I hate to pack school lunches. Not just a little, but a lot. I think this is normal for moms, right? We have those one or two things about our jobs that we feel are just out to get us. For me? School lunches and getting out the door on time. I had to fix the madness and decided to share how I saved lunch prep time.
My boys are still in preschool so thank goodness it’s only a few times a week. Even still, I found myself dreading having to do it AGAIN. I searched for tips but outside of a couple that didn’t work for me, nothing really made it easier. The only thing I had been doing was night before, instead of morning of. So I just assumed it was something I would always be irritated by. Until the day I can have the boys either make it themselves or eat their homework for lunch.
I’m hoping you get my hyperbole a bit here. I don’t like it at all, but I have found 4 things that have changed lunch prep for our family. Well, mostly for me, since people scatter when it’s time to get to work.
Without further ado:
Stop doing it the morning of.
No, but really. This is the most valuable tip I can give you. Maybe the most obvious. At one point I was making lunches up the morning of, and we were always waaaaaay more stressed and harried getting out the door. I don’t wake up early. Morning-haters unite. This was the only thing I did for a while, and just this one thing saved our morning demeanor from tipping the scales of not-so-fun to nuclear.
Have a formula, and stick to it.
Here’s the truth. Kids will eat their lunch or they just won’t. My job is not to entertain my kids with exciting lunches. It’s to feed them. If you are a mom who loves to be elaborate with school lunches, that’s such a gift. Keep giving. But for the rest of us, we just need to get it done. Here’s how. Go-to’s.
We are all about the “go-to’s” in this house. Figure out the items you consistently use and just stick with them. For us, it’s sandwiches, fruit or applesauce, yogurt sticks, cheese sticks, veggie straws or something else crunchy. That’s it. Seriously. Every day. Figure them out and keep stocked.
Use sectioned lunch containers.
This was game changing. It’s why number two above works. Between these two tips, lunch-making goes on auto-pilot. No more sleepily thinking about what to pack. A few years ago, I discovered the Planetbox lunch boxes. I cringed big time at the price, but we waited and asked for them as gifts, and got them two years apart.
I cannot stress how much I love these things. They are so sturdy, I can throw ’em in the dishwasher, and they are perfect for my lunch automation plan. We have the Rover. (In case you were wondering, this is not a sponsored post, only affiliate links. But I promise I’d delete them if I didn’t truly love their product).
Why is this so crucial? Because of my go-to’s, I now have an exact plan based on the spaces available. Hmmm. Fruit in the bottom left? Check? Stick of some sort in the top skinny spot? Check. Crunchy item in the top left? Check. And done.
There are a lot of ways to make this work. I like the layout of this Bentgo box and this NomNom Cube looks cool too. Just another thought, our Planetbox containers have bags that the lunch boxes fit in. Keep that part in mind while you search.
A couple other ideas…you could also have a set number of individual containers you use every time. Then you know once you have filled those, you are done. I mean, ziplocs could work in a pinch. Just stick with the same number and your go-to’s.
Now on to my favorite and most game changing.
Make sandwiches in bulk and freeze them.
This even made my list of things saving my life right now. I had heard people mention this one and blew it off for a while. Then I made a bunch of PBJ’s up and froze them. Holy cow, mind blown. But. My oldest doesn’t like PBJ’s anymore. And in a few months, he will be in a nut-free school. Womp womp. I tabled this one for a long time.
But a little while back I was desperate. So I decided to experiment with making his beloved ham, cheese, and mayo sandwiches ahead and freezing them. IT WORKED. Are they the best ever? Who knows? Does he eat them and never mention the difference? Yup. All I do is win.
- Here’s the quick rundown. I make about 2 weeks at a time, plus 2-3 extras. (I like to grab sandwiches on Sunday so that I don’t have to spend money on lunch after church). Lay out all your bread. For the PBJ’s I put peanut butter on both sides, then some jelly, then done.
- For the ham sandwiches, I make sure my ham isn’t super wet, mayo both sides, two pieces of ham with a cheese slice in the middle. Done. Bag each sandwich individually and use a straw to suck the air out of each bag. Then I stick them all in the bread bag and freeze. I reuse the individual ziplocs a few times before throwing them out. Make sure any ice crystals are dry when you reuse them.
- When you are prepping THE NIGHT BEFORE, pull them out of their individual bags and put them where they go in the lunchbox. They thaw really fast in the fridge.
It truly is that simple. 4 steps. Do the work the night before, stick with your formula, use pre-portioned containers, and make sandwiches in bulk and freeze.
Because I am always looking for more ways to hate lunch prep less, I would forever be indebted if you would share your brilliant tips and tricks!