But unless you’re a culinary professional who plans menus for a living, you’re going to find it difficult to plan, stock and prepare creative lunches day after day. In truth, you are running a mini-restaurant out of your home. You’re assembling lunch specials du jour that are portable, nutritionally balanced and often allergen-free. On top of everything, your little patrons are picky!
So how does a professional chef do it? Her secret is some natural creativity, backed by a ton of advance planning and diligent organization. She uses spreadsheets, calendars, costing tools, supplier lists, allergy charts and more to organize and crank out great meals every day.
The basics of food planning are no different for home cooks. If you don’t want to thrust repeated bologna sandwiches on your kids, follow these simple food-planning tips for tasty, creative lunches from September through to June and beyond:
Ask your kids what they’d like for lunch, and ask often. Use their input to create weekly menus of foods you know they won’t throw out or trade.
Use a Monday-to-Friday lunch plan template. Take 20 minutes each week to list everyone’s lunch, print it off, and stick it on the fridge. Now everyone can see their upcoming menu, and you have a checklist when packing the night before. Click here to use our free downloadable lunch plan template for a family of four.
Take stock of what’s in your pantry, and make note of what’s running low. Make a list of essentials your family goes through quickly, and considering doubling-up on these items come grocery day so you’re not stuck without.
Use the Internet for research and development. There are a ton of kid-friendly lunch recipes, meal ideas and creative packaging tips out there for picky kids (and adults).
Invest in quality, portable lunch containers. Your best-laid plans can go to waste if the veggie dip leaks all over everything. There are some amazing modern lunch boxes out there that keep everything contained and contaminant-free.
Make it a habit to incorporate menu planning into your week, and your portable lunch café will be a raging success. Those pint-sized patrons of yours will be happier than ever!