School's back - Let the lunching packing begin!

Packing school lunches is the favourite pastime of all parents...NOT. For newbies to the task of lunch packing, you'll realize in a few weeks why lunch packing is about as far from fun and games as you can get. Here's some advice I've gathered from lunch packing veterans that will help all lunch packers keep calm and carry on with packing food throughout the school year.

 The #1 piece of advice is involve kids in packing lunches starting the first time they bring a lunch bag to school. Little ones can put sandwiches in a container, wash fruit, add a spoon and put lids on containers. Older kids can do all that plus prep veggies, make sandwiches, wrap muffins,fill water bottles. Kids of all ages can make suggestions for what to pack (keep a list handy so ideas can be added) and empty and clean their lunch bags at the end of the day.

Keep lunch packing items - containers, utensils, water bottles -  all in one spot. This will save time rummaging through drawers to find container lids that match bottoms and hunting down a clean water bottle.

Make lunches the night before (except for hot items that go in a thermos of course). Mornings are hectic enough trying to get breakfast into everyone and out the door in time for school and work. Line up lunch bags on the table or counter at night so they're ready for kids to pack in the morning.

Keep the fridge, freezer and cupboard stocked with items for making lunches. For example, wraps, pitas, buns, muffins in the freezer; crackers, granola bars, canned fruit, tuna and salmon in the cupboard; veggie sticks, yogurt, cheese and fruit in the fridge.

Maintain a folder of ideas for packed lunches. There are many sites on the web, tips in magazines and from your friends. This will be handy when you and your kids are looking for new ideas for what to put in the lunch bag.

Quesadillas are one of our go-to lunch ideas when we're tired of sandwiches. What I usually do is plan to have quesadillas for dinner one night and I make extra to pack for lunch in the next day or two. They can also be frozen to have on hand for making a quick lunch later in the month.

Oven-baked Quesadillas

What you need:
Whole grain tortillas
Cheese- grated cheddar or mozzarella or any grated hard cheese you like and/or crumbled feta cheese
Add-ins: - anything you like in a quesadilla. Our favourites are black beans, roasted veggies, chopped tomato and spinach.

What you do: 
Assemble all the items.

Let everyone put their favourite toppings on one half of each tortilla. Start with the cheese then layer the rest of the items. Some people in our family just like a plain old cheese quesadilla.

Fold the undressed side of the tortilla over the side with the fillings. Press down lightly to 'glue' the filling and tortilla together. Put quesadillas on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 F for about 10 min or until lightly browned then flip and bake for 8-10 min longer.

The baked quesadillas will look like this when they're done.

Once cooked, set aside the ones for lunches and let cool on a rack. Cut into wedges and pack in lunch containers. Pack veggies with dip and a piece of fruit and lunch is ready to go.

Happy lunch packing. Please share your ideas for packed lunches. We can all use the help!!

                                                                                                                                             Michele, RD