Lunch Box Ideas for Real Life

The kids are in school for 180 days, which means we have the privilege to pack 180 lunches. The more kids you have in school, the more lunches you will make. My husband and I have the wonderful opportunity to pack 540 school lunches this year! I can guarantee you my kids will not have a home lunch every day. It’s just not realistic in our household. What is a reality is when we pack their lunches, they’ll be a balance between healthy, easy, creative and did I say easy?

In preparation for this back-to-school post, I searched the internet for some fun, healthy and fresh ideas to inspire us this school year. But let me be clear — if you want to see those adorable and crafty lunch box ideas, like a sandwich made to look like Yoda, then check out Pinterest and knock yourself out. On the other hand if you want helpful tips to make the lunch routine easy, healthy and with a hint of creativity (reserved only for special occasions), then read on. The ideas I share are simple, balanced and mostly healthy. My lunch box photos may not grace the pages of Pinterest, but they’ll provide you with the grace to know you don’t have to be Martha Stewart when it comes to your kid’s lunch. So hose off last year’s lunch boxes, locate those plastic containers and lids, clean off your reusable sandwich bags and disinfect those BPA-free water bottles. Or, if this is the year to update your kid’s lunch parifenalia, check out my lunch box essentials and let’s get ready for a great school year!

First, we need the right tools for the job. This year I’m reusing my children’s lunch boxes, which after a thorough cleaning, look great.  To add a bit of excitement during the week, I purchased the Yumbox bento box, which thankfully will fit into my children’s lunch bags (LL Bean & Pottery Barn lunch boxes.) The best-selling feature of the Yumbox is it’s leak-proof! Here are a few more of my favorite lunch box essentials:

LBEThe majority of the products are found on Amazon.com, which offers great reviews and two-day shipping for Prime Members.  However make sure to compare prices on the actual product web site because it may be cheaper. A. Yumbox bento box, Easylunchboxes, LL Bean lunch box; B. Rubbermaid Lunch Blox, Thermos Foogo; C. Contigo Autoseal Stainless Steel bottle, Nalgene Kids OTF bottle, Reusable Juice in the Box ; D. Snack Taxi Reusable Gluten-Free sandwich bags, PlanetWise bags; E. Best Lunch Box Ever book, 100 Days of Real Food web site; F. Lunch Box Jokes, Lunch Box notes; G. Cool It! Frozen Ice PacksH. Puzzle Sandwich Cutters, Wonder Bread sandwich sealer and cutter (use to make your own uncrustable PB&J’s.)

Second, cut as many corners as you can, and I’m not talking about the crust on your kid’s bread. Here are five ways to simplify the lunch making process:

1) Make Lunch In Advance: Whatever items you can do the night before or days before, do it. Pre cut veggies and store them in either lunch containers or zip-locks to be placed in your child’s lunch box that week. Also have several hardboiled eggs on hand to use throughout the week. Plus check out this recipe for homemade uncrustable PB&J sandwiches, which you can freeze and use as needed. The less you have to do or think about in the morning, the better.

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I store all prepackaged snacks, granola bars, fruits, fruit chews and chips in two large baskets on top of my refrigerator. This makes for easy and fast access when making my kids’ lunches.  

2) Easy Access: When reaching for pre-packaged snack items, make them easy to get to. I have two large baskets above my fridge where I store all snack items from the grocery store.  I recycle the cardboard boxes (after cutting off the Box Tops,) and when it comes time to select items for the lunch boxes, I bring down my baskets and rummage through my choices. I love choices. Another way to help yourself out is to keep all of your lunch packing items together in one cabinet or drawer. This cuts down the time we waste hunting for those darn plastic container lids.

3) Leftovers & A Hot Lunch:  When making dinner, think about if it’s a meal the kids can eat for lunch the next day and make extra. When clearing the dinner table, simply put the leftovers in a microwave-safe container and heat it the next morning to transfer into your child’s thermos. Whether it’s pasta, a soup or even frozen meatballs, incorporate a hot meal into the lunch routine.

4) Vocabulary Practice:  Repeat after me, “It’s okay, I’m a great mom.” You’ll need to say this on the days when your kid’s lunch looks like the snack isle at the grocery store.  And especially on the mornings when you throw your hands up and shout for joy — SCHOOL LUNCH TODAY! Remember, a healthy balance is good and there’s no rule which says we have to make our child’s lunch every single school day.

5)  Involve Your Kids:  Have your elementary school kids make their own lunch the night before or the morning of school. This may not happen every day, but let them practice. Teach them healthy choices and watch as they put those choices into action. Involve them in the prep and especially the clean up. As soon as my kids walk in the door from school, they have to do their “lunch bag chore.” It’s their responsibility to throw away uneaten food, put dirty containers in the sink and neatly place their empty lunch boxes on the kitchen counter. As an aside, I ask my kids not to throw away food items at school because I want to see how much they’re eating, or not eating, during the day. This keeps me up-to-date on their likes and dislikes, which change like the wind.

Now that we have the right tools to use and have ways to simplify the process, what’s a lunch box post without a few photos to inspire you? Or rather to show the reality of what this momma plans to pack for the 500 plus lunches ahead of me. You’ll notice at least one day per week the kids will eat a school lunch, and the pre-packaged lunch day is purely reserved for the mornings when I can’t think straight.

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Please share any helpful tricks of the trade, recipes you like or lunch box tools you swear by in the comments section below. Have a great first week of school and bon appetite!

Our Back to School Series is sponsored by:

divalogo Divine Individuals with Virtuous Attitudes (D.I.V.A), LLC is an enrichment, tutoring and mentoring program for girls’ ages 6-16 years. We work towards enhancing our girls’ thinking to help challenge and accelerate the learning process while working towards setting and accomplishing goals. As experienced educators we pride ourselves on utilizing our knowledge of evidence-based practices throughout all programs to ensure each girl’s success. By understanding each girl’s culture and background we illuminate the qualities they already possess.

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