Let’s be honest…
School lunches can be one of the most stressful things about back-to-school. Trying to create lunches that are nutritious, stay fresh for hours, and that kids will actually eat, can be a huge task. We’ve searched the depths of the web to find the best tips for creating winning lunches, while maintaining your sanity.
1. Invest in a Good Lunch Box
Bento box-style lunches have become very popular over the last few years, and PlanetBox makes some of the best. They are definitely on the pricey side, but well worth it in my opinion.
My kids lose their minds when their food touches, so having separate compartments is a necessity. PlanetBoxes are eco-friendly, dishwasher safe, customizable with cute magnets, have a 5-year warranty, and are made with stainless steel, so they’re BPA-free and non-toxic. They have several accessories available, like coordinating bags and water bottles.
If you’re looking for a comparable option at a lower cost, Amazon has a few options. These Bentgo Kids lunch boxes are leak-proof, come in great colors, have a 2 year warranty, and are also BPA-free and dishwasher safe.
These adorable Animal Lunch Picks work great with bento-style lunch boxes! They’re perfect for small hands!
2. Weekend Prep
(Pictured above, Lina’s Pizza Muffins! This is a fun and different back to school lunch idea that you can prepare ahead of time and pop into lunchboxes during the week.)
Prepping as much as you can on the weekend will save you so much time and stress during the morning rush. Wash, cut, and portion out all fruits and vegetables as soon as you get home from the store.
Get the kids involved with planning and prepping. They’re much more likely to eat it if they’re involved in the planning and preparing of their own meals. I even have my kids write out shopping lists to plan things out.
3. Hard-Boil Eggs for the Week
We like to mark the cooked ones after they’ve cooled so we don’t mix them up. Be sure to add a date! Hard-boiled eggs, peeled or unpeeled, are still safe to eat up to one week after they were cooked.
4. Freezer Sandwiches
We love this idea from Amanda’s Cookin’. Make PB&J sandwiches in advance, then simply freeze your peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in freezer-safe sandwich bags for the week. These are great for last minute lunches; just pop them in your lunch box and they’ll thaw by lunch time, plus they double as an ice pack! Win!
*Important Note: MANY schools no longer allow peanut butter, but you can easily make these with an alternative to nut butters, like Sun Butter.
5. Set up a Lunch Making Station
6. Use Leftovers
You can use leftover dinners or even breakfasts for some outside-the-box lunches. Invest in a good Thermos, like this one from Thermos Foogo or Thermos Funtainers, for things like soup, spaghetti, and chicken nuggets. Turn leftover pancakes and waffles into peanut butter and banana sandwiches. This is a great time to let kids get creative with their food.
7. Prevent Browning of Apples with Pineapple Juice
Collin shares a couple of ideas to help keep sliced apples from browning in the TODAY.com video found here! Either use pineapple juice or slice apples with an Apple Slicer and then put back together, cover with plastic wrap, and secure with a rubber band. See video for details.
8. Cook Extra on Purpose
(Pictured – Lina’s Honey Mustard Pretzel Chicken Tenders!)
Cooking in big batches is a great way to save money on lunches. Roasting an extra chicken with your dinner makes it easier to throw together wraps or salads. Buy the larger beef roast, and make sandwiches with the extra. My kids get burnt out on PB&J pretty quick, so this is a great way to stretch your money and add a few creative lunches during the week.
9. Edible Un-Ice Packs
There are dozens of foods that can be frozen and used as an edible un-ice pack, saving you time, money, and room in your lunch box. Grapes freeze very well, just pull them off the vine and pop in a Ziploc bag. Yogurt tubes (like Gogurts), juice pouches, and applesauce pouches all work great. Just be sure to flat freeze all these items so that they thaw evenly.
10. DIY Ice Packs
Making your own ice packs is super easy. All you need are a few cheap sponges and freezer sandwich bags. Get the instructions here. Use these for lunch boxes or everyday boo-boos, and never worry about there being a puddle.
11. Printable Lunch Idea Sheets
Get this free printable lunch idea sheet here. We love that it’s divided into food groups, so you can tell your kiddos to pick 1-2 from each group for easy meal planning.
12. Throw in a Fun Note!
Need More Lunch Box Packing Inspiration?!
You can check out Collin’s video from 3 years ago – crazy how time flies!
Written by Danielle for Hip2Save. Danielle is a proud mom to 5 amazing kids in Utah, who lives for coffee and baking. She’s dedicated to balancing her own interests and passions, while encouraging her children to follow their own paths in life.