Before my oldest child (now entering fifth grade) even started kindergarten, I bought into the Bento box phenomenon. Why? There’s little to no unwrapping, it reduces plastic waste, and the small compartments are just plain appealing to little eyes. Sometimes I even use the Bento trays at home to divide up lunch items easily for my toddler, giving her little portions of each food.
Fast forward several years, and I’ve tried multiple Bento boxes, packed hundreds of lunches as I now have three school-aged kids, and attempted to get my children to eat something reasonably healthy in what feels like a million ways. Packing lunch has just become my thing. I realize it’s not everyone’s thing, and that’s perfectly OK. But given my kids’ tastes and my own time and talents, me packing their lunches is what works for us most of the time.
Last year, though, realizing I now had to pack 15 lunchboxes a week, I felt a little tired of it all. Tired of the choices, mostly. With four kids and constant trips to the grocery store, I had plain old decision fatigue. Which is why I decided it was about time to simplify the lunchbox packing.
Enter: Lunchbox Rotation.
It’s a very simple idea and nothing special, but it worked for me, so I wanted to share it with you. All I did was take their favorite lunchbox fare and group it into five categories. Each day of the week was assigned a category, and boom, that’s one less decision I have to make each day.
Here’s what our rotation looked like last year, with the options I usually pick from for each category:
Monday: Chicken Nuggets
- I usually make these Allergy-Free Chicken Nuggets without the cayenne pepper. They freeze well and I pop them in frozen so they are defrosted at lunch.
- For other options, try Apple Chicken Nuggets, Chicken Teriyaki Meatballs, Chick-fil-A Copycat Nuggets, or even Aidells prepared chicken meatballs or cut-up chicken sausage.
- Pick one of the following for your sandwich: bread, bagel, mini bagels, English muffin, pita, sandwich thins, buns, tortillas.
- Make your sandwich into sushi rolls.
- Create kebabs of meat, cheese, bread, and a vegetable on mini skewers or toothpicks.
- Lunchable-style pizzas with pizza sauce, triangles of cooked dough or mini pitas, cheese, and meat
- Leftover pizza
- Pizza Rolls (these are my kids’ favorite, especially skipping the sauce and using bacon and Parmesan cheese)
- Pizza Balls
Thursday: Breakfast for Lunch
- This includes anything that could be breakfast food, such as muffins, quick bread, bacon or sausage, pancakes, waffles, French toast sticks, cereal, scones, breakfast casserole (in a thermos), popovers, etc. Usually I will do one grain-based item with a meat, plus yogurt and fruit with granola.
- A lunch that all four of my kids will happily eat, I simply make my own Lunchables by cutting up lunchmeat and sliced cheese and adding crackers. We use silicone muffin cups to divide the items. Mix it up by changing the meats, cheeses, and crackers, or throw in a variety!