As awesome as the routine of school is for our family, it’s no secret that school lunches can sometimes get the best of us. Over the years, we’ve come up with a few tips and school lunch hacks that streamline the process of packing lunches, keep our kids healthy (and fed), and help us maintain our sanity throughout the school year. We’re sharing what’s worked for us because we have a feeling this may be a struggle for you, too!
Start with the Right Lunch Box and Gear
Growing up, we had the straight up bagged lunches. Luckily for our kids (and the environment!), there have been some upgrades to the lunch bag/box over the years. We love browsing Zulily when they share an organization event - and not just because you can usually find us in there. They have some great options for eco-friendly, disposable-plastic-free lunch box storage.
If you’re on the hunt for a sturdy container you can pack, use, and wash over and over, we love the Bentgo brand (or YUMBOX or one of the other similar brands). These containers fit in a variety of lunch bag shells and can be packed in advance. The containers have a variety of divider and shape options which allows you to keep things fresh with what you pack.
Find Lunch Box Inspiration
Speaking of fresh... after about one week of lunches, it can start to feel like you’re just packing the same two meals on repeat. Some kids may not mind that (or if you have a picky eater, maybe this is necessary!). However, if you’re looking to shake things up with the options you’re packing your kiddos, there’s tons of inspiration (that doesn’t involve intense food art or tons of time). Some of our favorite places for lunch inspiration:
- Search #jennakiddolunch on Instagram. This hashtag is full of inspiration that actually has us rethinking how we do grownup lunches!
- Check out our School Lunches board on Pinterest!
- Get your kids involved in selecting and packing their lunches. Especially if you have eaters with, ahem, very vocal ideas on what they should eat every day. Lay out selections for them to pick in each category (protein, veggie, fruit, side), and let them make their choices for each category. You can feel good that they’re more likely to eat what’s packed, and you don’t waste time or food!
Prep Your Food … and Your Fridge
Food prep is one of those things that sounds intimidating...until you actually do it and realize it’s the best thing ever dreamed up. We hesitated, ever so briefly, getting in a routine of food prep until we really started paying attention to the food we were eating in our house (and had multiple kids). Then, food prep isn’t something you have to do, it’s what makes your life easier. Trust us. About once a week, right after we grab groceries, we spend a little time getting everything we bought ready for “grab and go.”
By washing veggies and cutting them into the right sizes, we can toss them into lunch boxes, salads, and meals without having to do any extra work. We also prep fruits, cooked meats like chicken, and portion out yogurts, sauces, and other sides. This makes packing lunches and cooking dinners SO MUCH EASIER. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that everything looks much nicer after it’s been prepped and stored in containers!
Plan and Pack Ahead
Just in case you’re one of those parents who saves lunch packing for the morning of...stop now! Your life will be so much easier and less rushed if you pack lunches (or at least do a majority of the work) in advance. For some items, you can get the Bentgo (or other lunch container) set up a day or two in advance - things like veggies, yogurts, etc. Finish the lunch prep the night before you need it, and then all you have to do in the morning is grab the lunches and toss them in the bags with a freezer pack! What could you do with an extra ten minutes in the morning? Meditate, yoga, read, silently sip HOT coffee...the possibilities are endless!