Back to school. Those words can evoke both anxiety and excitement in the hearts of parents. Anxiety as we shuffle off to the store to buy all those school supplies and the dreaded adjustment back to the days of stricter schedules, dinnertime stress and homework. But we have a sigh of relief at trying to figure out camp schedules, fridges and pantries stocked with snacks, and exclamations of, “I’m bored!”
As we’re starting a new school year, this is a good time to set your family up for healthy success. In 2014, we launched Power Your Lunchbox to encourage families to start the new school year off on the right food. We launched PowerYourLunchbox.com as a hub of healthy ideas to help busy families with lunchbox-packing woes.
Head over there for 70+ registered dietitian-approved, kid-tested lunchbox ideas to add to your rotation. Need nut free, gluten free or sandwich free ideas? We have them all!
To help you pack a better lunchbox, we asked fellow parents through our social media channels to share their best lunchbox-packing strategies, tips and hacks. Whether you’re a lunchbox newbie or packing pro, there’s sure to be something on the list that is helpful for you!
Lunchbox-Packing Tips & Hacks from Parents
- Pack the night before, especially when it’s leftovers from dinner. Pre-cut things so they are easy to grab (cheese cubes, grapes, roasted veggie chunks). It also helps to make a big batch of something like hummus or ranch and throw it in mini containers for easy grabbing. – @hungrylittles
- I love to use fresh fruits and veggies cut into shapes. To inspired those picky eaters to try new flavors! – Adriana Martin
- Make a plan – when doing your meal planning make sure you think about lunchboxes. Bulk bake and freeze lunchbox items so you’re always stocked up. Make lunches fun by using cookie cutters and color – @goodiegoodielunchbox
- We’re a bento box family. There’s plenty of cheaper options with divided sections out there. My son gets distracted easily, so with a bento box, he can see everything in his lunch and eat more quickly since he doesn’t have to open multiple containers/bags. – Lisa F.
- My kids love sun butter (or peanut butter) + fruit whole wheat wraps. We make a handful on Sunday and the girls use different fruit combos and then we talk about which combos were their favorites. We also set up a trail mix packing station on Sunday so bagged snacks are ready to grab and go all week for school/after-school activities. – Amanda K.
- Instagram your packed lunches. You can use them for future reference if you have brain fog while planning or are in a bind for quick packing. –@bento.for.five
- My youngest loves hard boiled eggs so I boil a dozen on Sunday nights that will last us the entire week. I also prep baby carrots, pretzels, raisins, etc. on Sundays by putting the portions in individual snack baggies so I just need to grab them for lunches during the week. – Trish J.
- Use labeled Tupperware for kids and set aside with lunch bags in their own drawer. I have a snack drawer I keep stocked with everything from raisins, granola bars, juice boxes, applesauce etc. I even keep icepacks sorted in freezer….don’t waste time searching for stuff. – Ellena S.
- I like serving small portions of a variety of fruits and veggies in my kiddos lunch boxes. 3 carrots easily get eaten, 10 would get thrown away. I also love using fun containers for small hands. Making the foods look more exciting works every time! – Jodi of Create Kids Club
- Rotisserie chicken when sandwiches are turned down, cups of unsweetened applesauce for easy sides, and getting produce washed and assembled in the fridge when you first bring it home for easy grabbing. – Allison R.
- I print out 6 months’ worth of lunchbox notes and jokes and store them in an envelope–since they are already printed and cut out, I can grab them quickly even on those crazy mornings. My boys love them–and we have turned it into a fun after-school game when I ask them to recite their note or joke to me. Makes lunch fun and encourages my early readers. – Lesley D.
- I stick to easily packable fruits & veggies like grape tomatoes, baby carrots, grapes, cut cantaloupe or berries. Small apples are a fun add in. My older kids love sandwiches so I try to change out the bread to keep it interesting (rolls, mini subs, sliced). Also, my daughter loves pasta salad so I try to make some to put in her lunch box a few days. My biggest thing to packing 3-4 lunches every day is to keep it simple. – Aggie of Aggie’s Kitchen
- I pre-portion veggies on Sundays for the week. We’ll have little containers of carrots, broccoli, and cucumber, also fruits (if they will last for the week) like pears, oranges and strawberries. Kids can grab a healthy thing to add to their lunch. Easy peasy! – Amy J.
- Freeze yogurt tubes! It doubles as an ice pack and is ready to eat by lunch. – Lori B.
- To switch up sandwiches, we love pizzadillas…plus no worries for non-crust eaters. Think of new combos: ham + pineapple, pepperoni + spinach. – Dash of Evans
- My daughter LOVES apples, but will only eat them sliced. To keep them from browning in the lunchbox, I toss them in apple juice and place in a ziplock bag with all the air squeezed out. – Susan B.
- Grab fun reusable picks/skewers for a new twist on classic favorites. Sandwich kabobs, anyone? – Christie of Raising Whasians
- Grapes are a staple in our lunchboxes. We freeze them, before throwing into lunchboxes. They thaw by lunchtime but double as an ice pack. – Cheryl F.
- My kids are not sandwich eaters, but I can wrap those same sandwich ingredients up in a tortilla and they’ll eat them all. Sometimes you just have to change up how you present the food to them. – Mandi K.
- The thermos is my go to! I can heat up leftovers from the night before and add to thermos before school. The food is still warm at lunchtime. – Karen L.
If you’re an avid pinner, make sure to follow our Power Your Lunchbox pinboard on Pinterest!