School lunch ideas - pb&j
Breakfast, Desserts, Food + Drink, Main Dishes, Parenting, Real Life, Review

Our School Lunch Routine: Packing Lunches

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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of The J.M. Smucker Company. The opinions and text are all mine.

Our school lunch routine is full of easy lunch ideas that are fun and that make fixing a school lunch a breeze and something my kiddo actually looks forward to!

School lunch ideas - pb&j

Our School Lunch Routine

I will always remember the nostalgia feels of taking a Jif® Peanut Butter and Smucker’s® Strawberry Jam sandwich in my lunchbox as a kid. So, as a mom, as we parents tend to do… I love sharing parts of my childhood with my own kids, and these brands are now a part of my kiddo’s childhood! Besides, those brands are just better together, aren’t they?

Jif and Smuckers peanut butter and jelly sandwich - how to make one

When my oldest started kindergarten last year, there was a whole new “normal” to get used to with packing lunches, having to be somewhere on time and so many more new norms.

My son tends to be a picky eater, although I’m lucky that he’s picky in a “good” way; he’ll eat foods that a lot of other kids won’t even look at.

Put green beans and french fries in front of him, and he’ll choose the green beans any day! 

But if you ask him what his favorite thing to eat is… he’ll choose a pb&j, all the way. He’s totally my child.

Peanut Butter and Jelly on Rotation

So as you can imagine, as a busy mom and with it being one of his favorites, there are peanut butter and jelly sandwiches showing up in his lunch box during the school year, OFTEN. I keep it easy and stick to the best, by picking up Jif Peanut Butter and Smucker’s Strawberry Jam at Walmart and have it rotating on my grocery shopping list.

How to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich - Use a spoon

Most days I’ll make him the nostalgic pb&j, but some days I’ll surprise him with a little extra, and add fun toppings to his sandwich.

How to make a pb&j the right way!

Marshmallow PB&J

His favorite pb&j creation (and mine too)? Adding marshmallows to his sandwich! It’s a fun addition to an already delish sandwich, and it totally “makes” his day, come lunchtime at school.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich with Marshmallows

Simply make a peanut butter and jelly (don’t forget to use the back of a spoon so it doesn’t rip the bread) and toss on a few marshmallows! Don’t forget to throw in a few extra just for the heck of it! 

School lunch sandwich ideas

“Side Dishes” for School Lunch

After I’ve packed his “main dish” (which is usually a sandwich, protein or bigger food item), I fill his lunch box with “sides” or “extras.”

Things like veggies, string cheese, crackers, fruit, yogurt, and nuts are usually my go-to’s for this. To save on bags, I typically try and pack as many of these items together in one small baggie.

Lunch Box Hacks + Tricks

There are a few things that I do to help streamline packing a lunch, or to make things easy for both of us. Here are my favorites.

Getting in the Habit

Once he gets home from school, my son knows that the first thing he is to do is clean out his backpack and put the ice pack in the freezer so it’s ready for the morning.

I’ve really noticed by keeping this routine, it helps us both out. He knows what he’s supposed to do, and no one is left guessing where things are, causing unnecessary chaos the next morning.

Forget the Ice Pack. On Purpose.

I was really worried at the start of my son’s kindergarten year, that he wouldn’t realize that he needed to bring the ice pack back home with him every day and toss it in the trash at lunchtime instead. He actually did really well, but I did find that he absolutely loved when I traded out the ice pack for frozen items that he could eat/drink instead! For instance doing things like:

  • Freezing the yogurt that comes in the plastic, squeezable pouches
  • Frozen fruit like blueberries, strawberries, cantaloupe, grapes
  • Bottle of water – heads up, if your little one has an early lunch, the water may not thaw enough by lunchtime, and he/she may not be able to drink most of it! I also open the bottle and close it back, so it’s not too difficult for him to open.

These are great ways to keep things cold in his lunch, and leaves him with a much lighter lunch box to carry around at the end of the day, rather than a heavy, ice pack filled, lunch box.

Paper Sack Friday’s

Brown Paper Sack Lunch

Speaking of a lighter lunch box. On Fridays, I get in to the habit of sending him with just a brown paper sack lunch. Now, he adores his cartoon-themed lunch box that we bought for him, so we do this all week, but switch things up on Fridays. He adores being able to toss the entire “lunch box” into the trash, and not have any responsibility of hanging on to something for the remainder of the day.

I’ve found that it’s a win-win for me too because on Fridays, my little guy is exhausted from the busy week, so the less he’s having to remember…the better!

“Cool Mom”… Not Really

You probably wouldn’t believe how often I hear

“Mom, my friends don’t have to eat vegetables at lunch; why do I?”

But no matter how often I hear it, I still send some type of veggie in his lunch box. Raw veggies are easy to pack and something he can munch on quickly, leaving me feeling better about what he’s eating away from home. I like to send:

  • Carrot sticks
  • Celery
  • Broccoli

And if you’re finding yourself struggling with getting your kids to actually eat them, wait until I tell you what I do about this, below when it comes to dessert.

Redeeming my Cool Mom Points

Although I’m not on my game every day, I DO love sending him surprise notes in his lunch box at least a few times a week. He’s just starting to learn to read, so I have to keep them short and sweet, but he said he loves it when I send a message along with his lunch, ESPECIALLY when I draw something on them.

Now, I did have to learn to reel back my sappy love notes, because they embarrassed him. So instead of “I love you’s” and “you’re so cute” messages, I gravitated towards messages more like:

  • You’re super!
  • We’re going to the park after school!
  • Thank you for being a great guy!

School Lunch Box Note

Dessert? Possibly.

My son looks forward to his dessert or sweet treat in his lunch box each day. However, it’s not an automatic item that just appears in his lunch box. He knows that if he doesn’t eat the veggies that I pack for him each day, he won’t have dessert or a sweet treat in his lunch box the next.

I get it, you’re thinking

“Jessica, you’re telling me that you don’t believe your kiddo is throwing his veggies in the trash at school and just telling you he’s eating it?”

Well, my oldest can’t lie to save his life. I can tell from a mile away if he’s stretching the truth, and he really is the best about admitting the truth, even when he knows the outcome that may come with it. So at this stage in his early life, this dessert trick is working for me.

Now my youngest? Well, we won’t be able to implement this little trick with him. He’s a whole different story, and I’ll have to come up with all sorts of trickery when it comes to his veggies in his lunch box next year.

What are YOUR Lunch Box Packing Tips?

With my oldest only going into first grade, I have a lot of lunch box packing years ahead. So send your ideas and tricks to me! I’d love to learn more!

Don’t forget to add Jif Peanut Butter and Smucker’s Strawberry Jam to your Walmart store list, to be ready for school lunches this year! They can be your go-to brands for back to school season!

PB&J with marshmallows a fun school lunch idea

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