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