The new school year is almost here, and moms everywhere are scrambling to get their kids ready for the first day back. Once you get the clothes shopping and school supply shopping done, it’s time to tackle school lunches. This year, make packing lunches EASY with these life-changing school lunch hacks!
Moms, are you dreading the upcoming school year? If I’m honest, there’s a part of me that’s not looking forward to trading in my flip-flops and morning yoga classes for rushing around to get lunches packed and 3 kids out the door by 7:30 am!
There’s something about packing lunches that I get excited about for a grand total of 2 days. Each school year feels like a new beginning to me – a chance to do things differently.
I always have such grand plans for making interesting and delicious lunches that the kids will enjoy. And I’ve made quite a few of them that I’ll be sharing with you.
But first, make sure you grab these free lunch box jokes – kids of all ages will love sharing them with their friends for a good laugh! 👇👇
Then by the end of the first week, I always seem to be back to my standard boring lunches. And I have boring kids who tend to want the exact same thing every day.
This year that changes!
I recently did some experimenting with some new School Lunch Hacks that we practiced when packing lunches for summer camps this year.
They were life-changing!
I know that sounds a tad dramatic, but these hacks worked so well I’m actually excited for getting back to school and packing school lunches this year. 😎 Now I’m sharing these school lunch packing tips with you!
Grab A Bento Box
I LOVE using Bento Boxes when packing my kids’ lunches. They’re a great way to separate different foods without using multiple containers and lids. They simplify making lunches, so using Bento Boxes is one of my TOP school lunch packing tips.
There are so many options, not sure which one to get? Here are my favorites and top recommendations for back to school lunch packing tips:
- Best Bento Box For Young Kids (3-7 yrs): Bentgo Kids Brights (even includes a sauce compartment!)
- Best Chilled Bento Box For Kids: Bentgo Kids Chill Lunch Box
- The Best Bento Box For Older Kids And Adults: Lovina Bento Box With Included Fork And Spoon
- Best Bento Box For Salads: Bentgo Salad
- Best Stackable Bento Box: Ozazuco 3-in-1
- The Best Glass Bento Box (for older kids or adults): MCIRCO Glass Bento Box
- Best Eco-Friendly Stainless Steel Bento Box (for kids and adults): GreenLunch Bento
Except for the stackable Bento Box and the salad Bento Box, all of these Bento Box options fit into my favorite (and only one I recommend) lunch box: the Arctic Zone Titan. It’s tough enough to last more than one school year with 3 boys are NOT easy on stuff.
Note: I got our lunch boxes at Costco (Get a $20 Costco Gift Card when you join using this link!), but you can also get them on Amazon (Join Amazon Prime and get tons of great benefits including fast FREE Shipping!).
15 Back To School Lunch Hacks That Will Save Your Sanity
I’ve got 15 easy ideas for packing healthy lunches that your kids will actually WANT to eat.
You’ll save time, money, and energy by getting everything organized, utilizing leftovers in new ways, and packing healthier options in tasty new combos. Bring on the school lunch hacks!
1. Ditch The Sandwich
I’ll be the first to admit it: sandwiches are boring. Sure, they’re great once in a while and I’m ALL FOR adding them to lunches…occasionally.
But when you send PB&J every day, it’s gonna get boring FAST. So the first tip to make my list of school lunch box hacks: ditch the sandwich.
Instead of sandwiches, turn the same items into mini cracker sammies or a homemade Lunchable. Simply cut up the meat, cheese, and stack them. Add some crackers and let them have fun stacking and munching!
2. Make Your Own Uncrustables
Do you have kids that really LOVE sandwiches – especially PB&J?
Make your own Uncrustables by making sandwiches, cutting them out, and sealing them with these sandwich cutters and sealers. Then simply wrap each sandwich individually in plastic wrap and freeze them.
When you want to use them, just put a frozen sandwich into the lunch box and it’ll thaw and be ready for lunch!
