5 Tips to Make Packing Lunches Easier

August 1, 2017 by Kiran Dodeja Smith

Breathe, 100 Days of Real Food has you covered with some awesome lunch packing tips to save your sanity this school year. You've got this, now let's do this! Boom!

The following blog article was originally from 100daysofrealfood.com and has been reposted with permission.

Packing lunches for kids is a hot topic this time of year, and the reality is, it must be done! So wouldn’t it be nice to know how to make this dreaded chore easier? Well, you are in luck, my friends! Today’s post will give you the tools you need to make your wish come true.

I used to loathe lunch-packing duty. Full disclosure: Four-letter words were sometimes heard in my kitchen after hours (i.e., after bedtime hours). I wanted to send a lunch made with love that would nourish yet not make me nutty. I mean, after finally getting four kids into bed, I really didn’t feel like cooking up a storm. No explanation required I’m sure. But I also didn’t want to resort to plain ol’ PB & J every day. Sure it could be a fall-back here and there, but couldn’t I get a little more creative?

I did, in fact. I got creative with timing and trying new things. And I stopped cursing. (Well, I stopped cursing when it came to lunch packing.) And so, without further ado, here are some tips to help you have solid real food lunches, sealed with a kiss and not made after 9:00 pm.

5 Tips to Make Packing School Lunches Easier

1. Use Leftovers

This is such a no-brainer, really. You spend time making dinner, so why not send it for lunch? Using what you have on hand helps you break out of the sandwich rut. This is a great way to add variety to your loved one’s lunches and cut down on prep work, not to mention thinking. Because really, how much work does it take to dish out and repackage a meal?

2. Plan Ahead and Freeze Food

This is not a new concept, but it has been such a life changer for me that I’ve actually written two eBooks about it. You know all of those great recipes you come across? Pin them, print them, or hold on to them however you can, and then actually make them. Double the recipes and make extras. Freeze the extras and have them on hand for instant throw-ins. Think waffles, pancakes, muffins, even soups. You can freeze taco meat, pulled pork, chili, and so much more! You wouldn’t think twice about purchasing frozen foods for the same purpose, assuming that the ingredient list lined up, would you? So why not make your own? It’s homemade, REAL convenience food. Made by you. It doesn’t get much sweeter than that.

3. Try New Things

I used to be fearful of sending a new recipe or something totally different for lunch, because what if my kids wouldn’t eat it? As parents, we want our kids to be happy, and naturally we want them to have full bellies when they are away for a long day. But my personal opinion is, and you may not agree with me, if kids are hungry, they will eat.

I have four kids, and yes, one of them is strong willed. And she’s my pickiest eater, by far. I try new foods and new dishes with all of them and send them in their lunches, and sometimes she (or the others) will come home with leftovers. And that’s okay! I don’t believe in “the clean plate club.” I believe in variety and trying new foods and adapting to things that are new and different. So yes, I will make a chana masala recipe and send it with rice. Or lentil soup, or green pea pesto. They may not love all of these dishes, but many times they do like them and are thankful for something different. In case you didn’t know, kids get bored too!

4. Make it Fun!

Think fun shapes, colorful cards, or even just getting your kids involved in making lunch. I sent pancakes cut into strips one time as the “main meal” and my kids thought I was the coolest. Not keen on cutting your carrots into flower shapes? Not to worry. Stick in a fancy toothpick (I know you have some of those umbrella toothpicks lying around from your daiquiri drinks!) or pull out your cookie cutters. These are fun, creative tools that can easily kick up your game.

5. Take Tips from the Kids

What do kids like in their lunch? We went to our little experts to find out. Here’s what my kids had to say:

  • Sajin (age 4) – “Raisins, applesauce, a plum, peppers, and pretzels.” We deduced that he likes a variety of little bits of food in his lunch. Hey, he’s 4 years old, maybe that’s what they like!
  • Shaela (age 7) – “I like seeing things that I made in my lunch. I also like having a rainbow of foods in my lunch. And I like to make trail mixes and put them in.” When she references a rainbow, she really likes to have one red food, one orange, one yellow, etc.
  •  Deja (age 9) – “I like a mix of foods together” (For example, one time she had peeled clementines + blueberries. I think she likes the variety and color appeal.) “I like putting in things that I’ve made.” (This girl likes control.) :) She also said that she likes things to assemble at school. For instance, I’ll send salads but in one compartment she likes spinach, in another carrots, in another sunflower seeds, etc. She likes to put it together herself. Did I tell you she likes control?
  • Jaiden (age 11) – “I would rather have lots of different colors (because it makes it look brighter and fun to eat). I also like if a meal is based around one food. For example, a hummus lunch that has hummus + carrots, celery, pita chips, cucumber, etc.. or peanut butter + apple, celery, and pretzels.” (She likes to dip.) :)

And here’s what Lisa’s kids said:

  • Sydney (age 10) – “I like fun toothpicks and when my sandwiches are cut into squares.” Lisa bought a sandwich cutter that’s likely geared toward toddlers, but who knew her daughters would think it was the coolest thing for sandwiches since sliced bread?
  • Sienna (age 8) – “I like a lot of fruit and salad for my vegetable.” She’s not a big fan of carrots or other typical veggies, but Lisa always knows a good salad will be a winner with her!

Be sure to ask your crew what they like in their lunch and share their tips, or yours, with us in the comments below. We always love new ideas!