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7 Hacks to Make Packing School Lunch Easier

7 Hacks to Make Packing School Lunch Easier

school lunch kids lunchboxes on a table

Last updated on September 26th, 2023 at 06:40 pm

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.  

lunchbox notes

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! That might be the most fun!

Get creative and put little inside jokes, inspiration to be kind, or a challenge to try a new task while at school like a new math problem of climbing the monkey bars! Make it fun for you to make and fun for them to read.

packed lunchboxes

Send Hot A School Lunch

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 into 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.  

school lunch

Prep and Freeze Sandwiches for School Lunch

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 up to 3-6 months.  A typical loaf of bread will make about ten whole sandwiches. I’ve even enlisted my kids to help with this chore.  

Send A Themed School Lunch

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.  

school lunch

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!

school lunch

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

Amber Shawver and her husband, George, are the proud parents of girl-boy-girl-boy quadruplets who debuted in 2012.  Amber draws from her experiences working in childcare settings and as a school based behavioral consultant to manage raising quadruplets at home. Amber continues to practice school psychology part-time in an urban school district.  She chronicles life raising quadruplets at You can also find her on FacebookPinterest, and Twitter. See more articles on Twiniversity by Amber

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