Saving My Sanity by Thinking Outside of the {Lunch} Box

Back To School Lunch Box - City Moms Blog Network

If I had to pick just one thing about back to school that I loathe/despise/dread each day, it’s the routine of lunch prep. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to set my alarm with a 15 minute buffer just to make lunches in the morning. I then end up throwing a whole bunch of random stuff from the fridge into the lunch boxes with a side of graham crackers for good measure. My kids are definitely not getting those cute bento boxes full of unicorns carved from apples and sandwiches that look like Elmo or Mickey Mouse. While I’d like to be the mom who has the time to craft a Ninja Turtle from a head of lettuce, I’m just not.

Lunch prep is tedious and stressful and I’m always concerned that my child will inevitably come home without having eaten any of it, only to be highly cranky and starving. Of course then we go down the dangerous path of after school snacks which leads to no one wanting to eat dinner. Why, you ask? They’re too full from all of the Goldfish and grapes they had when they got home from school – I tell you, it’s a vicious cycle! Last school year, after week after week of uneaten lunches coming home, plus after school meltdowns, I decided it was time to re-evaluate our lunch prep routine to see if we could make it more efficient so that everyone was happy. I decided to look at the process with the mindset that it’s less about what’s going into the lunchbox, since I already control what comes into the house from the grocery store, and more about how it will all get into the lunchbox. So, if you dread the daily lunch box routine as much as I do, here are 5 things we’ve tried – and succeeded with – for making packing lunches feel less stressful.

  1. Prep lunches right after dinner. The last thing I want to do at 9:30pm is prep a lunch box or two (or three or more!!!). By moving the prep time to right after dinner, I save my sanity AND efficiently put leftovers away. The refrigerator and pantry/cabinets will most likely be already opening and closing with dinner clean up, so why not just throw those lunch boxes open and load ‘em up with leftovers (if your children will eat them) or other things from the fridge. This is a great way to also keep tabs on what’s in your fridge. Hit the pantry or cabinets, too, I also prefer this to the “morning of” packing technique. We’re all in a rush in the morning and it’s enough work for me to make sure everyone has on clean underwear and two shoes that match to now fuss with lunches, too. After dinner prep is the way to go.
  2. Give kids, even very young kids, some say in what goes into their lunch box. I found this terrific and straightforward printable that breaks down packing a lunch box complete with suggestions. We use these categories (main, fruit or veggie, snack, drink, and treat) to fill the lunchbox each night. I don’t give choices for every category (my kids only take water to school or camp) but I will ask if they want fruit snacks or cookies for a treat and cheese crackers or string cheese for a snack.
  3. Place foods you buy regularly for lunches in accessible bins in your fridge and pantry or cabinet. We have a clear bin in both our fridge and pantry that we keep stocked with grab-and-go foods for lunch. Think string cheese, apples, yogurt, pre-Ziplocked lunch meats, and veggies. Our pantry bin has other grab-and-gos that don’t need to be refrigerated like snack packs of crackers and applesauce pouches. The pre-Ziplocking of go-to items cuts down on some lunch prep time. When I purchase things like lunch meat, I divide it up into individual servings as soon as I get home from the grocery store and when it’s go-time, I can just grab an already Zip-locked baggie and throw it in the lunchboxes. Also, to save time (and money!), we try to buy lunch items in bulk at wholesale clubs like BJs, Costco, or Sam’s Club.
  4. Invest in reusable and stackable containers and ice packs, water bottles. It creates less waste, teaches kids responsibility, and makes it super easy to also help teach kids how to pack their own lunch. Keep all lunch packing materials in the same place (except for ice packs, which I would suggest keeping in kid eye-line in your freezer). This way you won’t be looking for tops or bottoms or water bottle parts. Super annoying!!!
  5. Empty lunch boxes as soon as you get home. This is a BIG one – trust me! There’s nothing quite like opening a lunch box to find stale cheese, a piece of half eaten fruit, and a leaky juice box. Yuck! Empty those lunch boxes right away!!! Dirty things can go straight into the dishwasher and, with a quick wipe down of the inside, you’re good to go for after dinner prep!
Back To School Lunch Box Tips - City Moms Blog Network

I hope these tips will help create a little zen in your home this school year. What are your best tips for creating a more efficient lunch prep routine?

Contributing Sister Site and Author

About {Author}

Amy is the founder and co-owner of Fairfield County Moms Blog in Fairfield County, Connecticut. In addition to Fairfield County Moms Blog, Amy teaches 6th grade at a local middle school. She married her husband Brien in June of 2009 and is mommy to Dean {May 2012} and Tyler {October 2014}. The family lives cozily in their Westport, CT home with two small dogs and one large cat. Amy has lived in Fairfield County, CT her whole life and can’t imagine living anywhere else. Besides spending time at home with her family and spending her school days with 12 year-olds, Amy loves to day dream about traveling across the globe, she’ll read pretty much anything that comes recommended, and is probably the world’s messiest cook. Email Amy at [email protected] or connect on Instagram {@amyjones112}.