It's that time of year for the anticipation and nerves, fresh supplies and big goals of the back-to-school season. If you're like many parents, you start the school year with the best intentions of packing a lunch for your kids every day that is varied, fun and healthy – but soon end up throwing together the same old packed lunch day after day.
Whether you love making your little one's lunch picture perfect or dread the chore of another mealtime routine, almost all of us can use some lunch packing ideas to save time and money — and help keep things interesting. Learn how to pack a lunch box more efficiently and check out these creative lunch box hacks from PackIt.
7 Lunch Box Hacks That Make Mornings Easier & Lunches Tastier
Here's a quick list of lunch box hacks to keep handy.
- Keep bread in the freezer and make sandwiches using frozen bread. It makes spreading easy, and the sandwich will be ready to eat by lunchtime.
- Let quesadillas cool before packing to avoid a soggy lunch.
- Fill a Thermos with hot water and let it sit for at least 10 minutes before emptying to warm it before packing with hot food.
- To prevent apple slices from browning, slice using an apple corer and then secure with a rubber band.
- Skewer meat and cheese rollups with a pretzel stick.
- Use cookie cutters to make fun shapes or DIY Uncrustables.
- Mix sandwiches up by replacing the bread with waffles. They can also come straight from the freezer!
When you get a lunch just right, snap a quick picture so you can easily refer back to these kids' lunch ideas when you're in a pinch.
How to Pack a Lunch Box: Zero Waste Gets An A+
Have you said goodbye to disposables yet? Instead of buying single-use items like plastic bags to pack lunches throughout the year, invest in a high-quality reusable lunch system that lasts for the entire school year.
Here is the line-up of reusable wares for packing lunches with no waste:
- Bento boxes. They aren't just eco-friendly; they also prevent squish and keep foods separate. The best Bento box seals tightly and is customizable so that you can easily fit the container to any meal.
- Silicone muffin liners. You can keep lunches tidy and colorful with these easy-to-clean cups.
- Bento picks. Hold things together with a favorite character or animal.
- Thermos. Perfect for packing leftovers.
- Utensils. If you don't want to pack your silverware drawer, there are stylish and functional on-the-go options in earth-friendly materials like bamboo.
- Water bottle. The options are endless.
- Lunch bag or lunch box. Bonus if the ice packs are built into the walls because no parent wants to keep replacing lost ice packs.
Another lunch packing tip you can use to reduce waste and save money is to buy in bulk rather than individually portioned items.
How to Pack a Lunch Box: Prep the Night Before
If you can bear to do one more thing at night, make it a little lunchtime meal prep. A half an hour or less in the kitchen in the evening can help hectic weekday mornings run more smoothly. Here are some lunch packing tips for effective meal prep:
- Pre-cut what you can. Diced, sliced and cubed vegetables, plus cheese and fruits like pineapple and melon, are quick and easy to pack.
- Put dips like hummus, ranch and nut butters in small, sealed containers.
- Portion out dried fruits, nuts, pretzels, crackers and popcorn.
- Make meat and cheese rollups.
- Assemble kid-friendly skewers. Fruit kabobs, Caprese sticks and sandwich skewers are just a few lunch packing ideas.
How to Pack a Lunch Box: Make & Bake Ahead
Although it takes a little more time upfront, ultimately, baking can be a timesaver. Muffins are perfect because they can be made savory or sweet. For a lunch box hack that makes a baking session go further, make a double batch and put the extra in the freezer. Just pop in your child's lunch from the freezer, and it will be ready to eat by lunchtime.
Our favorite make-ahead lunch packing idea is pasta salad. It's simple to tailor to ingredients your kids like, and it gets more delicious with time in the fridge as the flavors combine.
Lunch Packing Ideas to Create Meaningful Routines
Start this school year not only with fun food and healthy snacks that encourage your kids to eat, but also with other ways lunchtime can nourish them. That could be a routine like packing a lunch in the morning to build independence or adding a note to your child's lunchbox to show your support during the school day. Your note can be a quick message or a conversation starter for later:
- Question. If you had a time machine, where would you go?
- Joke. Why is Superman's outfit always so tight on him? It's a size S.
- Riddle. Can they solve it by the time you see them after school? Q: What is yours but mostly used by other people? A: Your name.
You can find resources online for kids' jokes and riddles to include.
Stay Cool at School With Lunch Packing Ideas From PackIt
At PackIt, we're always here to help with sustainable lunch packing ideas and lunch box hacks that make life more delicious. Check out our blog for even more tips!