Lunch Packing Two Ways

When my girls were little, packing lunches got old really fast. I mean, they wanted to eat lunch every single day. Sheesh! After finally getting the kids to bed at night, I would spend way too much time in the kitchen trying to pack up lunches for the next day. There had to be a way to make things easier. Here’s what I settled on that worked for me.

Bento Boxes 

Now, if you go to Pinterest and search for this, prepare to be overwhelmed. There is an over the top insane way to do this and a real mom version way. I’m talking about the real mom version here. I loved being able to find little latching lid containers that were small enough that I could pack in the nutrition without lots of wasted food. 

I loved packing a pretty lunch for my kids. They were proud to open their lunches and enjoyed seeing surprises inside. The usual items included: rolled up turkey, cheese sticks, grapes, baby carrots, apple slices, pretzels, snap peas, nuts, dried fruit, crackers, pasta, rice etc. To make it fun, I would cut out their initial out of a slice of cheese and place it on top. Super easy, but they loved it! Sometimes, I would make a fun shaped sandwich to include with the finger foods, but they were just as happy using the little toothpicks to eat their munchies most of the time. I think the novelty of having a lunch that was different than others but still held similar elements made them eat more. If I was feeling extra, I may even throw in a small wrapped candy for fun. 

Bento box packing tips:

  • Pack it tightly. If you are going for visually appealing, you want to pack in your ingredients, put the lid on and your child will see the same thing when they open their box at lunch. If there is too much open space, things will shift and you don’t get the same effect visually. 

  • Watch out for moisture content. If you pack crackers next to the grapes, the crackers will likely lose their snap by lunchtime. You can avoid this by using sectioned containers and keeping dry ingredients in one section. I have been known to build a cheese “wall” to create the same effect. It was a matter of trial and error. My kids were never shy about reviewing my work, so I could improve. 

Full disclosure here...I was really good at packing bento boxes when I was home full time. When I went back to full time, that was a lot harder for me to maintain. Mondays were the best day for me, because I could prepack most of it on Sunday night before the crazy of the week set in. Then, I transitioned to the next method of lunch packing. 

Prepacked Bins

This method streamlined my efforts to pack not only two lunches for the kids, but my own lunch as well. It really changed how I organized my pantry/fridge space to minimize my time making lunches. I used to have all the cracker boxes together on one shelf and all the dried fruit in another area. I found that by pre-packing lunch size portions of our favorites into a few bins in the pantry, I could speed things along. 

If I was making sandwiches, I could just grab a crunchy snack and a sweet snack from the pantry. Then I’d toss in a fruit or veggie snack bag from the fridge and the lunch was complete. I didn’t have to get out all the bags and package everything on a daily basis anymore. Switch out that main dish for pasta in a thermos and the same categories apply for a complete meal. 

One of the added bonuses of this method was that when my kids got older and developed preferences of their own, they started using the same method to build their own lunches. I could feel better about them getting some semblance of nutrition while not losing my mind. 

I loved being able to tailor our lunch ingredients to what worked for us at the time. Lunchables were expensive and not the best as far as nutrition went. They were a treat for an occasional lunch. I may have snickered a little when my children decided that the meat and cheese in those tasted funny to them. They preferred to do homemade lunchables instead. I preferred it too! I could control those ingredients with versions that were better for them. Sometimes, you have to let them discover those things for themselves. 

Packing lunches doesn’t have to consume your every evening. By putting some simple systems in place, you can streamline your efforts and spend your time the way you want. 

Another way I have organized my life is with meal planning. Check out my weekly meal planner here

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