Are you tired of making school lunch? Learn tips from a mom on how to make packing school lunch easier and more efficient.
When my kids started kindergarten I went whole-hog while making school lunch. I filled their little bento boxes with the cutest organic meals. Think star-shaped cheese and hand-rolled luncheon meat with handwritten notes.
It wasn’t long before I exhausted myself packing lunches times four and lunches became the bain of my existence. I’m not a total bore with school lunch and I do still like bento boxes, but I’ve picked up a few hacks to make it a bit more manageable.
Laminate Lunchbox Notes
My kids do really love lunchbox notes and they mention it if they didn’t get one, but it does take a lot of time to scribble something for each kiddo in their school lunch.
Before the school year starts, I print off pages of free printable lunchbox notes then laminate them with a Scotch laminator. I use this set all year long! I switch up notes between the kids all week and rotate them periodically. There are probably hundreds of readymade lunchbox notes, here are some we have used in school lunch:
Emoji (my kids LOVE the poop emoji one!)
Of course, you can always design your own!
Send Hot Lunches
For a very small investment in time, I like to switch things up and send hot lunches in Thermos Funtainers for my kids. I simply boil water in a tea kettle, pour the water in the Funtainers and let it sit for three minutes. Then, I heat up dinner leftovers, make boxed mac and cheese, or bake chicken nuggets to put in the Funtainers. If I send something like chicken nuggets, I send fast food restaurant ketchup or BBQ sauce packets.
Keep it Cold
Hot lunches are great, but most of the time I send cold things. Since lunches sit around in cubbies or lockers for a while, it’s important for cold stuff to stay cold. I’ve found that Bentgo freezer packs stay cold all day, even for leftover lunches to be eaten as after school snacks. In addition to using freezer packs, I like to freeze yogurt tubes so they are still cold at lunch. If your kids have later lunches, you can also freeze juice boxes, milk, or water bottles so they are nice and frosty at lunchtime.
Prep and Freeze Sandwiches
It is an investment in time, but during a busy school week you’ll thank yourself for this one. Buy several loaves of bread and make peanut butter and jelly (or whatever sandwich your kids prefer), put them into individual baggies, and freeze inside a gallon-sized bag for 3-6 months. A typical loaf of bread will make about ten whole sandwiches. I’ve even enlisted my kids to help with this task.
Send Themed Lunches
I don’t do this often, but it IS fun to send an occasional theme lunch for a birthday, holiday, or just to break up the doldrums.
For instance, on Valentine’s Day, I sent pink lunches with heart-shaped sandwiches. It seems like a lot of work, but really I just went to the grocery store and picked up strawberry applesauce, watermelon, raisins, princess Goldfish crackers, and red grapes. It was a pretty typical lunch, but when put together it looked festive.
Send hearty fruit
This is perhaps my favorite, and totally stolen from my Twitter feed…. Send hearty fruit like an apple, orange, or pear. This way the teachers see that you send fruit (they DO notice what you send and judge you accordingly). However, when your kiddo does not eat said fruit, and brings it home you can send the same fruit the next day. Hearty fruit will last all week long!
Teach kids to make their own school lunch!
There is nothing better than not having to make lunches because kids pack their own. If your children are young, this can be an investment in time worth making.
It’s easiest to pull off by stocking your fridge and pantry with pre-packaged items that are easily accessible by kids. Then, give guidelines about what to pack. You can make a list (written or pictorial) indicating they should pick a protein, carbohydrate, produce, etc. Also, be sure to explain to them ahead of time what items will fulfill each category.
Amber Shawver and her husband George are proud parents of six-year-old quadruplets and three rescued Yorkies. They live in Fort Worth, Texas and love exploring their hometown. Amber works part time as a Licensed Specialist in School Psychology in an urban district. She finds that her professional experience helps at home, and that raising quads has improved her professional work as well. In her spare time, you may find Amber practicing yoga, at the barre, reading, or cooking. You can keep up with the Shawver family adventures at Four to Adore.