Sunday Meal Planning: Back to the Lunch Grind
I start every school year thinking this will be the year I win my kids over with the homemade lunches. And every year, I end up giving in to the siren song of the cafeteria (last year, it was the second week of school, when Truman came home with a bill -- he'd been getting both a cafeteria tray and his lunchbox every day). Certainly, I've loved being here in Portland, where school food is undergoing a serious revolution, and, most days, the children will have ingredients from local farms on the menu.
However, as the photo above (taken at a field trip near the end of school last year, so we've got to give them some slack for brown bagging necessities) indicates, there's a lot of room for unhealthy choices. As hard as I try at home to steer my children clear of refined sugar, preservatives, processed flours and other highly-processed foods: if Truman has a choice, it's chocolate milk every day, and, judging from this small window on school food, no one eats the good stuff like grapes.
So I'm trying to get it right this year.
Even though I don't have an office job like many of you -- making this sort of juggling far more keenly necessary -- I've found that cooking big quantities of foods I can, later, send in lunches is one path to a calmer school week. One hot weather-friendly recent find was a whole salmon I bought, grilled, and then made into salmon salad sandwiches for Monroe (who eats just about anything between two slices of bread) and salmon chunks for Truman; we stretched the $25 fish into a whole week's meals. I've also agreed with Truman to roast a chicken one night; shredded chicken in lunches; chicken tacos for dinner the next day; chicken noodle soup or chicken chef's salad for me and the rest of the family.
So on a Sunday (or, this holiday week, a Monday), I'll cook a few things in preparation for the coming week. I spread old jars of honey-sweetened jam on a cookie sheet (with coconut oil to prevent sticking) and dry it in a very low oven for fruit leather; I'll make granola once every other weekend, that can turn into breakfast for me and the boys and lunch for Truman (a container of granola, one of maple-sweetened yogurt, another of raisins); I'll make "healthy" peanut butter cookies, lightly sweetened and with only whole grains, for treats and rushed-morning snacks. (Yes! We eat cookies for breakfast around here.)
I'd love to hear what you all cook ahead for the week's lunches, especially in these next few weeks when it's generally going to be too hot for chicken roasting and other winter favorites. And, as the kids go to school over the next few days, tell us: what do they love?