I have four children and this fall I sent my youngest off to full-day Young 5’s- which means that for the first time in eleven years, I don’t have children at home with me during the day. You know what else it means?
I now have four school lunches to pack every day. That’s 80 lunches a month.
I can’t be the only mom who dreads the whole process of making lunches for school. The time, the money, the stress it adds to an already hectic morning.
And there’s no easy way out of it- the kids do have to eat after all! But I have found that with a few simple hacks, the whole process can be slightly less daunting. And maybe even result in early mornings that run more smoothly!
I buy two loaves of bread, make a bunch of sandwiches (peanut butter & jelly and ham & cheese) and freeze them individually in sandwich bags. Then the kids just need to grab one in the morning, put it in their lunchbox, and by the time lunch comes around, the sandwich is thawed.
2 – Cut Sandwiches Diagonally
It keeps them from getting squished as easily in the lunchbox!
3 – Use Frozen Drink Boxes for Ice Packs
Keep your drink boxes or pouches in the freezer and use them as an ice pack to help keep other items in the lunch box cold. Or try using frozen grapes! Save space and keep your food cool at the same time.
4 – Make Your Own Ice Packs
If you don’t include juice boxes in your kids’ lunches (or if you have a kid like mine who will inevitably lose every ice pack that is sent) try making your own ice packs. Soak flat sponges in water, put them in individual ziploc bags and freeze them. Cheap and easy!
5 – Fill Chip Bags with Air
Fill chip bags with a little air before sealing. The air will cushion the chips and keep them from getting crushed in the lunch box.
6 – Make Your own Single Serving Snacks
Individual snack packs are super convenient, but they sure do cost a lot! I buy the big box of Goldfish crackers at Costco and then divide them up into snack size bags. You can do the same with pretzels, chips, crackers, trail mix, cookies, just about anything!
7 – Invest in a Leakproof Drink Container
If you are looking for a cheaper, healthier or more environmentally friendly alternative to juice boxes, invest in a leakproof drink container. Save money by purchasing large containers of juice and filling a Thermos or Contigo, instead of buying individual juice boxes. For a healthier option, fill your drink container with water or your favorite low-sugar beverage.
8 – Craft Your own Lunchables
Create your own Lunchables using sectioned plastic containers. Fill inexpensive Rubbermaid, Glad or Ziploc containers with cheese, crackers, meats and fruit. Muffin liners can also be used to create different sections within a container.
9 – Make Everything Cuter With Cookie Cutters
Add some fun to your child’s lunch by using cookie cutters to cut cheese, sandwiches or other foods into fun shapes. Carve a message into a banana skin with a toothpick! Or put a smile on your child’s face by including a little note in their lunchbox. Write out a joke or draw a picture on their napkin- or just search for free printable lunchbox notes online!
10 – Let Kids Pack Their Own Lunches
My personal favorite lunchbox hack? – Let the kids pack their own lunches!
It involves some work upfront- making and freezing sandwiches and dividing up snacks into individual bags- but once the prep work is done, the kids are on their own. Even my 5 year old does it himself!
I keep the fridge stocked with containers of fruit, veggies, cheese sticks, yogurt and applesauce. In the cupboard, I have individual baggies of crackers and trail mix, granola bars, fruit leather and other snacks.
The kids know that they need to pack a sandwich and at least one fruit and one dairy, plus one or two snacks. I make sure to fill each of their water bottles and oversee the process as they make their lunches – but I believe that’s a small price to pay for the freedom of not needing to make four lunches on my own each morning!
Ad Manager. Keri is a mom of four who enjoys "pizza and movie nights" at home with
the family. When she is not managing ads for grkids, chauffeuring
children, or trying out a new crockpot recipe, you can probably find
her attempting to enjoy a cup of coffee before it gets cold.