Saturday, December 28, 2019

Adventures in Parenting: Toddler Meal Prep.

Earlier this year, Lil' Man's daycare noted that they were going to be discontinuing serving meals in 2020.  We were a little frustrated in the moment, but eventually got on board--the director noted that it was the only way they could afford to give their teachers competitive wage increases to go along with state minimum wage increases without raising tuition.  And honestly, they're great teachers who deserve to be paid well, and the tuition cost is already competitive or lower than most of the other schools in the area.  So, we can deal with learning to pack lunches.

I got pretty good at family meal planning within the last year, and after talking with one of the moms in my church group (a single mom of two), realized that streamlining would be the best way to go.  Make a schedule and stick with it.

Can I just say...whoever out there who is in charge of coming up with a monthly menu for schools and daycares... y'all are rockstars.  This is NOT easy.  You want them to have variety, but also give them things they'll eat readily without prodding in a limited lunch period.  You want it to be balanced and hit the food groups, but not end up with food waste.  You want quick & convenient options, but not too processed.  

Then there's also the challenge of finding things they'll eat cold, when they've gotten used to hot lunches every day, without defaulting to a PB&J every day (even though it's REALLY tempting). I spent a bunch of time searching for things like "sneaking veggies into foods" and taking pics of pre-packaged foods at the store so I could compare prices.

Anyway, we came up with a plan.  We have yet to IMPLEMENT the plan, since it doesn't start until January 2, 2020, but I'll try to remember to follow up in a month or so and report back in as to whether it was a failure or success.

First, we made a list of things we know he'll eat, divided up by proteins, veggies, and fruits.  Fruits are no problem in our house, but he'll only eat 2 raw veggies:  carrots and broccoli.  Both ONLY with some sort of dip.  

Then, we came up with a schedule (the school will provide snacks for $1.50/day, but we have SO much snack stuff at home right now):
This might shift a bit over time, and depending on what things come home with him at the end of the day, but it's a starting point.

Next:  Lil' Man needs a lunchbox.  Thankfully, his Nana hooked him up for Christmas with this awesome dino box from Bentology.

Nana also loaded him down at Christmas with a poop-load of gummi snacks, rice krispy treats, crackers, and pouches...because she's a Nana, and that's her job. :)

Which is awesome...but it also means we have to find a place for it all in our tiny pantry and get organized.  So I guess it's a good thing the Hubs picked up a bunch of these plastic baskets at Menards over Black Friday (free after online rebate).  
We also picked up these plastic containers at Wal-Mart (Black Friday deal), which fit in his lunch box and also work for meal-prepping for myself and The Hubs' lunches as well.
I've been trying to lean toward Mediterranean diet-type options...more successful some days than others.
So we'll see how it goes. If you have any tips to share, please leave them in the comments!

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