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Picture this: it’s 8am on a Monday morning and the kids are dragging as you try to get them ready for school. You still have lunches to pack when it happens: complete mental shut down. No lunch ideas come to mind, and you find yourself scrambling to send something with them to school.
Does it matter that you just went to the grocery store yesterday? If you are like me, then no it does not! 🙂 For me, it doesn’t matter that the house is full of food, I still have the ability to not be able to come up with any ideas for lunch!
When life gets busy or school mornings get crazy, packing lunches on top of everything else can feel overwhelming. Here are some tips to help make it easier as well as over 25 ideas of lunch ideas that your kids will love!
1) Keep the pantry stocked with healthy staples
Keep some healthy favorites stocked in the pantry for quick grab-n-go items. This allows you to just reach in and grab something when you can’t think of anything to send. You can do this by having the big bags of trail mix, crackers, etc, or you can take some time each week to pre-package these items and set them in a specially designated space to make it even faster (or even easier for the kids to help!).
Examples of staples that we keep on hand include carrots and Greek yogurt in the refrigerator and whole wheat bread and peanut butter (we love this kind!) in the pantry. My kids also love making DIY Lunchables, so we keep some kind of meat, cheese slices (or cubes), and crackers stocked.
2) Save leftovers from dinners to send for lunches
Leftovers are the mega “cheat” for packing punches. Taking leftovers from dinner last night or two nights ago couldn’t be any easier than putting some into a container or a Thermos and packing it in the lunch box. There ya go! Lunch packed in under 5 minutes! Need it even faster? Pack it into you containers you use for lunches while you are putting away the leftovers! When you need something quick, go with leftovers.
Great examples include spaghetti, roasted chicken and veggies, soups, pizza, burritos or nachos, and even waffles are easy to pack.
3) Keep a list of lunch ideas posted in a visible place
Make up a list to keep posted on a wall or in a binder that can easily be pulled out when needed. I made a simple list of items that my kids and I can pull out when we are needing ideas.
Here is a list of over 25 lunch ideas (including a separate list of over 20 pinwheel sandwich variation ideas) to help you if you are feeling stuck or just not creative right now 🙂
4) Get your kids’ input and let them help pack their lunches
You may be surprised to find that kids often enjoy helping to make their lunches. It gives them a chance to pick what they want to eat and gives them a feeling of control over a significant portion of their diet.
The reality is that they probably won’t enjoy helping to make their lunches every day, but letting them have a hand in their lunches will go a long way in helping them form healthy relationships with food, portions, and food preparation.
And the added benefit…having your pack their lunches or at least help you pack lunches frees you up in the mornings!
5) Pack (some) the night before
If mornings are super crazy in your house, consider packing at least part of the lunches the night before. It’s helpful to prepare the main dish or chop the veggies the night before and store it in the refrigerator until the morning.
Like the Bento Boxes? We love them! With everything in one container, and the lid securely attached, there is nothing to lose! Clean up is easy – it’s a win-win!
Packing school lunches no longer needs to be an overwhelming or even taxing job! By keeping your pantry stocked with healthy go-to items and using up leftovers, packing the food will be much easier and faster. Keeping a list of options handy and having the kids help by giving input or grabbing/packing items for you will take away some of the workload. And finally, getting started the night before will make the morning rush less crazed!
Tell us in the comments – what is your biggest struggle when it comes to packing lunches?