When my family left Korea, we traveled with 6 suitcases, and the rest of our worldly possessions were packed up and put on a (very) slow boat back to the U.S. Six weeks later, we are living in a tiny little apartment with only the things we brought with us in those 6 suitcases and the random things we’ve purchased since we arrived in country. I miss my crafting supplies, my yarn stash, my sewing machine, MY PRINTER (because I had to buy Valentine’s Day cards for my boys’ class when I had some great ideas for making some myself!), and most of all, I miss my bento box making supplies!!
It’s not necessarily because I love making cute lunches more than any of my other crafting endeavors, but making the boys’ lunches is something that I do on a near-daily basis. Although I brought their bento boxes with us because I knew I would need to pack lunches for a few weeks before our household goods arrived, I didn’t pack all the cute accessories I’ve collected over the past year and a half of lunch-packing, so I’ve been missing out on dressing up their lunch boxes.
Since I don’t have any fun lunches to share lately (somehow, sandwiches packed in ziplock bags just don’t have the same appeal), here’s a round-up of the lunches I packed for my boys during the fall semester before we left Korea!
Can’t wait to get all my lunch-making supplies as well as move into our new house where I will have more than 12 square inches of counter space! 🙂
The month of September was a difficult one for my kids and me. Don’t get me wrong–my boys have been having a WONDERFUL time at kindergarten, and they’re thriving, but it was definitely a month of transitions and of mommy being stretched reeeeeeeally thin, at times. My husband was traveling for work for half the month, so I had to do everything alone. This wasn’t the first time he’s traveled for work, but it was the first time I was home with SCHOOL-AGED children. Getting kids ready for school, dropping them off, picking them up–all on a strict schedule–is exhausting. Really, really exhausting. And to top it all off, all 3 of my kids have been sick at some point during my husband’s 2 weeks out of town. Figures… :-p
Anyway, one way I’ve been able to squeeze in some creative crafting time during the past month while barely managing to keep my head above water is with my boys’ school lunches. Something productive (that has to be done) and something pretty in one!
So here’s my month’s worth of fun (and easy) school lunches with brief descriptions of how I made them:
Some helpful tips about making school lunches:
Make a weekly schedule. It takes a bit of time to put a weekly meal schedule together, but it ends up saving time in the long run. Plus, it alleviates the stress of “WHAT AM I GOING TO PACK FOR LUNCH!!!” the night before. Here’s a free printable for planning a week’s worth of meals.
There are many, many tools to make your life easier such as cookie cutters, cute bento-box animal picks, rice molds, and nori cutters. Living in Korea, I have easy and inexpensive access to many of these items, but they’re also available on Amazon. For “specialty” bento box tools such as the animal picks and nori cutters, just do a quick search.
Prep as much as you can the night before. I usually prep fruits and vegetables the night before and stick the containers in the fridge. That just leaves rice balls and/or sandwiches for the morning. Keep in mind that some foods don’t reheat very well (such as the rice balls) so those must be prepped the morning off. Nori must also be used immediately after cutting. The humidity in the room will cause it to curl (or dry out too much) if you wait too long after cutting it to use it. This is why nori-cutters are so useful!
Leftovers are your friend! During the week, I specifically make a couple of dinners with leftovers for lunch in mind. Also, serve breakfast for lunch. Kids won’t mind! One of the biggest challenges for me is thinking about lunch-appropriate meals, but who says they have to eat “lunch” at lunch time? Egg mari is a popular side dish in Korean cuisine, so I make it fairly regularly for my kids. It’s basically just a sliced up omelet. I also make bacon, egg, cheese and toast muffins, which are technically a breakfast food, but the kids love it. They’ll eat it for breakfast before they go to school, then eat it again for lunch the same day. 😉
For me, packing my kids’ lunches is something I enjoy doing. If you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it and don’t stress about not doing enough for your children! When I started posting photos of my kids’ lunches on Instagram, my friends began responding with things like “You’re making me feel like a crappy mom.” 🙁 First of all, my kids would be just as happy with a plain ham and cheese sandwich, a bag of chips and an apple EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. They don’t need or ask for variety. Secondly, by the time they open their lunch boxes at school, my cute little bento creations are a COMPLETE MESS. Their lunch box goes into their backpacks every morning. And every morning, they run down the stairs of our apartment building. They run from the car to their classroom. They may even fall down, roll down a hill, jump over puddles, do a few jumping jacks, or run an obstacle course on their way. I’ve joined them for lunch from time to time, and their bento boxes are utterly unrecognizable. So basically, their lunches are for photographic purposes only. 😉 I do, however, show the boys their lunches before I put their lunch boxes into their backpacks so it’s not a complete waste. Haha!