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It’s only the second week of August and in Texas it’s time to gear up for the school year. Like for real. Our kids go back to school Thursday. After the looser schedules and freewheeling of the summer, personally I’m ready for a return to structure. It’s not necessarily better, it’s just different and frankly I think my kids are ready for it too. They just may not know it yet. Here are some of the things we’re doing to get ready for the year, some easy meal ideas and lessons learned from past years.

Packing essentials.

  • Frozen lunch boxes to help things stay cold. We love these from PackIt, which are easy to pack, clean and freeze daily.
  • Good insulated water bottles like these or these.
  • Divided, leak proof meal containers for every day. For myself, I like glass, but for the kids and sake of lighter backpacks, we go with plastic, knowing they won’t be reheated. I also like that the divided sections in these are removable, so you have some flexibility in what you pack.
  • Insulated containers to send warm food to help mix things up.

Prepping for solid lunches and snacks.

  • Focus on the rule of twos. Two breakfast choices, two lunches and two snack options to rotate each week.
  • I made a list of what I consider to be fine lunches and snack options for the kids to choose from on a weekly basis.  They have the menu of options, so they can each pick something before I grocery shop on the weekend.
  • Lunches all have a vegetable and protein and I may add a piece of fruit to them. The very simplest version of this is a salad with chicken, fruit and salad dressing or a sandwich wrap with deli turkey, lettuce, hummus and berries. Sometimes simple wins!
  • Want to see our full menu of ideas? Drop me us an email at, and we’ll send it straight to your inbox.

Simple snack ideas that are almost zero prep.

  • Fresh fruit and nut butter (be sure it’s no sugar added)
  • Baby carrots and single serve hummus
  • Edamame
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Greek yogurt
  • Fresh fruit
  • Kid-sized or full-sized protein bars, such as the ones from RxBar and Perfect Bar (be careful of granola bars, they are a lot more like cookies than healthy. If they are high in added sugar and less than 2g of protein skip them).
  • Hardboiled eggs
  • Trail mix
  • String cheese
  • Skinny Pop

Lessons learned.

Let’s just say these are lessons our family learned the hard way, so sharing based on those experiences verses any master plan.

  • Turn off the school lunch accounts as many schools will allow kids to buy things on credit and you’ll get the bill later. If you don’t want them eating chips and ice cream, make sure the account is firmly inaccessible.
  • Your kids are old enough to help or be completely responsible for their lunches. Help them by having the right tools and food in the house to pack and actually make sure they do it as it is a job, not an option, but it doesn’t have to be yet another thing on your personal to do list. If they are in early elementary school, maybe they just have to prep their water bottle, but if  they are in middle school or up they should be doing it all themselves. It’s a life skill you’re teaching them, not just work distribution.
  • We are prep on the weekend and pack the morning before heading to school people, but the girls also don’t have to leave the house until 7:40 p.m.  If your mornings are crazy and breakfast is already a struggle, pack the night before or two days at a time to make sure you have lunches ready and don’t have to fall back on school lunches.
  • Finally designate a place in the fridge for what’s reserved for school lunches or label them, so that your school food doesn’t get consumed by others out of convenience leaving you stranded mid-week. That is not cool.

Have some of your own tips and tricks to share? We’d love to hear about them in the comments.

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