Keeping it Simple:: Back-to-School Lunch Packing Hacks

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Back-to-school time is always bittersweet. This year, that’s even more true. With all that’s going on, we wouldn’t blame you if packing your kids’ school lunch hadn’t even yet entered your mind.

We’re here to help with some practical ways to not pull your hair out about back-to-school lunch packing. 

back-to-school lunch packing

Back-to-School Lunch Packing Hack #1:: Excitement

First things first, get your child excited about the new year with a new lunch box! 

These Neoprene ones have held up well for us in the past and usually work for younger students, but may not be large enough for older students. 

I was also recently introduced to these freezable lunch bags. Don’t they look like a cool (pun intended) alternative to digging around your freezer for a cold pack to throw in?

Bento boxes were all the rage a year or so ago. They help segment out foods, especially if you have a kiddo who doesn’t like their food to touch, but I find myself much more often using separate containers. 

Notes to consider: 

  • Where does your child store their lunch during the day? For older students, if lockers are unavailable for use this year and lunch boxes need to fit in individual backpacks, a hard-sided option may not be best to stuff in there with everything else.
  • Not all schools can recycle. If that’s important to you (and I hope it is), make sure you send a lunch box full of reusable containers vs. disposable bags.

Now, what should you pack inside the lunch box?

Note to consider: how much time is your child allotted for eating their lunch? This factors into what you pack for lunch.

A more veteran mom than myself gave me this piece of advice: “girl, have the kids do it themselves!” If like me, you want to know more, she shared the following tips:

  • Get sizes of different containers that can hold small snack quantities, like for nuts or chopped fruit or veggies. Keep all of that and their matching lids in one spot, accessible for kids to reach. 
  • Similarly, get some bins where you can put all the pre-packaged options they can choose from for lunches: applesauce, crackers, chips, granola bars, etc. You may even consider clearing out a drawer or other space in the fridge for them to easily find and choose from lunch items like boiled eggs, yogurt, cheese sticks, etc. 
  • In addition to training them on where to find food, this method of lunch packing also requires some training about food groups and quantities, so don’t forget that part. 
    • Side note: If only I had a dollar for every time I’ve said, “not until you eat your protein!”

In a rut with what to pack?

Sandwiches are an easy go-to for many moms, but here are two really great follows on Instagram to check out for more creative ideas:

Our Idaho Falls Moms Blog sister site also has this great post, complete with a chart of specific food ideas to try, in addition to many other tips. 

I think a problem many of us have is putting too much pressure on lunch as a full meal. If you make sure to provide a healthy breakfast and dinner, it’s perfectly acceptable to send a lunch box full of nutritious snacks—that counts in my book!

Miscellaneous back-to-school lunch packing tips

  • For little hands, make it easier to eat fruit like oranges and bananas by making a small slit in the peel to get it started.
  • Speaking of fruit, did you know you can use orange juice to soak apple slices in so they don’t turn brown? I’ve always used lemon juice, but sometimes that alters the taste due to the amount you have to squeeze on there. Now, mix the lemon juice with the OJ, and you’re golden! 
  • Drinking fountains will likely be inaccessible to drink from during the pandemic, so don’t forget to send a reusable water bottle along with your student, too! 

Bottom line

You know your child(ren) best—when it comes to food and everything else. Buy and pack what you know they like to eat. That goes whether you’re sending your children back to the classroom this year or you’re stocking up for a homeschool venture. 

And whether you’re the kind of mom who cuts gourmet sandwiches into heart shapes and writes encouraging notes or you’re the kind who struggles with a morning routine and getting a picky eater to eat anything you haphazardly throw in there, you’re doing a great job.

Happy 2020-2021 school year!

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Blair Bonczynski is a wife to one, mom to two. Born and raised in the Metro area, she finds great joy in playing intramural sports, listening to a good audio book, figuring out ways to save the environment, and indulging in a craft beer every now and then. She spends her days working as the marketing and communications coordinator for the Archdiocese of Omaha Catholic Schools Office, and she spends her nights playing with her kids and picking up toys at home. She is constantly discovering the joy in the little things.