The school year is the time for new beginnings! Including starting back to packing school lunches! This can be a love hate chore for many parents! Use these 5 Tips for Packing School Lunches that will take you less than five minutes!


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Tips for Packing School Lunches

Whether by choice or necessity, you may end up packing your child’s school lunches! This can become a chore if you do not keep it simple. While making lunches might be one extra thing that you need to do in the morning (or the night before), you can make it simple and actually fun! Here are some strategies for taking the stress out of packing school lunches!


1. Come up with a List of Lunch Favorites

Take the guess work out of what your kids want to eat for lunch by asking them!

The best way to come up with school lunch ideas is to ASK THE KIDS! I used to struggle with coming up with ideas for lunches until I started asking the kids what they really wanted. Now I can take some of the pressure of me and have the kids be stumped with what they want to eat.  Let’s be honest though, if we want our kids to eat their lunches (and not trade with their friends), it has got to be a lunch they like to eat!

You can work with your kids to come up with a list of lunch ideas that include healthy and portable options.

Last year, my daughter and I came up with a big list of items she liked to eat in each category (protein, snack item, fruit, veggie and dairy). Each week when I was making my shopping list, I would have her go over the list and provide me a few of her favorites.

If  the kids are stumped on ideas, take a look at Pinterest for Inspiration.

We also look at my lists on kid friendly meal ideas both here and here!

My kids don’t request a ton of variety, so once we find things we like we tend to stick to them!

Also, keep in mind that there might be some trial and error when you first start packing lunches. Some items might not hold up well in a lunch box all day. My kids love mac and cheese and we thought it would be a good option for school lunches. However, none of my kids love mac and cheese that has been sitting in a thermos for several hours.

Try out a few different things and see what the kids love.

2. Pack Lunch the Night Before

Save yourself one less chore in the morning by packing lunches the night before. You might find that you can not prep everything the night before. But, put together as much of the lunch as you can ahead of time.

One tip is to spend a few minutes after dinner making school lunches! You might be able to utilize leftovers or extra fruits and veggies for your school lunches!

3. Prep Snacks and Sides in advance.

If you have been following me for a while, you know that I love to make ahead snacks, whether it is for a road trip or a busy week ahead!

During the school, I try to make ahead some of the lunch sides as much as possible. So, while I am chopping up fruits and veggies for dinner, I set some  of the extras aside for  lunches the next day!

Save money by making your own individual snack bags one day a week. Get the kids involved in prepping snacks and it will take you just a few minutes.

Any type of prepping you can do ahead of time will save time in the long run!

4. Get the Kids Involved

The biggest complaint I hear from fellow parents about school lunches is that their kids don’t help to make them!

This is my number #1 Strategy to making school lunch time prep easier–ENLIST HELPERS!

This last school year I started having the kids prepare their own lunches and let me tell you this was a game changer!!  I don’t know why I held on to this responsibility for as long as I did! The kids (at 3rd and 5th grade) were more than capable of packing their own meals. I can honestly say that they do not complain about this chore (one of the few they don’t!).

I am certainly willing to help them when needed or if they are running behind (I am not going to let them go hungry). But 99% of the time, they are in charge! I encourage them to get as much of the packing done the night before to save time in the morning. Then, in the mornings, they add in anything hot or items they didn’t want to sit in the refrigerator all night.

I think sometimes parents struggle with handing over this job to the kids because they worry the kids won’t pack healthy things! The key is to have healthy items on hand and to work with the kids to make good choices. Since you already came up with your list of lunch options (see Strategy #1), you do not have to stress about what your kids are packing!

A simple starting list can be:

Protein (Peanut Butter, Turkey, egg, etc)

Whole Grain (Bread, pretzels, waffles, bagel, crackers)



Small Treat 

Beverage (milk, water)

Even the youngest of students can help with some part of the lunch prep process. Start them young and they will be ready to take over the reigns soon enough!

5. Invest in Good Lunch Containers

It is easy to throw in the towel and just pack a bunch of prepackaged foods for lunch. But it can be expensive to rely on prepackaged foods.

If you invents in some good lunch containers, it will be a lot easier to pack your own foods.

We have these Bento boxes for the kids and we love them! I like that each section isn’t too big. So it will provide opportunities for smaller portions and  a lot of variety. Plus, the divided container comes out of the bigger container for easy cleaning!

Easy Tips for Packing School Lunches #momhacks #bentobox #containers

The large bento box even fits the Pottery Barn lunch boxes (our absolute favorite lunch boxes!!). You could not fit a drink in on top of the Bento Box. My kids usually buy milk, so this works for us.

Perfect lunch box container #bentobox #backtoschool #ecofriendly

We love these Resuable snack and sandwich bags for snack breaks. Or we use these bags if we are packing the lunch with just a thermos and smaller items. They wash up great and are an awesome way to be more eco-friendly!

Sistema  containers are also a FAVORITE! We usually purchase a few new ones each year at Marshalls or TJ Maxx. Although this is a better deal.  These containers are great for snacks especially with hummus or dressing.  We have had no issues with leaking and they are dishwasher safe!

Another favorite– these Thermos containers are AWESOME for warm/hot meals. My son loves oatmeal in the Thermos. My daughter likes soup or warmed up mac and cheese. These containers are so durable and so far have lasted several years!

We have several of these containers too! These are great for lunches with all dry ingredients. I am trying Bento boxes because you can use the containers for yogurt and dips. However, we will use these divided containers throughout the year too. These are less bulky than Bento boxes so you can fit a drink or another item on top of the box. You can put these in the dishwasher and they hold up great! They are an inexpensive option!

TIP: Keep all of the lunch containers and beverage containers in a one cabinet or drawer! It makes it easy for the kids and parents to grab everything they need from one spot!

