As promised, this post is designed to help you with making packing school lunches more simple. The easiest way to simplify school lunch preparation is to have your kids pack their own lunches! Even the youngest kids can begin packing their own lunch with some help from you. And with a little prep, you can ensure they are packing a healthy, balanced meal.
I’ve found that my kids enjoy packing their own lunches, probably because they get to have some control over what they eat. So, unless packing lunches is something you LOVE doing for your kids, you can stop. 😉 This is for those of you who, like me, get stressed with all that has to get done in the morning before school.
A Place for School Lunch Supplies
The first thing you need to do is designate places for their lunch box, water bottle, thermos, and anything else they need to pack their lunches. You might want to include plastic containers, utensils, or ziplock bags depending on what types of foods you want them to pack. We put all of these things in one easy-to-reach cabinet. Here is our cabinet of lunch packing supplies:
Tip: Try a wine rack for storing your family’s water bottles. It keeps them all in one place, AND keeps them from tipping each other over!
Second, create a place in the fridge and pantry (where your kids can reach) for them to find their meal options for the week. Keep it simple with only two or three options each week. They will be happy to repeat lunches as long as you picked foods they enjoy. I try to always include a beverage, a fruit or veggie, a protein, something dairy, and sometimes a grain. That way, they know to grab one of each, and they always have a balanced meal!
Tip: Wash fresh berries and cut strawberries right after buying them. They keep longer that way in a plastic container in your fridge!
A Time to Prepare School Lunches
Third, you need to have a designated time for food prep. It works the best for me to do food prep right after I go to the grocery store. Maybe you want to try setting aside time every Sunday evening for getting foods together for your kids’ school lunches. This week, I got back from the grocery store and began washing and cutting up fruit and veggies. Then I put their fruit in plastic containers and bagged up the rest. Here is what I put together for my kids’ school lunches this week:
Beverage: apple juice
Fruit: strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries
Veggie: carrot sticks
Meat: turkey snack sticks
Dairy: cheese sticks
Tip: Try to include healthy options that your kids like. You don’t want to temp them to throw away their food when the get to school!
HONEST MOMENT: Our kids haven’t always ate very healthy. Healthy isn’t always easy, and my kids can be picky. I am working on coming up with healthy options that are easy for them to make as well. Nothing fancy here…just simple, balanced meals! I think the next step will be getting rid of juice boxes and just packing water bottles. We are working our way up. 😉
Fourth, put all parts of their school lunches together in the fridge and pantry. I use white baskets to consolidate school lunch food so the kids always know where to find the current week’s options. One basket goes in the fridge, one basket goes in the pantry. I showed the kids where these baskets are, and I explained how they should take one of each item in their lunch box.
Tip: Leftovers and other warm foods can be reheated and placed in a thermos for school lunch. It will still be warm for them at lunchtime!
At first, you may need to assist them in packing their school lunches, especially for your younger children. My youngest child is in kindergarten, so she can barely make a sandwich…but I’ll let her try. 😉 My older kids are in 4th and 5th grade and are able to make things in the microwave, so they will sometimes heat up something and put it in their thermos to keep it warm until lunchtime.
With consistency from you in prepping their meals every week and consistent practice from them, they will be packing school lunches on their own in no time! Can you feel the relief?!
What part of packing school lunches is most stressful for you? Let me know in the comments!
Theresa Bedford is a syndicated freelance home and travel writer with regular contributions to the Associated Press wire and MSN. She helps everyday people love the life they have through simplicity, organization, and prioritization.