, use frozen berries or melons to sweeten water naturally — and keep the drink cool. Reusable juice box containers make this idea even easier.

Sliced apples in a plastic baggie — even with a squeeze of lemon juice — will only last so long. The moment they turn brown, your kid isn’t going anywhere near them. Instead, cut the apple into eighths, put the pieces back together and slip a rubber band around the whole thing to everything in place. This keeps the pieces side by side, so less air will get in and, in turn, less browning. 

Here’s an idea that just makes sense to me — grab and go refrigerator stations. This idea gives your kids more independence. Simply place your choice of snacks and sandwiches in a few fridge organizers, label how many of each food to take and all they have to do is open the fridge, grab and go. They are choosing what to eat for lunch from your healthy choices for them.

I love the idea of re-using items and this is a great idea. Tell your child or teen not to throw away that fruit cup she had today because it’s going to come in handy for tomorrow’s lunch. Buy some small, wide-mouth Mason jars and fill them with crackers or veggie sticks. Then fill the recycled cup with dip or cheese and add your dippers to the Mason jar — combine the two pieces via the lid and you’ve made yourself a “Masonable” — a.k.a. a Mason jar Lunchable.

The Prairie Press

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