A Working Mom’s Guide to Toddler Lunches

Does your morning routine include packing your child's lunch for daycare? Here's a week's worth of easy toddler lunches that require minimal prep time.

Does your morning routine include a moment in which everything comes to a screeching halt as you open the fridge to pack your toddler’s lunch, only to find yourself staring blankly at a stick of butter, some leftover Chinese food, and a carton of ricotta cheese, all the while thinking, “What the $%&$ am I going to feed you today, kid?”

Or perhaps, on a good day, you find yourself reaching for that leftover rotini for the third day in a row, wondering if children can thrive on pasta alone and/or if you’re setting your kids up for a lifetime of picky eating and scurvy.

Juxtapose reality with dreams of spending a whole day “prepping” delicious and wholesome lunches packaged in perfect portion-sized containers that one could just pop in a lunch box for your tot to ingest happily, perhaps even politely requesting “Might I have a bit more of that delicious concoction?” upon finishing a full serving of coq au vin, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for working mom guilt.

Let’s simplify things, shall we?

Below you’ll find a working week’s worth of toddler lunches that require minimal prep time. Our lunch boxes always include a baggie of Cheerios, puffs, or graham crackers, and a sippy cup of water. Some days I throw in an extra serving of fruit or two servings of veggies.

Working Mom Cheat: Most of these lunches involve tossing something in a pot of boiling water for 5 minutes, which can be done easily between other hectic morning happenings.  I often make extra peas, pasta, etc. and keep them in the fridge so in a pinch I can mix and match as needed for the lunches.

Day 1

  • edamame (shelled)
  • turkey cold cut (cut up)
  • banana
  • yogurt pouch (I love Plum Organics Mighty 4 pouches.  They include ingredients like “amaranth.”  I don’t even know what that is, but it sounds healthy.)
  • milk

Day 2

  • tuna, rice, and bean balls (This is as simple as it sounds. Leftover rice, beans from a can, and some tuna with lemon.  Mash together.  Form into balls.  Toddler delight.)
  • yogurt pouch
  • peas (buy frozen, boil in the morning)
  • cut up peaches
  • milk

Day 3

  • cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches (crusts cut off and cut into bites or small pieces)
  • yogurt pouch
  • cooked carrots
  • cut up pears
  • milk

Day 4

  • ground turkey burger
  • cottage cheese
  • cut-up tomatoes
  • banana
  • mixed vegetables (buy frozen, boil in the morning)
  • milk

Day 5

  • pasta salad (any bite sized pasta, 1 veg – I often use leftover peas or mixed veg, 1 protein – leftover chicken, tofu, whatever’s on hand, parmesan and oil or tomato sauce, if you’re feeling like torturing your daycare worker with the mess, which, sometimes, we do)
  • yogurt pouch
  • cut up grapes
  • milk

What do you send in to daycare for your tot’s lunch?  Do you have any working mom cheats to share?

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1 thought on “A Working Mom’s Guide to Toddler Lunches

  1. As a longtime kid-lunch packer, I can attest that is a pain. I try to keep it as simple as possible with things like individually wrapped/packaged items (cheese sticks, yogurts, pretzels, Goldfish) and fruits that are pre-sliced/prepared from the grocery store. Except apples, which always seem to be gross when they’re pre-sliced.

    I’ve also occasionally cut out the kids’ sandwiches with cookie cutters, which delights them to NO end. It only takes a second, and they enjoy it, so I feel like Mom of the Year!

    We used to do Kind Bars sometimes, until I realized just about every variety available has some form of nuts/nut-related ingredient or processing. Our school has a nut-free policy, so those had to go. But they are delish and pretty healthy, too, if you can get away with them.

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