Packing School Lunches Has Never Been Easier
For many, back-to-school means back to packing school lunches. Kids have to eat, but it can be hard to find a streamlined system that works. Here we share our best tips from moms who have found at least some of the answers to make sure they don't go crazy packing school lunches in the morning.
When it comes to packing, the keys to success are doing as much as possible in advance, looking for food that does not need a lot of advance preparation, and keeping it simple.
- Pack what you can the night before. This can include anything non-perishable, like pretzels or other snacks. Or pack anything that won't be mushy by morning and stick the entire lunchbox in the fridge overnight to simply grab in the morning.
- Some parents make sandwiches in bulk and freeze them. Place a frozen sandwich in the fridge the night before you need it and it will be defrosted and ready to eat by lunchtime. Options that freeze well are peanut butter and jelly, jelly and honey, and Nutella and peanut butter on whole wheat. Experiment with other varieties as well!
- Frozen muffins that can be pulled out of the freezer the night before is another popular option with parents pressed for time. Another easy frozen option is yogurt tubes that can be kept in the freezer and put in lunches frozen but will be defrosted by lunchtime.
- When it comes to healthier options, look for fruits and veggies that don't need to be cut, like tangerines, berries, apples, bananas, baby carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes, and pickles. Some parents wash a couple of days worth of berries at a time, while others swear by the hot-water treatment for berries to keep them good for up to a week or longer after washing.
- Other healthier options that require just a bit more prep are sliced cucumbers, cut-grapes, and hard-boiled eggs.
- For snacks, avoid the added cost of pre-packaged individual servings. Instead, buy a variety of large bags of snacks, like pretzels and crackers, and spend some time putting the snacks into small zip-lock bags. If your kids are old enough, have them help. When packing lunches for the next several weeks you (or your child) will be able to simply grab a couple of zip-lock bags to put in the lunchbox.
- Open any boxed lunch items like granola bars or gummies and put them in a clear plastic bin. That way they are easier to grab in the morning and you can see when you are running low.
- If you are always pressed for time in the morning, try something pre-made like yogurt or Lunchables. There is no rule that says you have to pack a homemade lunch.
- Remember that last night's leftovers also make good lunches the next day. Few children will complain about cold pizza. Noodles can be thrown in the microwave and eaten still warm if you use an insulated container like this insulated one from Zell which keeps food warm for up to five hours – long enough to get most kids to lunchtime. No leftovers from the night before? If breakfast includes something like oatmeal, pancakes, or hard-boiled eggs, they will pack well too.
- Even if you normally pack a homemade lunch like sandwiches, have a pre-made back-up on hand for those times you are running late or discover you are out of bread just before it's time to head out the door.
- Keep a variety of reusable containers on-hand so that you can be ready to pack anything that you have available. This set from Zell comes with three different sizes perfect for everything from dips to carrots that nest for storage.
- When it comes to drinks, look for shelf-stable milk and juice containers or send in a refillable water bottle. If you go with a water bottle, look for a leak-proof one like these from Mira that come with two lid options. Some parents find it more convenient to allow their children to buy milk at school.
Do you have any tips for packing school lunches? Share in the comments!