What are you having for lunch today?
Between planning classes, grading assignments, and taking care of your own family, finding the time to pack yourself a nutritious and delicious lunch can sometimes take a back seat, leaving you to grab a few things on your way out the door or order out. The good news is that with a little planning and innovation (and minimal time), building your lunch box can be almost as fun as eating it.
Following these ideas to build a better lunchbox will help you save you time, money, and help you practice self-care by giving you the energy you need to face the second part of your day. We hope you enjoy these ideas!
Tips for Building a Better Lunchbox
Choose Ingredients That Will Last
Nobody wants to eat a soggy sandwich or wilted spinach for lunch. Learning which ingredients will last until your lunch period can make all the difference. For example, heartier greens like kale and arugula are best for packing a salad while cherry tomatoes are longer lasting than regular tomatoes. Keeping ingredients like avocado, dressing, and croutons in separate containers will help ensure they stay fresh until you’re ready to enjoy.
Take the Time to Plan
Avoid the stress of packing your lunch during the week by preparing your food in advance over the weekend. After you prep, you can store your ingredients in the fridge or freezer until it’s time to pack them. In addition to preparing individual ingredients and adding them together, we recommend creating easy meal items to freeze and pack as needed, including burritos, wraps, soups, and casseroles.
Find Ingredients You’re Excited About
Healthy lunches don’t need to be boring. Creating a lunch that you’re excited about eating makes it more likely that you’ll bring your lunch instead of eating out. Love peanut butter? Why not include peanut butter and crackers? Need something sweet? Pack a piece or two of dark chocolate. You get the idea!
The days of packing only a sandwich or a lonely salad for lunch are over! A diverse lunchbox is both more nutritious and more fun to eat. Try packing a flavorful pita sandwich with an apple, almonds, and yogurt on the side. Or create your own soup and salad combo. Incorporating condiments into your meals adds another layer of flavor and they can easily be stored at school so you don’t need to worry about leaving them behind.
Start a Lunch-Packing Club
If you trust your fellow teachers’ cooking skills and taste in food, consider starting a lunch-packing club. The idea is that each person is responsible for bringing lunch for the group one day per week (Woo, 2017). Not only does this help you switch up your meals, but it also makes the planning process much easier and breaks up the work.
Healthy Lunch Ideas
Now that you’ve got the basics down, it’s time to get creative! Here are some great lunch ideas that your wallet and body will love:
- Buy a rotisserie chicken and add it to salad or wraps throughout the week. This eliminates the need for cooking while providing you with a nutritious and delicious meal.
- Create your own bento box. In general, bento boxes are commonly made up of a carb, a main protein, and sides, such as vegetables and fruits (Chen, 2013). They’re easy to customize and the ingredients are simple and affordable.
- Break out the slow cooker. Slow cooker meals are great for people who prefer a set-it-and-forget-it style of cooking. Plus, it’s easy to create enough to get you through the week and there are a virtually infinite number of simple recipes available so you can switch it up as often as you’d like.
- Spice up your leftovers. Take your leftovers from the night before to the next level by adding condiments, fruits, veggies, or other new ingredients. Double your recipes to make sure you have extra on hand during the week.
- Make a stir-fry. Stir-frys are one of the easiest meals to cook and keep in the fridge or freezer. With lots of veggies and protein, they provide the energy you need to get through the school day. They’re also highly customizable so you can easily switch up ingredients if you get bored.
Making the effort to build a better lunchbox is a simple form of self-care that you can practice daily. Between growing young minds and all of the other responsibilities teachers have, it’s easy to forget how important it is to nourish yourself. Luckily, with a bit of planning and preparation, packing your lunch at home can be just as simple as grabbing it on the go.
Chen, Namiko. 2013. The Ultimate Guide to Bento Box Lunch. Just One Cookbook: Easy
Japanese Recipes. https://www.justonecookbook.com/how-to-make-bento/
Woo, Michelle. 2017. Start a Lunch-Packing Club with Other Parents to Spread Out the Labor.