Packing lunches can be a lot simpler than you think – even if you have more than one child. It just takes some planning upfront to create a system that will work for the long haul.
Then, I promise you, lunch-packing will be a breeze!
I should be clear that my priority for school lunches is singular: to ensure that kids get the most nutrition to keep them energized for their whole day.
This means that I encourage parents to pack foods that their kids already like and to save the experimenting for family meals when there are more choices on the table and more time for kids to taste them.
This doesn’t mean catering to them or packing the same lunch every single day.
For other meals, I have additional goals, including introducing children to new food, teaching them table manners, connecting about everyone’s day, etc.
With this in mind, here are my top 3 steps to make lunch-packing quick, easy and efficient, no matter how many kids you have.
1. Create a formula
Decide which categories of food you want to include in your child’s lunch everyday.
A good rule of thumb is to make sure that you pack protein, carbohydrates, healthy fat, vegetables and/or fruit, and if you’d like, a small treat.
Using a bento box, like Planetbox, has been a goldmine for so many parents because it helps us think in terms of these types of categories.
To my earlier point, I do not recommend including a new vegetable in hopes that your child will eat it out of hunger. If your child is compliant, then this approach could “work” in the short term.
However, it undermines research that shows that children can be trusted to learn to like healthy foods over time. Plus, it can make them more likely to reject these foods in the long run.
2. Make a list of favorites
Ask your children what they would love to have included in their lunches. Whether it’s their favorite crackers, sandwich or fruit, keep this list handy.
If you have more than one child, then take special note of any shared favorites. For example, they might like different types of sandwiches (e.g., pb & j, turkey, salami and cheese), but you could still list “sandwiches” as a shared favorite.
Based on your master list, plan to make the same lunch each day for all of your kids, with variations as necessary.
3. Batch and freeze
You’d be surprised by how many things freeze well!
Starting with your master list of favorites, choose one day each week and/or month to batch cook as many of these items as possible.
For items that are not homemade, buy them in bulk and store them together in a bin in your pantry for easy access.
I love to have healthy homemade muffins and granola bars in my freezer at all times. That way, I can fill up my son’s lunchbox with healthy items quickly and efficiently. Plus, items like these will defrost by the time lunch rolls around, so there’s no need to heat them up.
Here are some of my son’s favorites:
I hope this helps you to streamline lunch packing!