Does the task of packing school lunches for your kids feel overwhelming? Get my 6 tips for packing school lunches to streamline the chore and make it less stressful!

There is nothing worse than running late in the morning and then desperately trying to figure out what to put in your children’s lunch boxes for that day.

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Okay- maybe there is one thing that’s worse: running late in the morning and then finding yesterday’s lunch remnants stinking up the lunch box!

While school lunches are okay once in awhile, if you want to be sure that your kids are getting healthy foods that meet your nutrition requirements, packing school lunches is a must!

If you find yourself flustered, or end up buying school lunch too often because packing it seems like too much of a hassle, take a look at the tips below. These 6 tips will help you get organized and create a school lunch packing system that works for you!


6 tips to make packing school lunches a breeze


6 Tips to Make Packing School Lunches a Breeze!


Make a List

Start by sitting down with your kids and coming up with a list of lunches they like together. After all there’s no point in packing a school lunch if they aren’t going to eat it!

There are tons of options when it comes to packed school lunches. Your list might include:

  • Sandwiches and wraps
  • Homemade lunch-ables
  • Reheated leftovers
  • Soups and Stews
  • Cold salads
  • Pastas

You want to find lunch foods and snacks that your kids will eat, but also things that are also easy to pack and can keep well in a desk or locker until lunch time. 

Once you have this list of favorite meals, turn it into your shopping list for the week. Don’t forget to add drinks, snacks, and sides on your list as well. (Here are some free printable shopping list templates to try!)

Since you have a list of favorites to work off of, you can settle into a school lunch schedule and then rotate it from week to week so that you always know exactly what to add to your shopping list for the week (or month). 

Related: Easy Lunches for Kids- They Can Even Make Themselves!


Follow a Basic Formula

Lunches don’t have to be fancy. They don’t have to be Pinterest-worthy. They just have to be filling, healthy, and balanced. 

So when prepping your school lunch ideas follow a simple formula to make sure you hit all the marks of a healthy, well-balanced meal. 

Here’s the formula: Vegetable + Fruit + Protein + Grain = School Lunch

So for example, you can mix and match the following:

  • Vegetables: carrots sticks, pepper slices, cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, lettuce or greens on a sandwich, hot cooked veggies, etc
  • Fruits: Apple, banana, applesauce cup, grapes, berries, an orange, pineapple chunks, dried fruits, etc.
  • Protein: Lunch meat, cheese, nut butter (or alternatives), hot dogs, beans, hard boiled eggs, cooked meats (in soups, tacos, other leftovers), etc. 
  • Grain: Bread, tortilla, crackers, rolls, pasta, rice, etc.

If you can look at your lunches and see that you have at least one of everything- you are good to go. 


mom packing school lunches with fruit, sandwiches, and juice


Gather Lunch Packing Supplies

Packing school lunches is infinitely easier if you have good supplies. And I don’t only mean lunch boxes!

Gather other necessary supplies such as:

Have multiple of each of these items will help streamline your packing. It will allow you to pre-pack school lunches and reduce the stress of having to wash out yesterday’s forgotten lunch at the last minute before you can pack a new lunch. 


Have a Prep Day

Prepping ingredients all together saves a ton of time! 

After you go shopping each week take some time to prep lunch foods that can be easily prepped ahead of time without sacrificing quality. Such as:

  • Cutting and packaging raw vegetables
  • Slicing or shredding cheese
  • Putting small fruits like berries or grapes in small containers or bags
  • Filling up water bottles

You can also keep a drawer or section of the fridge marked for school lunch items. Place the drinks, pre-packaged items, and all other school lunch foods in one area so you can grab and go without forgetting anything. 


school lunch boxes packed


Pack Lunches The Night Before

While you can prep many items for school lunches once a week, something just can’t be done until the night before at the earliest. No one wants to eat a soggy sandwich from 4 days ago or brown apple slices!

Mornings are busy and not the perfect time to have to worry about packing lunches. So instead do you packing the night before. This can take some time to get used to, but once you have made a new habit it will feel like second nature and your mornings will feel less stressful and go more smoothly.

Get the kids involved and have them help with school lunch prep and clean-up. This also gives them more ownership and control over what goes into their lunch box for the next day.

This can also help get rid of leftovers, since you can pack them directly into the lunch box after dinner. You can store cold items in the fridge and have everything else sitting in the lunch box ready to go so all you have to do is grab the cold pack and put it in the box with the other stuff and you are ready to go!

Even if you are packing a hot school lunch, you can still prep everything the night before, so that all there’s left to do in the morning is heat it up and go. 


Clean Out Lunch Boxes As Soon As The Kids Get Home

To make school lunch prep even easier, get your kids into the habit of cleaning out their lunch box as soon as they get back from school. Add this to their after school checklist of things to do the moment they get home: hang up backpack, clean out lunch box, get snack, do homework, etc. 

Even the youngest kids are capable of doing this by themselves. Have them toss any uneaten food and bring the containers to the sink to be washed. If you have older children ask them to clean their own containers, or at least load them in the dishwasher.  

You can also teach them how to rinse or wipe down their lunch boxes to remove any crumbs or residue to keep the smell out of the lunch box. 

Having everything clean and ready to go will make it easier to pack the new lunches later on in the day and it takes away the threat of finding a long lost lunch box filled with food that has been sitting out over a long weekend!


And that’s it! Follow these tips and you’ll have an efficient lunch packing routine that saves you time and won’t stress you out!


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