White Pepper & Parmesan Crackers :: Simple Bites #recipe

29 New Lunchbox Ideas

If the current weather is trying to get us in the mood for heading back to school, it’s working.

Yesterday morning felt like a brisk autumn day; I sent the boys outdoors with hoodies and socks, in addition to their usual attire, and they returned a short while later to request hot cocoa. It feels as though summer has been even more fleeting than usual, leaving me wishing for one more weekend to barbecue and enough heat to turn my green tomatoes to red.

Maybe a few more hot days are to come, maybe not, but instead of grasping at summer like I usually do, I’ve decided to look ahead to fall – the return to books and the inevitable school lunch.

If I have a lunchbox plan down on paper – a handful of ideas, a shopping lists, new items to try and old items to reintroduce – I’m good. Then I can take it morning-by-morning, a week at a time. This post is just as much for me as it is for you; I tend to forget what is in the archives and how much we enjoyed certain recipes.

So let’s take a look at some new ideas for school lunches together and get ready to make a plan, because, ready or not, that first day of school is coming up soon.

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Tuna Cheddar Lunchbox Bites | Simple Bites #schoollunch #recipe #glutenfree

Feed a child, nourish a mind (Recipe: Tuna Cheddar Lunchbox Bites)

When my children first started school, I learned a vital lesson in nutrition, communication, and well, Mothering 101.

Here’s what happened: occasionally the boys would come home irritable; falling apart at the slightest grievance, snappy, and unable to focus. I’d power through those tough afternoons, admittedly breathing a sigh of relief when they were down for the night. As part of the evening kitchen clean-up, I’d tidy up their lunch boxes; often so tired or distracted that I hardly noticed what was left over.

Eventually, I connected the dots. On the difficult days, there was considerable leftover food in their lunch. Perhaps they had wasted time during their lunch hour or disliked what I had packed for them, but whatever the reason, their energy hadn’t been sustained for the whole day. It was a humbling moment for me as a mother. Of course. I had blood sugar crashes, so why wouldn’t they?

We started talking more about their preferences (how fortunate we are to have options). I encouraged them to help me prepare their lunch boxes in the morning and they had more of a say in fruits and vegetables. We baked together on weekends: chocolate chunk cookies, oatmeal muffins, and zucchini bread and froze the goodies for future lunches.

It broke my heart to think of them going hungry at school; I should have communicated better. Fortunately those crotchety after-school attitudes are now a thing of the past.

After that learning experience, I’ve had a heart for less privileged mothers who daily see the hunger signs in their own school children (oh, how they watch and ache) but are unable to provide even the most basic of lunch.

Today’s post is a little unusual, but it is one I am proud to share. In short,  I’ve partnered with a group of food bloggers to help provide school lunches for South African children. It’s really exciting! I’m also sharing a recipe for an absolute favourite (and totally simple) lunchbox staple, so please keep reading.

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Homemade lunchbox chicken nuggets on simplebites.net #schoollunch

How to make homemade lunchbox chicken nuggets

I first noticed Noah’s affinity for chicken nuggets on our summer road trip. We ate out more on that vacation that we have all year and he never failed to peruse the menu for this rarity in our family diet.

(Side note, why did no one warn me about the risks of taking a new reader to a restaurant? Suddenly, they are acutely aware of menu options. Milkshakes! Sundaes! Side of fries! And where did this sense of entitlement come from? It must be an eight-year-old thing. But I digress.)

I have no clue where his affections formed for this item (they don’t fit into our whole foods diet) , but Noah maintained a steady request for chicken nuggets at any diner, cafe or restaurant that listed them on the menu. I, true to form, stood my ground and played the “while we’re on the coast we’re going to enjoy the good seafood” card, and he had to be content with fish and chips. Oh gee, the hardship of enduring fresh-caught halibut and haddock. Actually, the boys both love fish, and, nugget notions aside, they were easy to please most evenings.

Homemade lunchbox chicken nuggets n simplebites.net #schoollunch

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Homemade Fruit Snacks

How to make homemade chewy fruit snacks

Yesterday my son walked through the doors of his elementary school for the first time. The milestone was bittersweet, of course. He had been going to daycare since he was three months old, but this was different. This was real.

Now that we have a baby in the house, it’s been startling to look at my firstborn. To see how his baby fat is melting away. To see how big his feet are getting as we buy yet another pair of shoes, the ones that take him into that big, unfamiliar school full of strangers.

My son inherited many of my traits, including my sensitivity. Kindergarten was a fraught-filled time for me, and while my son has more experience navigating the social world of children than I had, I want to do what I can to remind him that no matter what is going on during the day, he is loved.

One of the ways I express love is through food, and I thought his entry into elementary school would be the perfect time to expand my homemade snack repertoire. I’m trying to keep his packed lunches as healthy as possible, but we all deserve a treat now and then. These homemade fruit snacks fit both orders.

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Attune back-to-school e-book

A free Back-to-School lunch e-book

Since we’ve been back from our road trip, I’ve cast off the lazy days of summer mindset and am hitting the ground running every morning. I’ve been unprepared for the start of school before and don’t care to go down that painfully bumpy road again.

Our  lists of school supplies have been crossed off and the new items zipped into new backpacks. We’ve spent a few afternoons cooking and tucked away some quick dinners in the freezer.  We have a menu plan and the laundry pile is even down to zero. I know.

All that is left to do is to get organized for back-to-school lunches. Fortunately, I’ve got back up for that.

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