Only 28 more days until school starts. Not that I’m counting or anything. This means that I have 28 more days to get organized, so that school mornings go as smooth as possible.
Packing lunches is definitely on the top of my list of things that can make school mornings really hectic. But, it’s so worth the effort. It costs $6/day…or $30/week for my kids to buy school lunches. I can make their lunches for half of that (or less!). Plus, I know what ingredients are going into their lunches and I know what they will/won’t eat, so there’s a lot less wasted food.
So, today I thought I would share a few of my lunch packing tips and tricks with you all, in case you have hectic mornings like me. I’ll also share some of my favorite lunch box gear.
Here are some items that we used last year…
I use these little containers every day, in place of plastic baggies. Because when you’re packing three lunches every day, it sure adds up to a lot of money spent on baggies and a lot of baggies in the trash.
We have a huge bowl, filled to the rim with containers and lids, that we can just grab and use whenever we need them.
My son used the Disney lunch box last year. It is well made and lasted an entire year of kindergarten, without so much as a scratch! However, it’s not as roomy as I would have liked. The sandwich container doesn’t fit well, once you add the other smaller containers and a drink. So, I ended up using sandwich baggies for him last year.
My girls have used the BUILT Neoprene Mini Gourmet Getaway Lunch Totes for the last two years and they are awesome! They are made of lightweight, wetsuit material and they are stain resistant and machine washable. Let me just say that these are very well made. I have washed them over and over for two years and they look brand new, with all of the threading still intact! They are also roomy enough to hold a sandwich container, two smaller containers, a juice box and utensils.
I’m not a fan of plastic utensils, because (like the baggies) they can become very expensive and wasteful. So, last year I purchased some really inexpensive forks and spoons at Walmart, specifically for packing lunches. I believe I paid $1 each for a 4-pack of spoons and 4-pack of forks. This worked really good and I believe we are only missing one fork. (Woohoo!) Needless to say, we’ll be using these again this year.
New goodies to try this year…
While my current system works great, I thought I would add a few new items to my lunch-box-making stash this year.
These EasyLunchboxes have received great reviews and I’ve heard that they are pretty darn sturdy. I like the idea of having everything in one container, so I don’t have a gazillion smaller containers to wash at the end of the day.
You can even purchase corresponding EasyLunchbox cooler bags, so that everything fits perfectly inside a lunch bag. Yay!
I haven’t had a chance to try these Klean Kanteen Wide Mouth Insulated Bottles in school lunches, since I purchased them after school was out last year. But I did test them out a couple of times this summer (with cold drinks only) and they are fantastic! Cold drinks stay really cold and they don’t condensate all over the place (or at all, for that matter!). These bottles are suppose to insulate hot beverages up to 6 hours and iced drinks up to 24 hours.
How to save your sanity at lunch-packing time…
- Do your prep work ahead of time. This is especially helpful if you are making “Lunchable” type lunches. Cutting up meats, cheeses and veggies ahead of time will save you a great amount of time in the mornings.
- Measure out servings ahead of time. I like to measure out single servings of as many items as I can – crackers, grapes, trail mix, etc. – that I can just grab and toss into a lunch bag. You’ll be thankful you did this, especially if you have to make lunches before you’ve had your coffee. Trust me. You can do this for pantry items and refrigerator items.
- Pack the night before! I found that taking a few minutes each night to pack lunches was a lifesaver last year. I put everything into the lunch bags (except any frozen items) – including sandwiches, snack crackers napkins, etc. – set them in the fridge overnight (if any items need refrigerated – if not, I just left it on the counter), pulled them out in the morning, tossed in any frozen items and lunch is ready in a snap!
- Ditch the ice pack. For me, an ice pack is just one more thing I have to remember in the morning. As an alternative, I freeze single servings of smoothies to pack in lunches. They thaw perfectly by the time lunch rolls around and I don’t have to worry about food spoiling because the smoothie keeps everything else cool enough. Or I pack a little container with frozen fruit (blueberries and grapes are awesome!), which also thaws perfectly in time for lunch.
- Eat those leftovers! My kids love taking leftover pizza for lunch. Slice up leftover meat for sandwiches. Sneak in some leftover dinner veggies. Lunch doesn’t have to be PB&J every day. (Not that I mind a good ‘ol PB&J sandwich!). Be creative.
Here are some great sites to browse, if you are in need of lunch menu inspiration (I know I always am!):
Do you pack a lunch for yourself or for your kids? If so, I’d love to hear your tips and tricks!