Wednesday, September 26, 2012

PB&J: It's What's For Lunch... (part 3)

I've confessed how much I hate making school lunches and commented on a solution (routine) that hasn't worked well for me this year. Today, I'll share with you my latest solution. It's embarrassing, though, that I'm this "over" packing lunches when my kids are only in kindergarten and first grade! Perhaps that's the very reason it's so depressing... Twelve more years of this (except that I'm already training them how to make their own lunches).

A quick recap of my family's lunchtime needs: three mornings/week, my children are in a university model school at which they eat a large snack/light lunch around 10 or 10:30 in the morning. We then eat a light lunch/large snack when we get home from school at around 1:00. The other two days, we're home and just eat one main lunch.

I'm now trying a lunch-menu subscription service that tells me what to make AND what to buy. Do I adapt these to my family's needs? Absolutely. Is it easier than thinking it up on my own? Definitely. I use these more for the light meals that we actually eat at home, but knowing that they're fairly balanced frees me up to pack something easy for the school portion. This also saves me from having to figure out lunch on the days we're doing the homeschool portion at... you guessed it... home. I already have a plan and don't have to stop to plan.

If you're like me, you might want to consider one of these services. Today, I'll give an overview of the emeals Lunch Plan which we've tried for a few weeks now. Tomorrow, I'll feature a lesser known lunch plan which we've also tried.

emeals Lunch Plan: The best fit for our family right now.
  • The quick and dirty: A download link available weekly for the length of the subscription (we did 3 months--I can definitely repeat after that!). Menu plus grocery list. Meals serve 4.
  • What I like: It's very kid-friendly while still remaining reasonably healthy. It's also very affordable (most ingredients can be bought or easily subbed at Aldi) and doable--my kids can help me make a number of these items. Portion sizes also seem mostly appropriate although we don't eat as much meat on our sandwiches....
  • What I don't like: Not much. It's not quite as healthy as it could be, but overall it looks pretty good--lots of fruits/veggies (or easy to supplement). Every now and then, I feel like I need to add something, but this is rare. There is usually a fruit and a starchy side (like rice cakes) on the days that there are sandwiches; I don't normally serve a starchy side AND a sandwich on bread, so I send that starchy option with the packed lunch at school. Note: if you have older kids (middle school and up), especially if they're playing sports, you might have to add in more calories.
  • How it works for us: I'd say I use 3-4 of the 5 meals, and that's worth it for me. PB-n-J has yet to appear, so that's my fall back for the days when my kids might not like the emeals option. It's been nice to have all the lunch ingredients covered from one trip to the store--no more running out of bread/peanut butter/what-have-you on Wed night or Thurs morning.
  • The Take-Away: When we're done with emeals and/or I've moved on, there is one thing I will continue: making a dessert once a week that's packable.... It's varied from rice krispie treats to no-bake choco-oat cookies to peanut butter bread. Regardless, it's a fun activity with the kids, gives us a home made treat several days that week, and helps us resist the temptation to buy extra treats at the store.

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