Dreading the grind of making school lunches every morning? We rounded up the best school lunch hacks from moms that will have you saying, "Why didn't I think of that?"
Give yourself a few more minutes of sleeping in (or at least sipping your coffee in your PJs) with these time-saving tips for prepping school lunches.
Grab-and-go lunch bins
Photo credit: DelightfulOrder.com
I love this idea from DaNita of DelightfulOrder.com, who uses divided plastic trays she picked up at the Dollar Tree to prepare lunches for the week for her three boys. She fills the bins with something a little different for each day, but keeps it healthy with a mix of pre-packaged foods, fresh fruits and yogurt tubes.
In the morning, she makes a sandwich and then places all the items in that day's bin into the lunch box, along with a freezer pack to keep the food cold. A little time preparing on Sunday night means a lot of time being saved in the morning.
You actually don’t even need to make sandwiches in the mornings if you follow our next tip…
Make freezer PB & Js
Freezing a batch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches is a great way to save money and time, thanks to this tip from Crystal Paine, Founder of MoneySavingMom.com. Throw on your headphones, grab a loaf of bread and peanut butter and jelly and make a week's worth of sandwiches. Place them in baggies and put them in the freezer. If your school is peanut-butter-free, you can also use sunflower seed or almond butter.
In the morning, pop them into the lunch box and they will be thawed and ready to eat by lunch.
Include pre-packaged foods with homemade snacks
To save time in the morning, follow Sally Kuzemchaka's advice and mix pre-packaged foods that are easy to grab with homemade snacks. "I do keep some pre-packaged foods on hand for lunch boxes such as fruit cups, cheese sticks and boxes of raisins. But I love having something homemade to tuck in, like a slice of banana bread. Leftover homemade pizza is a lunch box regular as well."
Don't have time to make a homemade snack in the morning? Check out the next tip…
Make large batches of homemade items for the week
Mara Fleishman, mom of three and Executive Director of the Chef Ann Foundation, says she and her kids bake pumpkin, banana or zucchini bread for the week. "Make a loaf with your kids after school as an activity at the beginning of the week, and then add a slice in their lunch boxes each day."
Use a Bento box
She says she prepares the lunch the night before. "All dry goods are on the counter, ready to go, and all cold foods are in the fridge. In the morning, lunches are assembled in the Bento box within three minutes," she says.
Turn leftovers into lunch
"I often try to morph dinner leftovers into fun lunches," says mom Dana White. "Leftover roasted chicken for chicken salad, or simply make extra pasta or pizza with veggies that can be packed up for the next day."
Fleishman turns her breakfast leftovers into lunch. "Double up on something you are making for one kid's breakfast and add it to another one's lunch," she says.
Have your children pack their own lunches
Prepare some cut-up fruits and veggies and other ready-to-grab lunch items and have the kids pack their own lunches in the morning. Parenting expert and nutrition author Katherine Eskovitz likes PlanetBox lunch boxes for their separate compartments, and has her kids pick a fruit, veggie, protein (such as chicken or turkey) and a grain, like a whole wheat roll.
"Empower your children to pack their lunches, especially the fruits and veggies, into the compartments — if they pack it, they are more likely to eat it," she says.
Don't count out the power of a thermos
She also packs high-fiber cereal in a reusable container and sends soy or almond milk in a thermos, along with a fruit and vegetable, for an easy lunch.
Mini lunch box pies
Photo credit: Momof6.com
Sharon is a mom of six kids, so you know she has learned a few time-saving lunch tricks. She makes a batch of these mini lunch box apple pies on Sunday to send a little bit of home to school all week long. Check out the recipe on her blog, Momof6.com. They are small enough to fit into plastic containers, making them perfect for lunch.