It seems spring and summer activities are leading to more make ahead meals to pack and go in our family. Lately I’ve kept my lunch tote in the kitchen as we unpack from one meal and activity and repack for the next. The weekends of swim meets and outdoor festivals along with midweek baseball games is having me get more creative. It’s also been kind of fun and easy as long as I plan ahead. It helps me to think outside the box or traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner and merge them together too. Here’s a few things that have been working for easy prep and healthy meals to avoid the snack shacks and take out menus.
1. Sandwiches and Wraps
Simple to make a customize. Having some simple ingredients on hand means everyone’s tastes are met. My family thinks sandwiches are more special if on some type of roll or baguette. My vegetarian daughter is always happy with a caprese – tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil. While my son is a turkey, cheese and pesto kind of guy. My husband eats anything without cheese and I’m pleased with whatever. This has also become a fun way for the kids to make their own sandwich and we pack them all together. Putting out an array of bread options, condiments, spreads, cheeses and meats makes it easy for assembly.
2. Pasta Salad
At my daughter’s swim meets they sell a pretty good pesto pasta. But for a single $5 serving, I can feed my whole family the same thing. Not to mention that the meets often sells out of food before we’re hungry. I was inspired and I’ve been making pesto as well as other cold pasta salads with a variety of pasta shapes, veggies, cheese and olives. I pack the pasta in the kids’ lunchbox thermos’ and in reususable containers that we can eat out of, and only require me to bring forks. This also cuts down on trips to the snack stand where kids are tempted by other not so healthy offerings such as candy and chips.
3. Fruit and Fruit Salad
Who doesn’t like cold fruit on a hot day? We were particularly happy to have slices of watermelon while at an outdoor play last weekend. And this time of year there is so much to choose from: grapes, cherries, berries, nectarines, plums, etc.
4. Veggies and Hummus
If you have time slice carrots, jicama, celery, and cucumber for quick healthy snacks to go. If you’re short on time just buy some baby carrots, snap peas and cherry tomatoes and throw them in a container with a prepared hummus or ranch dressing on the side for dipping. Again only napkins necessary.
4. Food on a stick
Food is always better on a stick. Think shish kebobs and fruit sticks. I’ve been putting a variety of items on a stick to rave reviews at my house. Even left-overs. How about a chicken sausage, tomato, cheese and tortellini stick. Or a vegetarian stick of veggies, cheese and olives. The options are dizzying. Pack a sauce like pesto (yes, we do eat a lot of it), marinara and hummus and it’s good dipping too.
5. Pancakes and Waffles
If you’re making these on the weekend for breakfast, remember to make a double batch to have on hand for on-the-go meals. A pancake sandwich layered with nut butter makes a simple, yummy meal. Filling waffle wholes with nut butter, dried fruit and trail mix makes people healthy and happy too.
6. Treats and Dessert
I always know there will be some kind of sweets at sports events and activities. I am very proud that my kids do not whine for churros, donuts and cotton candy. That is because I plan and make ahead. I always bring a homemade sweet that my kids (and usually their friends’) like, such as cookies, muffins, or kettle corn. When I don’t have time to make something I offer a better option (higher quality, healthier) after. For instance we skipped the chemical laden ice cream at the carnival and went to our favorite gelato shop after the rides and games.
7. Drinks Too
Bringing your own water and low sugar drinks also cuts down on the purchase of sugary soft drinks and chemical laden sports drinks.
Don’t forget to keep it cool. Having ice packs ready in the freezer is helpful to keep foods safe and fresh. As is a few small bags of ice. (I’ve found these also work well for baseball game injuries.)