Brown Bagging It

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The lazy days of summer are over. The kids are back at school and we parents are back to the daily grind— wake up, make breakfast, make lunch, go to work, make dinner, go to sleep, repeat. (That sounds more depressing than it really is!) It’s time to stock the fridge and cupboards and start the year right by bringing lunches to school and work (unless you’re planning on eating lunch at our sandwich shop, Cutty’s, of course). If you want your children to have a more varied diet, and you’re tired of the same old turkey and cheese on white bread, we’ve got some tips for you.

Plan Ahead

Don’t get stuck standing in front of the fridge with the door open staring, mouth agape, uninspired by everything inside. When making a shopping list, think of the week ahead and map out some lunches for yourself and the kids. A bagged lunch should not be an afterthought when you’re rushing out the door. Preparing and packing lunches the night before equals a peaceful (or slightly less hectic) morning.

Cook Once, Eat Twice (or More!)

If you’re cooking steak for dinner, cook an extra one. Cold steak is easy to slice thin and it makes an amazing sandwich. Roasting a chicken? Roast two. Use the second bird to make Vietnamese chicken salad for yourself and a burrito for the kiddos.

Presentation Matters

Let’s be honest: A lunch in a crumpled brown bag filled with plastic baggies and foil-wrapped sandwiches is not as appetizing as an adorable reusable lunch box or bag filled with small Mason jars or cute containers. Invest in a few small reusable containers, or even a bento box.

Have Tasty Things on Hand

Toasted nuts, caramelized onions, flavored mayos and pickled veggies turn a ho-hum salad or sandwich into a lunch you’ll look forward to all morning. Similarly, having a few special ingredients on hand, like a fancy jam or piece of artisanal cheese, can work wonders.

Keep It Simple

If you don’t have time to cook, don’t force it. A lunch of salami slices with cheese and crackers and a piece of fruit is simple and satisfying without any fuss. If your kids are anything like ours, they are constantly begging for one of those store-bought lunch combination kits. These are certainly easy enough to make on your own with cheese and deli meats (you just need the above-mentioned adorable containers).

This story appeared in the Fall 2016 issue.