For years when school would end each year, I would do a dance on the last day of school simply because it was the last day I had to pack school lunches for a few months. Anyone with me on this?
There were many reasons why I dreaded packing lunches for school… it was something I had to do every day, something I was saving to do in the morning, and a task that was pretty mundane and had no organization at all.
To sum it up… I desperately needed a simple system to follow to make it easier.
And systems create efficiency and for a busy mom, I think efficiency might be the key to happiness.
Whether that’s really the case or not, systems are the key to consistency, efficiency, and an overall hassle-free way of doing things. And after happiness, those are next on my list!
Are you with me? Let’s dive into this hassle-free system for school lunch making.
TIME MATTERS WHEN PACKING SCHOOL LUNCHES
I think for most moms, packing lunches in the morning is a really bad idea. Most of us aren’t morning people and even if you are, mornings should be devoted to things like quiet time, drinking coffee or tea in the blessed quiet getting prepared for the day to come. Or sleeping… sleeping’s good too.
Being able to simply make breakfast and help my kiddos get ready without hassling over making 3 lunches is so amazing! I can do that because I have a system that makes this process super easy and certainly one that I don’t even think about in the morning.
When do I pack my kid’s lunches?
It’s a combination of the night before and the weekend. And let me also explain that with this system, I’m basically assembling their lunches very quickly and storing their lunch boxes in the fridge overnight.
In the morning, all I do is put them on the counter for them to grab on their way out the door for school.
And if your kids are too little for school or you homeschool, this process is still great. Just pull out their cute little lunchbox at lunchtime and viola! Super easy!
THE PREP PROCESS – DRY ITEMS
Basically, you want to create a process that requires as minimal effort as possible. Let’s start with the dry pantry items first. There are two ways you can do this and I actually use both.
I love saving money! I also love convenience. So I battle with whether to buy the cheese crackers my kids love in the big box and bag them myself or buy the pre-bagged crackers. Honestly, I always go with the self-bagging option unless those wonderful little pre-bagged gems go on a big sale… then I’ll treat myself for a week. ????
If you’re buying crackers, cookies, chips, or any other snack that’s not individually wrapped, start by bagging them all ahead of time. At least a full week’s worth for all your kids. I get my kids to actually do this most of the time over the weekend.
I buy the snack sized bags in the square shape to keep them from over-filling their bags. **insert evil laugh here** The longer, rectangular bags are just too hard to fill. I can only seem to find the square ones at Walmart, though.
And yes, I know some of you are scolding me right now because I’m referring people to use plastic baggies instead of an environmentally friendly reusable bag. Well, I do my best to take care of the planet in other ways, but right now I’m not that mom. And I won’t apologize for it. Besides, they are really expensive and my kids love “accidentally” throwing away all my reusable stuff.
Simple, efficient, and cost-effective are my needs in this “mom of little kids season” I’m in.
But if you’re still looking for a waste-free option, I found the perfect, low-cost option for you. These cute divided lunch containers can be prepped for days in advance in the fridge and easily transferred into each lunch box in the morning! Plus, they are safe and toxic free.
I also got a trick from my oldest daughter who helps me prepare the lunches most of the time. She took all the boxes of crackers, granola bars, and other snacks and turned them all on their sides with the tops facing out. Genius right!
Now I just reach up and grab and I can easily see when I’m out of stuff because my kids equally enjoy grabbing the last of a snack from a box and leaving the empty box inside the pantry or drinking the last of the lemonade and leaving to jug still in the fridge. It’s their calling card.
Looking to save money on all this food for lunches? Check out this post: 7 Apps That’ll Actually Pay You Cash & Save You Money on Your Groceries!
THE PREP PROCESS – COLD ITEMS
Now let’s talk about the cold food items. I like to take all the yogurt poaches, applesauce, fruit cups, cheese sticks, and any other cold snacks and remove them from their boxes. I then place them in clear plastic bins in my fridge.
This makes everything easy to see but it also makes your fridge look so pretty, clean, and organized. Plus, the kids can quickly grab a healthy snack after school because they don’t have to work so hard to find one.
I also do the same for fresh fruit like oranges and apples. I wash them ahead of time so they can grab and snack and I can throw them into their lunch quickly. And finally, I prewash and bag grapes too in the same snack bags. I just leave strawberries in the fridge to eat at home.
I’ve never had great experiences with strawberries in lunch boxes. They always turn to bright red mush that ends up staining their uniforms.
Finally, I do make their sandwiches the night before. My kids are super simple with what they like so sandwiches it is. Your kids may be more adventurous with their lunch entree so if possible, prepare it the night before to make it super simple.
Here are some of my favorite school lunch supplies to make packing easier and make my kiddos smile!
There, lunches are done and no more headaches! Your mornings are back.
MORE SCHOOL LUNCH HACKS & MEAL IDEAS
Let me know your favorite school lunch hacks in the comments below.