This post is sponsored by SunMaid but all opinions are my own.

The #1 complaint I hear from all of my friends during this crazy time is— I CAN’T DEAL WITH COOKING ALL THE MEALS!!!! Pre-pandemic, people at least had the relief of sending their kids to school and eating their lunch there, but now, on top of parenting, working, and teaching, we are a full service 24 hour restaurant too. For working parents, nothing interrupts a productive work day more than making and serving lunch.

So. I have a great idea! This year, whether my kids are attending school in-person or remotely, I am packing their lunches the night before, just like this was a normal school year. This way, lunch is already covered, the kids can access it themselves in the middle of the day, and I don’t have to drop everything to make chicken nuggets and pour some juice.

I took it one step further even. This week, I taught the kids how to make and pack their own lunch. Yep, I don’t need to surprise them with special drinks and lunchbox notes to discover in my absence. I will be in the next room! I’m using this as an opportunity to teach some independence. We went through all the options in the fridge that they can make themselves, tested out some new sandwich combinations and stocked the cabinets with familiar, good-for-you snacks my kids know and love, like cherry tomatoes, flaxseed tortilla chips and snack-size boxes of Sun-Maid Raisins.

Sun-Maid Raisins have been trusted snack for our family since I was a kid, when my mom regularly put them into my lunchbox too. They are made with nothing but grapes and California sunshine, which means they are a whole fruit with 0g added sugars. We always have Sun-Maid Raisins on hand to add into recipes and eat as a stand-alone snack. You can purchase Sun-Maid California Raisins from Target here.

I also created a weekly lunch schedule with themes, to keep things interesting and give Mazzy and Harlow some guidelines. I’m hoping it will make the activity of putting together their lunch more fun and keep them from getting stuck packing the same thing over and over again.

Here’s my schedule:

1) Basic Mondays – Put together a lunch that includes only your tried and true favorites. If turkey wraps are your go-to sandwich, Sun-Maid Raisins are your favorite better-for-you snack and graham crackers are treat of choice, pack that.

2) Brave Palette Tuesdays – You must add one item into your lunchbox that you have never tried before. An olive, a new cold cut, an expected combo…challenge yourself to try something new! Then pack things you know and love along with it.

3) Bento Box Wednesdays – We’ve got a few bento containers that are super fun for the kids to fill. I told them that they could mix up a snack selection using things like raw veggies, chips, crackers, sliced fruit and Sun-Maid Raisins. Keep it simple or maybe in a few weeks, they might want to amp up their presentation skills with star cut sandwiches or “ants on a log.”

4) Hodge Podge Thursday – This day is reserved for leftovers from the rest of the week. Stick that cold pasta or piece of grilled chicken in a tupperware container and call it a day.

5) Pizza Fridays – On Fridays, the kids are off the hook. We’ll either make them frozen pizza or pizza bagels or order a pizza from our local pizza place.

The kids loved putting together their lunchboxes and discovering new snacks and protein options that they didn’t even realize were available to them. For instance, Harlow had her first ever roast beef on a roll. Mazzy took great pride in cutting a sandwich successfully into triangles.

When Mazzy was finished, she promptly took her whole lunch over to her computer to eat it, even though school hasn’t even started yet.

Now. Will they really pack their lunch every night before school? Probably not. But, at least they know that they can do it, if mom and dad are busy. And even if they kids don’t make the lunches, I still think it’s a great idea to pack it the night before. It will make life easier while we are all at home. If we are all at home. Still figuring all that out!

In any case, school will look very different this year. And having something familiar, like a daily lunchbox with comforting snacks like Sun-Maid Raisins, will help this whole year feel just a little bit more normal.

I don’t think anyone of us ever thought we would crave normal as much as we do right now.