Tips to prep and pack in advance

Aug 16, 2012 at 10:33 a.m. ET

It’s amazing how much time you can save yourself by prepping and packing lunches in advance. Spend an hour or two each Sunday getting things ready, and you’ll save tons of time each morning throughout the week. Plus, having healthy foods ready to go makes it easier to avoid the temptation to send money for the cafeteria or stop at a fast food joint when you’re running late.

mom making sandwiches

Prep fruits and veggies

Fruits and vegetables are great for meals on the go, but the time it takes to prep them makes it tough to pack them when you're short on time. Make sure you have them ready to go by prepping your fresh fruits and veggies as soon as you get them home from the grocery or farmer's market. Wash all of your produce and chop it into bite-size pieces, and then pack it all into individual servings in sandwich bags or storage containers. Add a splash of water to your vegetables to keep them fresh and crisp.

Cook proteins ahead of time

Whenever you make chicken for dinner, plan for leftovers. Add a few extra chicken breasts to be cooked for lunches. Cube or shred the meat and store it in individual containers. Now it's ready to add to a salad or wrap, or to eat on its own.

Cook a few strips of bacon or turkey bacon to add to salads, wraps or sandwiches.

Boil a dozen eggs (or a half-dozen, depending on the size of your household). These can be stored in the fridge all week and served chopped or sliced on salads or eaten whole. They make great portable snacks throughout the week too.

Pre-cook your carbs

A few containers of plain, cooked rice or pasta in your fridge can go a long way. Mix them with fresh vegetables, cheese and dressing for a great salad on the go. Make the pasta and rice ahead of time, but don't mix them with the extras until they're ready to pack to avoid soggy pasta and dried out rice.

Pre-packaged snacks

When you're packing lunches in a hurry, pre-packaged snacks can be your best friends. Keep single-serving cups of fruit, applesauce, yogurt and pudding on hand, as well as cheese sticks and granola bars.

Don't forget the extras

If you like to munch on fresh veggies, don't forget something to dip them in! Use small containers to prepare dressing, yogurt or peanut butter for dipping. Use plastic bags or containers to package servings of cookies or another dessert.

Quick Tip

Make sandwiches up to three days in advance. Wrap them in damp paper towels to keep them from drying out.

More tips for packing lunches

Prep 5 school lunches in under an hour
Timesaving tips for on-the-go lunches
Freezable foods that will thaw by lunch time