Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tips to packing fun & easy school lunches

Kids love a homemade school lunch, especially when they are fun, colorful and include a note/prize!!  So many times as a busy parent we tend to lean on pre-made food items, anything quick, pre-packaged, grab-and-go items.  Unfortunately, we all know these items tend to lack on health and nutrition, and can be costly.  Here are some great ideas and tips to help even the busiest parents pack amazing, fun, healthy school lunches.
Lunches don't have to be difficult.  My child would totally be fine with a ham sandwich everyday.  While I do pack a lot of sandwiches, I have fun mixing up sides, creating some fun plays on her favorites and providing her healthy alternatives.
There are so many fun and colorful lunch containers and accessories available these days, its easy to get carried away.  You can easily spend a pretty penny on Bento boxes and accessories.  There are plenty of low cost options too!  My best advice is keep in mind, these items will be REUSABLE!  Although some items might tip the scale at $10 or more, I can guarantee you will get YEARS of use, and its great for the environment =)

1) Fun, timeless, sturdy lunch box & ice packs -  Average $8 -  Last year I did add another 2 lunch boxes to the mix, deeply discounted after school started.  My favorite is Target's Circo Lunch Bags, with side drink pocket, perfect fit for plastic divided containers (#2 on the list)

2)  Divided lunch containers - Average $15 (set of 3 or 4) - Can be found on Amazon and/or grocery stores - try to get leak proof. 

3) Reusable napkins - Average $5 (usually set of 4) - Great place to look would be discounted home stores, like TJMaxx or Tuesday Morning.

4)  Small condiment containers - Average $2 (set of 4 or more) - Perfect for salad dressing, dipping sauces and other condiments. I found a great set at my local Dollar General.  Sometimes you'll find them hanging randomly in the cereal or snack aisle at the grocery store.

5) Plastic flatware - 18 pc set for $1.99 at IKEA!!  

6) Reusable snack bags - Average $10 - I have seen a huge variety, ranging in prices.  The ones pictured are Bumkins (found on amazon) and I love them, easy to wash and still look new after a year of use.  Also, don't be afraid to wash and reuse plastic baggies!

7)  Fun Accessories -  Wide Price Range -  You can find fun, seasonal, decorative picks at the dollar stores, craft stores and grocery store (cake aisle).  My daughter LOVES personal notes.  Get a pack of stickers, card stock/sticky notes and fun color markers from $1 store, and write/decorate a note every day.  There are also great FREE printable lunch notes you can download from internet.  I even went a step further and laminated, using self seal laminate sheets found at craft store.

8) Silicone cups - Average $8 (set of 12 -24)- fun way to add color and divide foods -  a huge variety in color, shape and sizes.  They come in such large quantities, team up with another mommy friend and each ordered a different set then swap shapes and colors. 

9) Hot/Cold containers - Average $7 - Great way to pack before/after school snacks or send items that need to stay really cold or hot.  We live in Florida, so not many 'soup' days here, but my daughter loves pasta dishes kept warm.   The containers with ice packs (found at Marshall's $4.99) are great to pack snacks or side dishes.   My daughter loves school pizza day, so I let her order one slice (a la carte) and then pack a salad or veggies and dip.

10)  My daughters all time favorite - silicone pops - Average $9 - Amazon has a great selection of colors/designs and quantities.  You can pack dry items, like trail mix, but my daughter loves when I make smoothie pops.  I make a large smoothie during the weekend, fill up the molds (don't top off, leave room to close and expansion) and freeze.   She says they are still frozen in middle when she eats at noon. 

Here is a quick shot of of how I keep all the items organized with bins found at Dollar Tree

Mornings are a big rush for us.  We usually wake up at 6:45 A.M., make and eat breakfast, clean-up, dress, pack lunches and backpacks and get out the door within an hour.  How do I do it?  Easy answer - PREP and ORGANIZATION!

Ever night my daughter and I pick from our lunch list (<-----attached for your printing pleasure), then lay out containers, nonperishable items (bread, chips, fruit snacks), pre-make any items that won't get soggy or spoil quickly and have a solid idea of what needs to be made in the morning.  By prepping the night before, I usually only need 5-10 minutes to finish lunches, pack and place in backpack.

Pre-make homemade items, weeks or months ahead.  You can find so many great homemade, HEALTHY, kid friendly recipes online.  I love items that I can sneak in whole grains, fruits, veggies, and reduce/substitute sugar without anyone noticing. Many of our favorites are muffins, breads, smoothie pops, cookies and no-bake granola bars.  All these items keep very well in freezer.  I can grab the night before to defrost in the refrigerator overnight, if needed, or grab and pack in the morning.

Other great morning time savers.....have the kids pre-pick breakfast.  Again, any items that can be prepped the night before, do so.  Clothes is a huge one!  My child wears a uniform, which saves me plenty of argument, but still, I lay out her outfit so as soon as she is finished with her morning routine she can dress herself.

Plenty of Inspiration can be found at:



  1. My kids need a lunch AND a snack AND a water bottle! I run out of items to pack in, so this year I'm buying extra.

  2. Same here! I love the bumpkins snack bags, the medium and large easily fit a small snack and juice box.
    Target $1 spot has some great small lunch boxes and containers right now too.

  3. Isn't staying organized with Dollar Tree bins the best? I do it too! Thanks for the tips on packing school lunches. We enjoyed seeing you in our Welcome Home Link Party! Please stop by again next week!