For a lot of us, the beginning of the school year feels an awful lot like January. It’s a time when we vow that this is going to be the year when we get it right: mud rooms will stay neat and organized, homework will be completed with zero drama, and we’ll send the kids to school with homemade lunches that look like they jumped straight out of Instagram.
You know those lunches: Bento boxes, sandwiches with museum-worthy smiley faces, and mini fruit kabobs that look like someone’s engineering thesis.
Like sea turtles beginning their treacherous journey from the safety of the dunes to the crashing waves, some of us will make it. We’ll BE those super together, every-hair-in-place, ultra-organized wearers of clothing not intended exclusively for sleep.
And then there are the rest of us.
The ones whose houses will stay neat a good three weeks before we accept ourselves for who we really are: sleep-deprived moms doing the best we can and trying to carve out a little time for ourselves without the wheels falling off.
This isn’t to say we shouldn’t all do our best to help our kids have a great school year. But we should also cut ourselves a couple of giant breaks.
Just think of cutting yourself breaks like the giant slabs of cheese we eat to cope with everything we’re trying to manage. (Wait. That’s just me? OK, carry on.)
Seriously, you don’t need to pull an all-nighter to craft a lunch worthy of the ‘gram.
Here are 6 tips to get you from week 4 through week 36:
1. Tom Sawyer that ish.
You’ve been a parent long enough to have a kid who brings lunch to school. You are very, very good at making dreadfully boring things sound like an adventure. “Now let’s all put on our imaginary chef’s hats and start putting these Cheddar Bunnies into reusable snack bags!”
2. Write a message on a banana.
No, seriously. This is a genius hack. Use a sharp object to carve a message or a smiley face or something cute into the side of a banana. When lunchtime rolls around, oxidation will have turned your art a lovely shade of brown and your child will be delighted. It’s science. This one is so absurdly easy that it’s almost unfair how much it levels you up on the parenting scale.
3. Colors are good.
You know why those Insta-worthy Bento boxes look so appealing? At least part of it is the colors. Tomatoes! Peppers! Hard-boiled eggs! Grapes! Carrots! So bright and cheery. If you’re looking for a cute and colorful treat that’s organic and made without all the scary synthetic colors and ingredients… Annie’s Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks to the rescue!
4. Think of Future You TODAY.
We tend to give a lot more credit to our future selves than we should. It’s almost like our present self and our future self are two different people. For example, Tomorrow Me is definitely starting a 6 a.m. fitness regimen. Tomorrow Me also has huge plans for make-ahead dinners that she’s going to write down. Here’s a tip: Do something for Future You right now. Freeze a ton of PB&J sandwiches. They stay fresh for 6 weeks, and they’re basically a supplemental ice pack. The you who’s completely OVER IT in October will be so grateful. And honestly? She deserves a break.
5. Use cupcake liners.
Honestly no idea why, but these seem to make everyone happy. Got a rectangular container? Got some cupcake liners? Welp, now you’ve got a Bento box. This is an expert-level hack if you have little ones who don’t like their food to touch and you can make it extra cute by adding a handful of delicious Annie’s Organic Bunny Grahams. So good, you might even steal a few for yourself.
6. Make enough for leftovers. IF you can handle it.
Packing some of last night’s dinner in a warmed up container is pretty sweet. Especially once fall arrives, kids really love having a warm, comforting lunch. Things like soup, Annie’s new yummier than ever Classic Cheddar Mac & Cheese, and pasta with marinara travel well and can usually be counted on to be a hit.
WARNING: Do not attempt this if you can’t trust yourself. Sometimes a late-night reality TV binge causes that leftover mac to call your name.
Here’s the thing: Even though we don’t keep all our New Year’s resolutions, the intentions are always good. You pack those perfect back-to-school lunches because you want to put as much love and care into that lunchbox as you possibly can. But you’re doing a lot already. Don’t put extra pressure on yourself when there are so many ways to get it right.
Thanks to Annie’s for making deliciously cheesy Cheddar Bunnies, Organic Bunny Grahams, Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks, and more. These snacks are more than just food. They’re perfectly portable snack saviors, lunch heroes, and life hacks that keep carpools calm and hungry bellies happy. Annie’s. More Than Just Food.