Stress Free School Lunch Ideas
Happy Back to School Everyone! I hope you all have survived the last week or so. This year is the first year both of our children are in school. Our little girl is finally in kindergarten! But this really changed up our morning routine. Let’s just say…..my daughter is not really a morning person, or a person that understands you need to be there on time. And a person that only thinks she can go to the bathroom at the exact moment you are ready to walk out the door! Needless to say, I have been a little worried about how our mornings would go trying to get both of them ready. I’ve always laid out clothes the night before, made sure the backpacks were ready to go and asked what they wanted for lunch the next day. The problem is, I would forget about half of what my son actually wanted in his lunch. Was it these chips or these? Did you want an apple or a banana…and so on. So we decided to try something new this year and I am excited to share it with you! Check out our Stress Free School Lunch Ideas! Below I’ll show you how we put it all together and what we do the night before to be prepared for the next morning.
The first thing you need are containers to put your food items in and lots of snack sized bags. We used the shoe box size bins and decided we needed six of them. You can find these in several stores and we got ours for less than one dollar each.
The first thing I did was wash and dry all of the bins and remove the label. I then made my own labels for the front of the bin. On these labels I wrote a one or a two, showing how many items or servings the kids could pick from that particular bin. The only bin that we have a two on, is our fruit and veggie bin. But you can sort yours how ever you like.
The next thing you need are all of your food choices to fill the bins with. I took the kids grocery shopping with me (YIKES), and let them help pick out what their options would be. I am quickly starting to see what they will actually take in their lunches and what we can skip next time. Also, I’m going for more fresh fruit instead of fruit cups next time. I have to send them a spoon and then my daughter has a hard time opening them. Plus I just feel that fresh fruit is just a better choice. So here is what we got.
We got A LOT of items, and not everything needs to fit into the bins right now. All of these items are things we eat anyway, so extras are in the pantry or fridge for snacks or meals at home. Now, just start filling your bins. We divided ours up into like items and I’ll give you a list of what we put in them. Things like baby carrots, pretzels and vanilla wafers can all be placed into the snack bags. This will also save money so you’re not having to buy individually wrapped items.
Above, you can see three of our bins that we started to fill. Here is our breakdown of how we grouped things together.
- Bin #1 – Fruit = (cups and fresh), veggies (baby carrots, cucumber slices, broccoli) and applesauce.
- Bin #2 – Crackers = Wheat Thins, Cheese Its and Ritz Crackers. We also had peanut butter crackers in here and then changed it to another bin.
- Bin #3 – Yogurt and Cheese = string cheese, cubed cheese, yogurt cups and Gogurt.
- Bin #4 – Snacks = Granola bars, peanut butter crackers, cereal bars and raisins. I ended up moving applesauce to this bin too.
- Bin #5 – Chips = I get the variety pack of baked chips and then we added more pretzels and veggie straws.
- Bin #6 – Dessert = Chocolate graham bears, vanilla wafers, fruit snack or roll up and Nutella with pretzel sticks.
Now just make sure to have a place cleared off to put all of your bins. I learned two lessons while doing this project. 1, The kids will probably only help for about 5 minutes and they will want to snack on everything you are trying to bag up. 2, If you’re a little OCD, like me, you’ll end up rearranging your pantry and cleaning out your fridge to get this done! So this really took care of several things in one day! I cleared a shelf in the pantry for the dry foods.
And then I actually took a drawer out of my fridge to fit the bins with the cold stuff. I was insistent on not taking up more room than necessary. You can see in the photo, that all of our extra applesauce and fruit cups go right below our bins.
One last thing, I needed an easy way to remember specifically what kind of sandwich or hot item they wanted too. So I made these little labels, covered them in clear packing tape (for durability) and put them next to our bins in the pantry. They can pick one of these options and I lay the tag by their lunch box so I know who gets what.
Just to be clear, they probably don’t need to pick an item from EVERY bin. For most kids, especially younger ones, that would be too much food. But the numbers on the front of the bins keep them from picking three desserts! We still try to keep it fairly balanced and make sure everyone has at least one fruit item in their lunch. Some days they didn’t even pick a sandwich. Cheese and crackers was the main part of their meal and I’m okay with that. Once they pick what they want, I go ahead and put the dry items in their lunch box and group the cold items, by child, in the fridge. In the morning, I just grab the cold stuff and a napkin and add it to their lunchbox. This has really made our mornings go fairly smooth and I’m hoping it will stay that way!
You can see our other organizing tips HERE!