How to Make Lunches for the Whole Family Without Going Insane

lunch for the whole family on 3 May 2017: fluffernutters with honeydew and veggies for the kids, peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches for the grownups

I actually don’t possess the secret for making lunches every week without going insane. Some days it seems impossible to balance work, kid activities, exercise, cooking, and errands/chores. Typically, my lunch-making strategy is to pack lunches while I’m cleaning up the kitchen after dinner. That way I’m not making a mess twice. I always have more energy for packing lunches early in the week—by Thursday night, I’m often a hopeless mess. But, miraculously, work gets done, the kids do their homework, dinner gets on the table, and the lunches do get made. I even occasionally get motivated to make decent lunches for the adults in the house.

kid lunch on 1 May 2017: chocolate chip brioche rolls, salami sticks, watermelon and colorful carrots
kid lunch on 1 May 2017: chocolate chip brioche rolls, salami sticks, watermelon and colorful carrots
lunch for the grownup on 1 May 2017: sandwiches made with leftover grilled pork, smoked turkey, cheese, and butter letter; roasted potatoes and watermelon salad
lunch for the grownups on 1 May 2017: sandwiches made with leftover grilled pork, smoked turkey, cheese, and butter letter; roasted potatoes and watermelon salad
lunch on 2 May 2017: fruit salad (watermelon, mango, strawberries, and apples), pancake muffins with jam and chocolate chips, and Goldfish trail mix
lunch on 2 May 2017: fruit salad (watermelon, mango, strawberries, and apples), pancake muffins with jam and chocolate chips, and Goldfish trail mix
lunch for the whole family on 3 May 2017: fluffernutters with honeydew and veggies for the kids, peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches for the grownups
lunch for the whole family on 3 May 2017: fluffernutters with honeydew and veggies for the kids, peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches for the grownups

It’s a heat wave, so it’s fruit for lunch.

lunch on 26 Sept 2016: grapes, cantaloupe slices, mini Nutella and jam sandwiches, and cheese sandwich crackers
lunch on 26 Sept 2016: grapes, cantaloupe slices, mini Nutella and jam sandwiches, and cheese sandwich crackers
lunch on 26 Sept 2016: grapes, cantaloupe slices, mini Nutella and jam sandwiches, and cheese sandwich crackers

It’s been really, really, really hot here on the Central Coast, and today might be the worst day yet. The kids typically don’t eat much for lunch on super hot days, so I try to pack lighter fare with lots of fruit. Today, I threw in some little grapes from the farmers market and some nice, cool slices of cantaloupe.

lunch on 23 Sept 2016: fruit salad with strawberry chia yogurt and peanut butter filled pretzels
lunch on 23 Sept 2016: fruit salad with strawberry chia yogurt and peanut butter filled pretzels

On Friday, I made a fruit salad with cantaloupe, grapes, and green plums. For sides, I included a yummy mix of chia seeds, strawberry jam and plain yogurt with some peanut butter filled pretzels. We’ll be powering through the week with more fruit and crunchy snacks from Trader Joe’s.

A Sweet Lunch to Kick Off a New School Year

Excited for the first day of school.

And just like that, summer vacation is over. This may have been the fastest summer vacation of all time. That being said, it was still a bit of a scramble to get everyone out the door on time this morning. Plus, yesterday Lily had her annual dance recital, which is always a day of complete insanity. AND, today is my sweet Lily’s 8th birthday! Craziness. I didn’t really plan in advance for a special birthday lunch. Instead, it was more like: “What’s in the cupboards? We’re out of bread? How about these two English muffins?”

lunch making essentials: peanut butter, raspberry jam and Nutella
lunch making essentials: peanut butter, raspberry jam and Nutella

The kids pretty much always get excited about a Nutella sandwich. Lily requested peanut butter, Nutella and raspberry jam. Iain just went with classic straight-up peanut butter and Nutella. Fruit salad is also a lunch favorite and this one is extra good with fresh pineapple, farmers market strawberries and raspberries, and chucks of cantaloupe.

lunch to kick of the school year: fruit salad, peanut butter and Nutella English muffin sandwiches, and carrot sticks
lunch to kick of the school year: fruit salad, peanut butter and Nutella English muffin sandwiches, and carrot sticks

Here are my cuties posing for a pre-school pic. They are so ready for third and sixth grade.

Excited for the first day of school.
Excited for the first day of school.

Are here they are after yesterday’s dance recital. Iain is ever the jokester. Of course he did sit in front of the three most annoying chatterboxes on earth and he didn’t spontaneously combust—so, I owe him one.

post-dance recital with a silly brother
post-dance recital with a silly brother

The Last Week of School Lunches

Last day of school: chocolate pudding with peanut butter-filled pretzels, kiwi, and white nectarine chunks

I don’t think it has quite sunk in yet that the 2015–16 school year is over. Craziness! The week started out well enough, but then poor little Lily was hit with a nasty stomach bug and actually missed the last two days of school. She was super bummed to miss the fun [completely non-academic] days, but at least she’s on the mend and can enjoy her first day of summer vacation.