Pro Mom Tip: If your kiddo has a peanut allergy or their school doesn’t allow nut butter, you can use SunButter (sunflower butter), Once Again sunflower butter, or allergy-friendly WOWButter to make the same convenient sandwich.
3. School Lunch Hacks: Freeze Juice Boxes
This genius lunch box hack allows you to lighten the load in the lunch box while still keeping everything nice and chilled.
Ditch the ice packs by freezing the juice drinks – the drinks will thaw in time to drink and keep food cold at the same time!
4. Get Creative
This will take school lunch hacks tip #1 to a new level. Let your creativity soar, because, with just a little thinking outside the box, you can turn the idea of sandwiches into tons of different things. Here are some fun ideas:
- Cut the bread into shapes with cookie cutters – kids won’t even realize they’re sandwiches!
- Swap sandwich bread for rolls, buns, tortillas, or pita pockets.
- Instead of a sandwich, change the shape by using a tortilla and making it a pinwheel or wrap.
- Turn your sandwich into a kabob. Include the meat, cheese, veggies (and even fruit!) on a stick. Everything tastes better on a stick!
Grab my lunch plan to get a HUGE list of ideas + lunch planning sheets at your fingertips to make adding variety EASY.
5. Pack Their Favorites
School lunch probably isn’t the time to introduce new foods that your kids potentially won’t like. I prefer to do that at dinner time so I can see the reaction and encourage those picky eaters to be adventurous! 😎
When it comes to school lunches, I have found that my kids are more likely to eat them if I pack things they really like.
For example, instead of sending cucumbers (which they hate), I’ll send carrots (which they love). Or if they aren’t loving turkey pinwheels at the moment but love Banana, Peanut Butter, and Nutella Sushi rolls, I’ll send that instead.
And instead of expecting them to eat boring veggies dry, I’ll send some ranch dressing or hummus to add some interesting deliciousness.
6. Utilize Leftovers
Did you make tacos last night? Use the leftovers to send a burrito, or make street tacos or even nachos.
Or how about that Chicken Alfredo Pasta Bake your kiddo loved or their favorite The BEST Homemade Crispy Baked Chicken Tenders? Make lunch easy plus clean out the fridge by packing them into your child’s lunch!
Leftovers can be one of your best friends when it comes to packing lunches because all the prep work has already been done!
7. School Lunch Hacks: DIY Single Servings
Buying items like chips, crackers, trail mix, applesauce, etc in bulk or large amounts is cheaper (and better for the environment) than buying in pre-packaged sizes.
Buy these items in large amounts and divide them up into smaller servings. If it’s chips, crackers, or other non-perishables, you can put them in baggies and add them to your kiddos’ weekly bins.
If it’s something like applesauce, dressings, or dips, put them into
Pro Mom Tip: for baggies, use resealable bags like Stasher bags or these Jagrom. For items like applesauce that’s messier, put them into leak-proof cups like these from Sistema.
8. Get The Kids To Help
You know that old advice of getting the kids to choose what they want for meals so they’ll actually eat it?
Well, it applies to school lunches too.
There are a couple of different ways you can approach this.
OPTION 1: If you’re a “packing it the morning of gal”, you can simply give your kiddos 2 choices as you’re packing lunch and have them choose.
OPTION 2: OR, if you like to plan ahead a little, you can create a bin of options for the week and let the kids make their selections so they actually help pack their own lunches.
I have tried option 1 for far too long, and have learned the hard way that option 2 actually works better AND helps lighten your workload too.
Pro Mom Tip: If you do this, tell your kids how many options they can choose each day (or for the week). Pack just enough for the week in each bin. That will keep any kiddos who might take all the chips or cookies from taking their siblings’ allotment!
9. Expand Your Use Of The Thermos
The good ol’ Thermos is good for SO much more than keeping soup warm! You can use it to hold casseroles, hot dogs, and even grilled cheese.
