SCHOOL STARTED AROUND the Peninsula about a week ago.
Your shoddy summer eating habits have been tucked away and you’ve turned over a new leaf.
“This is the year of the wholesome lunch,” you proclaim to yourself.
You bought brand-new lunch boxes, clean water bottles and organic granola bars.
In my experience, this back-to-school fervor with which you’ve all been packing lunches for your children subsides within a week or two.
You might even be out of the special treats procured at Costco or Trader Joe’s this summer.
Your best ideas have been spent and now you’re staring down another 36 or more weeks of packed lunches.
What’s a parent to do?
I have a solution: Teach your child how to pack their own lunch.
I know some of you actually relish making your children’s lunches, but I’m betting a large portion of you are less than thrilled with the task.
My own child started helping make her own lunch in first grade.
By the end of the year, she had it completely dialed in by herself.
Now, six years later, she still makes every lunch except for the odd occasion when I’m feeling extra motherly or she just needs a hand.
To help ensure her lunches are balanced and nutritious, I made a chart for her to use that lists ideas for what to pack.
It lives on our refrigerator.
It worked so well, I put up another chart for breakfast ideas.
Of course, the charts are used by all members of our family, and not just for school lunches.
I get burned out on breakfast ideas all the time and love the chart for remembering a winning idea to get us fueled for our days.
To make lunch packing easier on everyone, I recommend doing most of the work the night before, prepping fruits and vegetables on the weekend, and ensuring all containers and supplies are easy for kids to reach.
We have lots of little containers, fabric sandwich wraps and bags to choose from so we don’t have to rely on single-use baggies or individual packets of snack foods.
We like to build do-it-yourself lunchables with crackers, sauce, cheese and meat for pizza or a tortilla with fillings to make a burrito.
Kids like to build their meal, and packaging your own version of this will save money as well as eliminate extra trash.
Working from the chart helps keep lunches nutritious and interesting for kids — and the parents who might be packing.
Before you know it, summer will arrive and we can go back to surviving on frozen grapes, goldfish crackers and cheese sticks.
Here’s our family’s lunch-making chart.
Customize yours with what you have on hand in your own home.
Making your own lunch, pick one item from each list.
Don’t forget your water bottle.
• Turkey, ham, tuna, cheese or salami sandwich
• Hummus and crackers
• Hard-cooked egg or egg salad sandwich
• Smoked salmon
• Crackers with cheese wedges
• Tuna and crackers
• Make-your-own burrito
• Make-your-own pizza
• Ham and cream cheese roll-ups
• Chicken noodle soup
• Nut butter with apple, celery or crackers
• Snap peas
• Tomato soup
• Cherry or grape tomatoes
• Bell pepper
• Peaches or pears
• Pineapple chunks
• Frozen berries
• Dried apple rings
• Snack bar
• Fruit leather or bits
• String cheese or wedge
• Yogurt or frozen yogurt pop
Carrie Sanford, who shares the Peninsula Kitchen column with Betsy Wharton, is a mother, wife, educator, artist, activist and cook.
She writes the newsletter for Salt Creek Farm in Joyce during the growing season and volunteers with nonprofits and schools in Port Angeles, where she lives with her husband, Tom Sanford, and their daughter, Abby.