As for lunches, we’ll be posting sporadically this summer, and I’ll be attempting to get the kids more involved in cooking. Expect updates on that to come. We’re off to a good start with Lily’s new found obsession with America’s Test Kitchen, the ultimate nerdy cooking show. I just love Christopher Kimball and his cute bowties!

Here are the last school lunches of the year:

lunch on 6 June 2016: three mini sandwiches on pretzel bread with fruit salad
lunch on 6 June 2016: three mini sandwiches on pretzel bread with fruit salad
sandwich tasting: pretzel bread with peanut butter and marshmallow fluff, strawberry jam with butter and Nutella
sandwich tasting: pretzel bread with peanut butter and marshmallow fluff, strawberry jam with butter and Nutella

We started the week with a sweet sandwich tasting: Nutella, jam and butter, and peanut butter and fluff on pretzel rolls. Yum! I also made a fruit salad out of fresh pineapple, apricots, yellow nectarines and super sweet white nectarines.

lunch on 7 June 2016: bagel with Nutella, peanut butter and marshmallow fluff, stone fruit, pineapple, kiwi and carrot
lunch on 7 June 2016: bagel with Nutella, peanut butter and marshmallow fluff, stone fruit, pineapple, kiwi and carrot

We kept with the fluffernutter theme on Tuesday, and I made Nutella, peanut butter and fluff bagels. It was a hot week, so the kids requested lots of fruit and I obliged with more stone fruit, pineapple, and a nice kiwi.

Wednesday was class party day, so no lunch was needed.

Last day of school: chocolate pudding with peanut butter-filled pretzels, kiwi, and white nectarine chunks
Last day of school: chocolate pudding with peanut butter-filled pretzels, kiwi, and white nectarine chunks

For the last day, I wanted to make a lunch that Iain would really love. I whipped up a batch of chocolate pudding (Jello instant, nothing fancy—made with organic whole milk) and served it with peanut butter-filled pretzels, kiwi, and white nectarines.

And, with that: Happy Summer!

The Last Week on the School Year

Well, it has finally arrived: the last week of the school year. I don’t think anything academic is happening this week. The kids can now taste summer vacation it’s so close. Iain claims that he is going to be in charge of lunch making over the summer. We’ll see how that goes!

In the meantime, I’m making fruit-filled lunches for hot days. Last Friday I was able to go to the kids’ end of year family picnic and walk-a-thon (in 90˚ heat!). I packed a nice picnic of cold chicken slices, edamame, carrots, crackers, apricots and watermelon slices—good fuel for the walk/run-a-thon.

walkathon_lunch

lunch on 2 June 2016: fruit salad with Goldfish trail mix and crispy rice rolls
lunch on 2 June 2016: fruit salad with Goldfish trail mix and crispy rice rolls
lunch on 1 June 2016: peanut butter, Nutella and jam sandwich with fruit salad
lunch on 1 June 2016: peanut butter, Nutella and jam sandwich with fruit salad

Counting the Days

fruit salad with Nutella and strawberry jam sandwich and tapioca pudding

The kids are now counting the days until the end of school. They’re so ready for this year to be over. They don’t even bother making suggestions for their lunches. “What do you feel like having for lunch tomorrow?” “Uh, I dunno.” “How about a sandwich?” “Uh, we’ve been having kind of a lot of sandwiches lately?” It’s come to this: the kids have lost interest in lunch. Three more weeks of school left: we’ll just have to power through.

yogurt with honey, chia seeds and strawberries, carrots, cherry tomatoes and applesauce
lunch on 19 May 2016: yogurt with honey, chia seeds and strawberries (Iain’s yogurt has peanut butter on top), carrots, cherry tomatoes and applesauce
cherries, grapes, applesauce, granola bar and tropical trail mix
lunch on 18 May 2016: cherries, grapes, applesauce, granola bar and tropical trail mix
pepperoni, cheese and crackers with fruit salad and applesauce
lunch on 17 May 2016: pepperoni, cheese and crackers with fruit salad and applesauce
fruit salad with Nutella and strawberry jam sandwich and tapioca pudding
lunch on 16 May 2016: fruit salad with Nutella and strawberry jam sandwich and tapioca pudding

“Do we have any prosciutto?”

mini sandwiches with butter, prosciutto and buckwheat sprouts
mini sandwiches with butter, prosciutto and buckwheat sprouts
mini sandwiches with butter, prosciutto and buckwheat sprouts

The danger of never giving your kids “kid food” and forcing them to eat “grownup food” could result in this scenario: “Hey, kids, what kind of sandwich do you want in your lunch tomorrow?” “Do we have any prosciutto?” Prosciutto?! I got bologna and Kraft singles when I was a kid. My little gourmands request fancy salumi and 1000 day gouda. I’ve only got myself to blame.

lunch on 9 May 2016: min sandwiches with prosciutto, butter and sprouts, fruit salad and tapioca pudding
lunch on 9 May 2016: min sandwiches with prosciutto, butter and sprouts, fruit salad and tapioca pudding

Stay tuned for next week’s lunches featuring capicola, fermented pickles and microgreens.

