I have always loved the back-to-school season. New teachers, new shoes, new supplies…there’s so much “newness” to enjoy! One thing I do not enjoy, however, is The Packing of the School Lunches. Packing school lunches always seems to take me much longer than I had planned, and I never remember to do it until I am just about ready to head to bed.
And who wants to be making sandwiches and bagging carrot sticks at 10:30 p.m.?? Not me!
Fortunately, there are better methods than mine for packing school lunches. Today, we’re outlining a 3 step process that will save you loads of time by allowing you to prepare a week’s worth of school lunches in just one afternoon. Plus, we are throwing in two bonus tips to help make lunch packing even easier!
3 Steps to Making a Week’s Worth of School Lunches in One Afternoon
- Create a Weekly Lunch Menu at the Beginning of the Week. This is key – you cannot prepare a week’s worth of lunches if you haven’t planned ahead! Do yourself a favor, though, and don’t get too creative. While it might be fun for your kids to have an entirely new and unique lunch every single day, it will make way more work for you (and you’ll end up spending a lot more money on lunch food, too!)
Instead, try to have some “standby” items that you can pack on a repeating basis. For instance, buy several pounds of turkey and then plan to pack turkey sandwiches a few days that week. Another tip: look ahead at your dinner plans for the week, and anticipate leftovers. For example, if you are grilling chicken one night, throw an extra piece or two on the grill and then use the leftovers to make sandwiches or wraps.
Another bit of advice: let the grocery store ads guide you. Buy produce, bread, juice, snacks, etc. when they go on sale, and then plan to work it into your lunch menu. This will save you a surprising amount of money over time.
A final tip: want to create healthy school lunches, but not sure exactly what to pack? Check out MOMables. Created by a real-life mom, MOMables does all the lunch menu planning for you. Each weekly menu plan comes with tips, fun ideas, and even a printable grocery list!
- Prep Your “Side Dishes”. It makes sense to do this on Sunday, so that everything is ready for the week ahead. (Of course, feel free to pick a day that works for you, if Sunday is no good.) Prep all of your lunch “sides” – slice carrot and celery sticks, bag up grapes, portion out pretzels and chips.
It’s a good idea to keep a container in your fridge for your cold sides (produce, milk products, etc.) and put all of the pre-bagged items in there. Then, put a second container in your pantry for all the “snack-y” sides (pretzels, chips, granola bars, etc.) This will make it fast and easy to grab what you need.
Note that, when planning your weekly lunch menu, it is best to stick with foods that you can portion out ahead of time. You may not want to plan on apple slices, for example; you cannot cut them up far in advance, or they’ll turn brown.
- Prep Your “Main Course”. “Main Course” items, like sandwiches, are harder to prepare in advance. A week-old peanut butter & jelly sandwich is not exactly appetizing, after all! Instead, prep your main course ingredients; this will make it easy to assemble sandwiches each morning. For example, if you’ll be making ham and cheese sandwiches, slice up cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes ahead of time, and bag them up for later. Or, make a big dish of tuna salad or chicken salad, and then use it for sandwiches throughout the week.
Two Bonus Tips For Making Packed School Lunches Even Easier
Once you have done your weekly prep work, your daily lunch packing will be much easier. That will be especially true if you utilize these two tips:
- Each Night, Lay Everything Out. This may seem like a small step, but I have found that doing this saves my sanity in the morning. Each night, lay out your child’s lunchbox, and fill it with all the non-perishable things he will eat the next day – juice boxes, napkins and utensils, dry-good snacks, etc. Then, group all the perishable lunch food (fruit, veggies, cheese, etc.) in one spot in the fridge, so that you can grab them quickly the next morning and add them to the lunchbox.
Note that, while you certainly can make sandwiches the night before (in order to save time) you may want to wait and make them the next morning. Doing so will ensure that they stay fresh and appetizing for lunch.
- Each Morning, Do Last-Minute Assembly and Pack. In the morning, grab all the perishable food from the fridge and add it to the lunchbox. If you haven’t made the main course yet, go ahead and prepare that, and add it to the lunchbox. And don’t forget to include a freezer pack!
Have some time-saving tips of your own for packing school lunches? We want to hear them – share them below!
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