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Packing school lunch is a dreaded chore for many moms. Here are a few tips and tricks to get the kids involved and help make packing the lunchbox as simple as possible. Plus, download a free printable to help make packing school lunches a breeze!

A lunchbox filled with food, snacks, and a notebook and pens on a table.

Oh, the dreaded lunchbox! I always start the year off strong, excited and ready to make healthy, fun lunches. But a couple months in, my excitement wanes, and come March I find myself sending Lunchables more often than I’d like to admit 🤷.

Still, lunch has to be packed every day, Monday-Friday. (Sure, we could buy lunch at school, but even if we wanted to, the line is always so long my son wouldn’t have enough time to actually eat.) So coming up with ways to make this as quick, efficient, and painless as possible, while still being both healthy and fun, is something I’m always working toward.

Each year, I want my son help more and more with packing his lunch. He’s finally gotten good at making his own sandwiches 🙌, peeling cucumbers, and some other kitchen tasks as well. But I want to make it as easy as possible for both of us, so I’ve been brainstorming ways to help it not feel like such a chore.

Here are a few school lunch packing tips I’ve found to be super helpful:

1. Meal Prep

Currently, every Friday after I meal plan for the upcoming week, I place a grocery pickup order for Saturday morning. Now I’m adding “meal prep” to our Saturday morning chores list. Then, when my husband brings home the groceries, my kids and I can spend a half hour or so washing, peeling, and slicing all the produce, making sandwiches to freeze, and anything else that might ease the workload in the mornings before school.

This will also make reaching for a healthy snack much easier because the fruits and veggies are already washed and ready to eat. I like to soak all my produce in a vinegar/water mix. It gets them squeaky clean and I feel like it helps them last longer too. Then, once they’ve soaked, I rinse them off with plain water and store them in airtight containers.

2. Reorganizing My Fridge, Freezer, and Pantry

I’m also going to spend some time this week reorganizing our fridge, freezer, and pantry with school in mind. I plan to keep school lunch items all together in one place, so my son has easy access to reach in and grab what he needs. I’ll keep a basket in the fridge for all lunch things, a section of the freezer for frozen sandwiches, and a bin in the pantry for lunch approved items. Then he can easily grab what he needs and move on!

3. Choose Your Own School Lunch Sheet

I wanted to have my son choose and pack his own lunch, but I also wanted to be sure he was choosing nutritious options (and not throwing in a bunch of goldfish and fruit snacks), so I created this printable to help him create his own healthy (yet still fun) lunches.

I created 4 sections: main dish (pick 1), fruits and veggies (pick 2-3), round it out (pick 1), and just for fun (pick 1). Each week I’ll list some options for him in the left columns (based on what we have in our fridge/pantry).

Then there are two options for filling it out:

  1. Have him put a checkmark in the column on the right by what he wants.
  2. Let him choose as he packs his lunch.

Option one is great for kids who still need some help packing their own lunch, while option two is great for older, more independent kiddos.

Here are some ideas of what I’ll put in each category:

Main Dish:

  • Sandwich
  • Homemade “lunchable”
  • Quesadilla
  • Pasta salad
  • Turkey wrap
  • Chicken salad
  • Butter noodles
  • Dinner Leftovers

Fruits and Veggies:

This one is pretty self-explanatory, but the favorites around here are cucumber slices, baby carrots, apple slices, raspberries, strawberries, cuties, and peaches.

Round it Out:

This is either something that corresponds with one of the above items, or just something to add to the nutrition:

  • Black beans to go with a quesadilla
  • Hummus for veggies
  • Almond butter for apple slices
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese stick
  • Trail Mix
  • Avocado
  • Crackers to go with chicken salad
  • Kid’s protein shake (my son is obsessed with these Orgain Kids ones)

Just for Fun:

This category helps kids get excited about their lunches, meaning they’re more likely to actually eat them.

  • Goldfish
  • Fruit snacks
  • A small handful of M&Ms
  • Juice box
  • Cookie
  • Chocolate milk
  • Popcorn
  • Square of dark chocolate

If you want your own printable, you can download yours below. I’m going to laminate mine, then use a dry erase marker so I don’t have to reprint it each week.

Download the Choose Your Own Lunch printable in color here or by clicking on the image below.

A lunch packing printable

Download the Choose Your Own Lunch printable in black and white here or by clicking on the image below.

a printable that helps with packing school lunches

What’s your kid’s favorite packed lunch?

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