Pro Mom Tip: The way to really make your Thermos work for you is to fill it with boiling water and let it sit for 5 minutes in the morning. Then empty it, dry it, and fill it up with hot food!
10. Breakfast For Lunch!
Do you have a kiddo who just loves breakfast foods? I sure do, and so one of my favorite school lunch hacks is to send breakfast for lunch!
These foods work SO well in school lunches and give your kiddo that breakfast food fix too. Here are some delicious ideas your kids will LOVE:
- Egg bites
- French toast
- Waffle kabobs
- Breakfast burritos
- Breakfast pizza
- And more!
11. School Lunch Hacks: Add Variety
Take it from the gal who literally packs the same thing every day: even kids who like the same thing and like predictability will get bored with eating the same thing before you know it.
Change up the selections. Grab my lunch plan to get a HUGE list of ideas + lunch planning sheets at your fingertips to make adding variety EASY.
12. Use Cookie Cutters
Everything is more fun when it’s cut into shapes, right? Well, whether you agree or not, kids certain think that’s true.
And when food is fun, it’s delicious and even picky kids will eat it.
So use cookie cutters to cut sandwiches, cheese, fruit, and even deli meats into shapes for holidays, characters, or just for fun!
It doesn’t take long at all and may make all the difference in encouraging your kiddo to eat their lunch.
12. Make Your Own Lunchables
My kids beg for Lunchables. I mean they beg as if they’ve never had one before.
Well, I did buy them one time. One Time. That’s all it took me to figure out how expensive and terrible they are in so many ways.
So now when my kids want a Lunchable, we MAKE it. It takes hardly any time, I know the ingredients that we use (which isn’t a string of 100+ questionable ingredients), and we can completely customize it to their preferences and appetite.
And it’s PERFECT for bento lunch boxes (my favorite!)!
All you really need are:
- crackers or mini toast
- optional protein or Larabar
- maybe a dessert
13. School Lunch Hacks: Protein Muffins
One of my favorite school lunch hacks is to bake up some protein muffins and toss one into everyone’s lunch box.
It acts as a dessert, but it also gives them some more protein (and is made with healthful ingredients) so they stay satisfied until they get home and need an after-school snack!
Some of our favorite protein muffins are:
- Banana Protein Muffins
- The BEST Fresh Strawberry Bread (or Muffin) Recipe
- Zucchini Muffins The Whole Family Will Love
- Fail-Proof Pumpkin Muffins
14. Pack Lunch Box Jokes (or Notes)
Moms whose kids eat their lunches know that lunch needs to be FUN. If lunch is boring kids aren’t interested. Don’t ask me why – I’ll eat all day long, boring or not!
One super easy way to make lunch fun is to add a small personal touch. Include a short note (ex: I love you! Love, Mom) or a lunch box joke to bring a smile to their face as they read it and share a laugh with their friends.
Click the image below to grab a set of FREE lunch box jokes your kids will love!
15. School Lunch Hacks Include Adding Color
Last but not least. Another great way to make lunches fun is to add color. One of my favorite lunch box hacks is to use silicone muffin liners to separate different foods. They’re super inexpensive, easy to clean, and make lunch SO fun as they create additional dividers in your kids’ Bento boxes!
Silicone Ice Pop molds are another great way to make lunches fun while adding color. I simply make smoothies like I normally would. Then I pour them into these pop molds, freeze them, and add them to lunches. By lunchtime, they’ll be thawed out and ready to drink!
These School Lunch Hacks Will Make Mornings Easier
Lunch box hacks are all about making lunch packing easier AND getting kids to eat what’s packed. Even if you use some of them, try adding another 1-2 into your routine so that making lunches is no longer the part of the day you dread!
Do you have more school lunch hacks that help you? If so, please share them below!
Grab my lunch plan to get a HUGE list of ideas + lunch planning sheets at your fingertips to make adding variety EASY.
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