Mom of Five and Momables.com Founder Shares Her Best Lunch Planning Tips
The start of a new school year is the perfect time to shakeup the usual lunchbox routine. We caught up with Laura Fuentes, author of The Best Homemade Kids’ Lunches on the Planet and CEO of MOMables.com, to find out how she fits meal planning into her busy life, her go-to lunchbox staples and what she makes and freezes ahead so the weekdays are easier. Fuentes will be sharing recipes from her book throughout the month so check back often for quick and simple lunch ideas using ingredients you likely already have in your pantry and refrigerator.
Edible: You have five kids and a thriving business. How do you fit lunchtime meal planning into your busy family life?
Laura Fuentes: Incorporating lunch planning into the general weekly meal plan is how I manage to make fresh meals daily. I typically make school lunches the day before, after dinner, when the kitchen is already a disaster. In the morning, we barely have time to have breakfast if we want to make it out the door on time. I wash and prep all my veggies when I get home from the store so they are ready to go in the morning.
Edible: What are you go-to healthy lunchbox foods, the ones you always have on hand for your kids?
Fuentes: I make a lot of crustless mini quiches, leftover bean soups, lots of fresh pre-cut veggies, and fresh washed fruits. Hummus, yogurt, and pre-made frozen smoothies are also always on hand.
Edible: My kids often complain about wanting more variety. What’s your best advice for keeping lunch interesting?
Fuentes: Don't be afraid to reinvent leftovers. If you just had taco night and have a little chicken or meat leftover, repurpose that into amazing grilled sandwiches or wraps for lunch. Taking basic ingredients for a spin is what makes lunchboxes interesting.
Edible: What are a couple of your go-to make-ahead and freeze staples?
Fuentes: I freeze crustless mini quiches, smoothies, breakfast sandwiches, burritos, and soups in single portions. This way, you can grab any of them and make lunch quickly. You can find many of my tips in my MOMables YouTube channel.
Edible: What do you make for dinner that your kids love for lunch the next day?
Fuentes: Anything pasta and chili. Although, now that I make food for 7 it's harder to have leftovers.
Edible: What are a couple of your favorite creative sandwich ideas?
Fuentes: I love filling sandwiches with hummus, pesto, and veggies and make a club sandwich. Eggs are also a terrific option. I like making pesto egg salad and stuffing a sandwich or a wrap with it. I just started making coconut butter and jelly sandwiches and they've been a huge hit as well.
Edible: Some studies have shown that home-packed lunches on average contain more sugar than school lunches. How do you keep the sugar content in check?
Fuentes: I only send water as a drink option and in the event my kids get a treat, it's usually a very small portion. I send one serving of fruit for lunch and check labels for added sugars. I rarely send yogurt to school but when I do, my kids have gotten used to plain yogurt with unsweetened homemade berry jelly.
Edible: Do your kids have any lunchtime favorites?
Fuentes: Pizza, of course.
Edible: What’s your best advice when it comes to packing foods, especially hot, cold and room temperature foods in the same lunchbox?
Fuentes: You can pack hot and cold items in the same lunch bag, just separate them by containers. I have a terrific short video in my YouTube channel.
Edible: How do you get your kids involved in lunch prep and cooking in general?
Fuentes: Everyone picks one meal every other week so they feel like they have a say in what the family eats. Otherwise, everyone is responsible for clearing the table, general kitchen cleanup, food prep, and other age-appropriate tasks.
Edible: Any final words of advice and motivation for kicking off a year of healthy packed lunches?
Fuentes: Don't be afraid to try new things. You never know what the next favorite meal will be.