Whether your little ones are going back to school or just starting, you know you have some serious lunchbox-packing ahead. The thought of packing 180+ lunches over the school year can feel daunting and impossible. But here is the great news: healthy lunches can be fun and super easy—all it takes is a little preparedness and creativity. I’m talking simple, real foods, served in fun and tasty ways. Below are my top 5 tips for getting organized with lunches this year.
1. Invest in great lunchboxes and containers to reduce the repeat waste (and recurring expense) of non-reusable plastic. Aside from the benefits to the planet, bento-style lunchboxes and functional containers make packing lunches WAY simpler. It’s much easier to find inspiration to fill small compartments than the black hole of a giant lunch bag. And kids love it! They have organized options, presented in interesting ways. We tend to eat with our eyes first, so presentation is key.
2. Get acquainted with macronutrients: everybody requires fat, carbohydrates, and protein. This can help inspire you when packing lunches, giving focus and direction, as well as natural variety. A lunchbox of fruit and veggies is nourishing, but where are the protein and fat? Don’t worry too much about balancing every snack in the bag. It’s big-picture thinking, ensuring they get what they need over the course of the day. And it’s about balance, not perfection, so don’t be shy about including a little something sweet or salty for them to enjoy!
3. Make lunches the night before. Always! Get lunches going while the mess of dinner is still out—it’s much easier to be motivated to pack a good lunch before you finish cleaning up and have sat down! We all know how hard it is to get back into the kitchen after 9pm to start chopping, washing, and portioning. Don’t wait until you’re exhausted, and don’t leave it until morning—that will bring its own chaos.
4. Do some meal planning and prepping. Write out a week’s worth of lunch and snack ideas, and a shopping list. It will lessen food waste, bring direction to your shop, and bring order to your lunch-packing. You won’t be staring at the fridge in despair every night, you will simply be putting together what you planned. Prep veggies on the weekend too! Peeled and cut carrots last up to five days in the fridge, stored in a bath of water (I change the water every two days). Cut peppers and cucumbers stay crisp for 2 to 3 days if kept in the fridge in a damp paper towel. Use these hacks to your advantage. Put the effort in on a Sunday, then reap the convenient benefits all week long!
5. Get into a good routine from the start, with your kiddos involved in the process. Let them help select and prepare the foods, fill the boxes, and clean up the lunchboxes after school. While we are helping them thrive and grow by packing them a lunch, I believe we also need to teach them about responsibility in the kitchen. It’s important that we help increase their understanding
of REAL food. Every colour of the rainbow can be found in fruits and vegetables alone. Have fun with that! Let them measure and stir ingredients. Let them taste, feel, wash, and peel vegetables. Show them
that real food doesn’t have ingredients—real food IS the ingredients that make up meals we eat; then combine these foods together in different and delicious ways. Bring them in the kitchen and let them see first-hand that nourishment does not mean punishment. Having everyone be part of the process brings responsibility, knowledge, and more enjoyment all around!
I hope this leaves you feeling motivated, encouraged, and equipped! My greatest tip of all is to find joy in the journey. Parenthood is all about helping these little ones to thrive, and an attitude of gratitude goes a long way. So find joy in the lunchbox. Yes, it’s a chore, but we need to remember that it is also a privilege. We get to raise these children up. We get to nourish them with food, and contribute to their ability to concentrate and focus in school. We get to play a part in helping them succeed, even on the days we spend hours apart. It definitely takes effort, but that’s all part of raising kids. At the end of the day, all that is required of us is to do our best for these kids, allowing plenty of grace—both for them, and ourselves—in the process. These little ones have our hearts, so let’s nurture them well, nourish them well, and cherish them with all we’ve got.
Check out our Rock Your Lunch Box recipe section for snacks and meals for your little ones.
I’m Melanie. I am a blessed wife and a grateful mama to a sweet and sassy 5 year old, and a playful and busy two year old.
I believe nourishing our bodies with whole foods is a critical components for keeping us healthy, energized, and feeling our BEST. Being in the thick of raising two little ones, I understand the struggle of in feeding picky eaters. I love the challenge of finding practical and DELICIOUS ways to get real food approved by the lil’ skeptics!
For more inspiration from my kitchen and encouragement from my heart, you can find me on instagram at @cleanlittleplates. XO