Max has his first day of grade one today (!!!!), which means, this will be my first year packing lunches on a regular basis. Thankfully, I’ve gotten a bit of practice over the last year as James started taking lunch to work every day for the first time since we had kids. Although, since he’s a big boy and can pack lunches on his own, it was far from a daily occurrence for me.
But, that doesn’t mean I didn’t learn a few things from the times that I actually did get my butt in gear and pack his lunch. Certain events took place that made it so easy to pack his lunch that it practically packed itself. Those are the tips that I’m sharing with you today. I’m writing them down for my own sake as much as your’s. I plan on using them as much as possible this year, and as long as I stick to it, this lunch packing thing should be a breeze. ;)
The biggest thing that worked for me last year was planning my lunches at home and automatically making extra servings to tuck away in the fridge to pack for lunch the next day. As soon as the lunch bag got home I cleaned it out and put those items in. In the morning James would just round out the main dish with whatever he gathered from the fridge, freezer, and fruit basket. I also found this helped us eat better lunches at home, because I didn’t just grabbing whatever was in front of me when we got hungry, I planned out what to eat ahead of time.
Some of our favourite recipes for this:
- Italian Focaccia Panini
- Jalapeño Rainbow Veggie Bagel Sandwiches
- Quesadillas (cool completely before wrapping to avoid sogginess)
- Quick Philly Cheesesteaks
- Quick Beef Gyros
Not home for lunch during the week? You can also do this on the weekends, for make-ahead lunches during the week, or make large batches of dinner to pack along as leftovers.
My family is generally not big on leftovers so I find that making bigger batches of home lunches works great for us, because I’m using the same principle but we minimize eating re-peat meals during the week (I’m always making something new, they just get it the next day). That doesn’t mean we don’t eat our leftovers, or that we don’t have a few dinnertime favourites that we look forward to having for lunch later in the week.
Some of our leftover-dinner favourites:
- Skillet Lasagna
- Mexican Quinoa
- Tacos - usually served as soft tacos or recreated into taco salad.
- Quick French Dip Sandwiches - this is my hubby and son’s fave! Put the meat and the sauce together warm in a thermos, or cold into a microwave safe container. They can spoon the warm meat onto the prepared roll and then dip it in the sauce.
Stock your freezer
Along with fresh fruits and veggies I try to have some snack items stored away in the freezer. Whether your kids or yourself will be packing their lunches in the morning it makes it easy to grab a few things to quickly round out the lunch to make it a full meal.
I also like to have a few main dish items stored away in the freezer for days that we do need something grab and go.
Some of our favourite things to tuck away in the freezer:
- Homemade Pizza Pops (we use this basic concept but regularly swap out the filling)
- Healthier No-Bake Granola Bars
- Blueberry Vanilla Bean Applesauce
- Homemade Graham Crackers
- Homemade Wheat Thins
- Almond Eatmore Bars
- Spicy Bean Burritos
Plan for the week ahead
No matter your method for packing lunches it’s important to make a plan to ensure it actually happens. An easy way to do this is to make a list of ongoing lunches, snacks and dinners that you can make ahead, that your family enjoys. Include it in your meal planning routine so you can take a quick peak at your list and fill out your week according to how much time you’ll have and what you feel like eating that week. Anytime that I actually took the time to do this last year, lunch was so easy and we all ate much healthier and much more delicious food.
Get the bulk of the packing done the night before
We’ve all heard this one a million times before right? But that’s because it is so helpful. School mornings can be hectic and stressful and if you’re trying to pack a last-minute lunch it makes it that much more so. Packing it the night before (or even just thinking about what to pack the night before) will make for a better rounded meal and a lot less stress in the morning.
When I was on top of all of these things last year, this system worked great. And, it makes me much more excited (and a lot less overwhelmed) about packing multiple lunches in the year ahead.
What are your best lunch packing tips?
Looking for more inspiration? Take a peak at my lunch box series from last year.