Mom’s vs. Kids’ Lunch

rice with kale, shredded pork, pineapple, coconut milk and Sriracha

I’ve been trying to fight a nasty cold that has been getting the better of me for the past four days. I pretty much never call in sick, especially not for a class of seniors preparing for a portfolio review this Saturday. However, I did use my misery as an excuse to skip out of my office hours today and to come home and prepare myself a proper lunch. You have to feed a cold, don’t you?

rice with kale, shredded pork, pineapple, coconut milk and Sriracha
rice with kale, shredded pork, pineapple, coconut milk and Sriracha

Luckily, I have a fridge full of leftovers from our Mother’s Day feast of Hawaiian-style tacos with pulled pork, coconut rice, and pineapple slaw. For my lunch, I sauteéd up a mess of kale, rice, pork and pineapple chunks in coconut milk combined with glorious pork roasting juices. I squeezed on a ton of Sriracha in a futile effort to open up my nasal passages.

lunch on 9 May 2016: strawberry jam and butter on bread, fruit salad and parmesan Goldfish
lunch on 9 May 2016: strawberry jam and butter on bread, fruit salad and parmesan Goldfish

The kids’ lunches were cobbled together in a hurry this morning: jam and butter on bread, a fruit salad with strawberries, pineapple and apricots, and a baggie of Goldfish.

 

Fruit Salad with Assorted Snacks

lunch on 22 Sept 2015: fruit salad with peanut butter filled pretzels, applesauce and carrots
lunch on 22 Sept 2015: fruit salad with peanut butter filled pretzels, applesauce and carrots
lunch on 22 Sept 2015: fruit salad with peanut butter filled pretzels, applesauce and carrots

Back by popular demand: another fruit salad lunch. Today’s fruit salad contains strawberries, white nectarines and golden kiwifruit. Iain helped pick out the sides: peanut butter filled pretzels from Trader Joe’s, applesauce, carrots and two mini peanut butter cups.

A Cool + Sweet Fruit Salad

lunch on 21 Sept 2015: fruit salad, quesadilla, fruit strip, and Goldfish
lunch on 21 Sept 2015: fruit salad, quesadilla, fruit strip, and Goldfish
lunch on 21 Sept 2015: fruit salad, quesadilla, fruit strip, and Goldfish

Our unending late summer heat wave continues, which makes lunches easy: the kids just want fruit salad. Today, it’s white nectarines with strawberries and orange chunks. On the side: Goldfish medley (Parmesan + cheddar), fruit strip (basically candy), and little quesadilla triangles.

Fruit Salad + Savory Masa Corn Cakes

lunch on 15 Sept 2015: fruit salad with quesadillas, carrots and Parmesan Goldfish
lunch on 15 Sept 2015: fruit salad with quesadillas, carrots and Parmesan Goldfish
lunch on 15 Sept 2015: fruit salad with quesadillas, carrots and Parmesan Goldfish

Yesterday’s lunch contained four of the kiddos’ favorite things: fruit salad, quesadillas, Parmesan Goldfish (definitely the finest flavor of Goldfish), and a marshmallow.

lunch on 16 Sept 2015: savory masa corn cakes with red bell pepper slices, carrots, and apples
lunch on 16 Sept 2015: savory masa corn cakes with red bell pepper slices, carrots, and apples

Today’s lunch was a leftover special: savory masa corn cakes with cheese and cilantro. I made the corn cakes to go with a big pot of black beans that cooked in the crock pot all day. Yum! For lunch, each kiddo got two corn cakes and sliced carrots, red peppers and apples. I found the recipe for the masa corn cakes on Food52 and I highly recommend that you make them as soon as possible. They come together quickly and are quite delicious.

The Heat Wave + Fruit-filled Lunches Return

lunch on 9 Sept 2015: apple slices filled with peanut butter and Nutella, fruit salad, Goldfish and carrots
lunch on 8 Sept 2015: fruit salad with pancake bites, carrots and sweet lipstick pepper slices
lunch on 8 Sept 2015: fruit salad with pancake bites, carrots and sweet lipstick pepper slices

We are having another heat wave here on the lovely and hot Central Coast of California. Once again, the kids have requested lots of fruit in their lunches. I think Iain would be perfectly satisfied to just eat fruit salad for three meals a day. Yesterday, I cut up some strawberries, watermelon and nectarines for Tuesday’s fruit salad. I had a few leftover strawberry and nectarine pancakes (I’m sensing a theme here) in the fridge, so I cut those up and put them in the lunch boxes. These days the kids are also enjoying lots of baby carrots and sweet red lipstick peppers from the farmers market.

lunch on 9 Sept 2015: apple slices filled with peanut butter and Nutella, fruit salad, Goldfish and carrots
lunch on 9 Sept 2015: apple slices filled with peanut butter and Nutella, fruit salad, Goldfish and carrots

For lunch today, I made one of my all time favorite snacks: Pink Lady apple slices filled with a little peanut butter and Nutella. Yum! I wrapped these little apple sandwiches in waxed paper since they can get a bit messy. Today’s fruit salad has strawberries, yellow nectarines, and white peaches.