Store all of your lunch packing containers in an easy to reach cabinet for the kids #schoollunch #backtoschool #tips

School Lunch Box Essentials

Packing School Lunches Can Be Fun (But don’t stress about all the details!)

I try to send notes in the kids’ lunches each day but it doesn’t always happen. And that is okay! Lunches don’t have to look Pinterest or Instagram worthy! The point is for the kids to be well fed and filled up enough to be able to focus the rest of the school day. My mom friends and I laugh about the efforts we make for our kids’ lunches when the reality is that growing up we lived on PB & J and bologna sandwiches:)

For more easy ideas on transitioning back to school, I shared my back to school post over here!

Tips and Tricks for a Smooth Back to School



What are some of your best tips for packing school lunches?


Make school lunch prep simple and quick with these ideas #backtoschool #hacks #ideas


  1. Ginger on August 8, 2018 at 7:38 am

    I’m going to take these to heart. It will be very interesting to hear what my 7 year old requests for his lunches! Thanks for taking the time to compile these tips.

    • Jaclyn on August 8, 2018 at 3:44 pm

      Thank you Ginger! Yes it is interesting to hear what the kids actually want for lunch. I was surprised that my kids did request healthy items!

  2. Nicole Kauffman on August 8, 2018 at 7:40 am

    Good lunch containers are so important! These are great tips 🙂

    • Jaclyn on August 8, 2018 at 3:43 pm

      Thanks Nicole! I like having different containers options for the kids depending on what they want!

  3. hadassah on August 8, 2018 at 7:58 am

    My son hasnt even started talking yet but i am excited and cant for this time lol!!! Great ideas mama, i know i can get overwhelmed easily and these tips will be a great help for when my time comes

    • Jaclyn on August 8, 2018 at 3:43 pm

      Aww yes not quite yet! Although soon enough you will be on the go with playdates and trips to the park–packing some healthy snacks and lunches is a life saver!

  4. Rechelle on August 8, 2018 at 8:38 am

    Your lunch container storage area is AWESOME! Way to make it easy on you & your kids 🙂

    • Jaclyn on August 8, 2018 at 3:42 pm

      Thanks Rechelle! I am hoping we can keep it organized–fingers crossed!

  5. ShootingStarsMag on August 8, 2018 at 8:43 am

    Fun post! My mom used to randomly put notes in my lunch box when I was younger and I loved it. I like the idea of getting your kid’s favorites in various categories. 🙂


    • Jaclyn on August 8, 2018 at 3:41 pm

      I love hearing that you remember your mom sneaking in random notes! I hope my kids treasure these little things!

  6. on August 8, 2018 at 11:43 am

    This is a very useful post. Thanks so much for sharing these great tips! I like the idea of asking the kids what they want to eat. It makes perfect sense!!

    • Jaclyn on August 8, 2018 at 3:41 pm

      Thanks! I don’t know why I didn’t ask them from the beginning!

  7. Jessica Moore on August 8, 2018 at 12:08 pm

    For us the right containers made all the difference. If I didn’t have the right things to pack food in it just didn’t handle the day well and by lunch my kiddo didn’t want to eat it! Good suggestions here 🙂

    • Jaclyn on August 8, 2018 at 3:40 pm

      I fought getting decent containers for a while but it really is worth the investment!

  8. Mommy & Mia Homeschool Chronicles on August 8, 2018 at 1:27 pm

    I am a working on the go homeschooler and these tips are absolutely on point. Looking forward to implementing these for the upcoming school year. Pinning to my board.

    • Jaclyn on August 8, 2018 at 3:39 pm

      Thanks! I use these ideas in the summer for camp or days at the pool too!

  9. Stephanie on August 8, 2018 at 1:55 pm

    Great tips!

    • Jaclyn on August 8, 2018 at 3:38 pm

      Thanks Stephanie!

  10. Danielle @ A Sprinkle of Joy on August 8, 2018 at 2:09 pm

    This is such a great post! My daughter is entering Kindergarten this year, and I need all the help I can get in the lunch department. I really like those simple divided containers!

    • Jaclyn on August 8, 2018 at 3:38 pm

      Good luck to you and your daughter Danielle! We’ve been using the divided containers for years!

  11. Jenna on August 8, 2018 at 3:49 pm

    I agree about packing lunches the night before. I also ask my kiddos what they would like. My son is usually in such a hurry to get out to recess to be bothered to eat much, so if he likes it he will eat a little better. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Shannon on August 8, 2018 at 8:11 pm

    These are wonderful tips and getting the kids involved is so great!!! Packing the night before saves a lot of hassle the next morning!

  13. Shari on August 9, 2018 at 9:26 am

    Thank you for these tips!! Love the way you organize it all in one space!

  14. Dara on August 10, 2018 at 10:53 am

    I feel like we are needing some new containers over here!

  15. blyss on August 10, 2018 at 5:12 pm

    Last year was the first year we started packing lunch. It was also the first year I got to spend alot of time in the lunch room with them to figure out, THEY WEREN’T EATING ANYTHING from the bought school lunches! One of the teachers that I got close with told me that my kid was starving and she was glad I figured out to pack them a lunch that they would actually eat. I felt so bad since that was his 3rd year in school and I had no idea. Sorry long rant but parents need to figure out what their kids will actually eat and stop thinking they are eating good just because its school… Thanks for the post and I love those containers!!! Come follow our journey too over at!

  16. Tiffany Blankenship on August 27, 2018 at 1:41 am

    Hi, Thank you for these tips! I agree about packing lunches the night before. My son is entering Kindergarten this year, and I need all the help I can get in the lunch department. I really like those simple divided containers!

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