Is there anything more full of potential than a brand new lunchbox? Don’t you just love to cruise blogs and Pinterest for creative ways to send your little one a healthy, delicious, and fun meal from home? You know the ones. Vegetables cut to look like flowers and bugs. Fruit kabobs. An entire diorama depicting dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets running from an erupting volcano. It all looks so cute!
And then reality pays a visit before you even get the Labor Day weekend. You give up completely. You cram bags of Cheetos and a suspiciously lumpy apple into a backpack as you dash your kids to the bus. Feeding you family is a lot of work. And they expect you to do it every day!
So I devised a system to take some of the pressure off.
I created it about 5 years ago, when my oldest was 5, and we’ve been using it ever since. On occasion, I’ve considered a new strategy, but we always come back to this. Now, when it started, I had one kid just learning to read, one toddler, and an infant. We have a Montessori style house, so it just developed naturally. If that’s not your style, that’s ok! Use whatever parts work for your home and ignore the rest. I won’t tell 😉
The first thing to do is evaluate your container situation. I prefer a modular set like Laptop Lunchboxes or Lunch Blox by Rubbermaid. The next-best-thing would be a divided container like Yumbox, EasyLunchBoxes or the Ziploc Divided Rectangle. Don’t rush out and buy something new, though. You can do this system with regular ol’ sandwich bags if that’s what you have.
The next step is to figure out how to group your lunch components. Some schools have requirements for packed lunches, so that makes a great guideline. Because the possibilities are endless, you can easily adapt the groups to any dietary needs your family has. Once you’ve got your components figured out, you can make your own graphic or you can print this one!
You will want two copies once you have your groups figured out, at least in the beginning. Laminate one copy to post on your fridge or inside the lunchbox cabinet. With the second copy, cut out the individual blocks, laminate ’em if you’re fancy, and attach them to bins or baskets that will fit in your refrigerator and pantry. You can use color coding and/or images for kids who may need reading support.
right click to save the image above, or click here to download the FREE BLANK COPY (below) in case you want to make your own!
The hard part is done! Now, all you have to do is fill your bins and baskets.
When we plan our weekly menu, the kids make requests for their lunch items. I usually make enough to assemble lunches for a week at a time, and put them in the appropriate spot in the fridge/pantry when I unload from the store.
The night before (or morning of, for the fully functioning morning people), each child picks one item from each bin, fills the appropriate container, and places everything except an ice pack in their lunchbox. In general, the fruits and veggies go in open-top containers, but sometimes they have to trade with the same size lidded container. Then everything goes in the fridge until time to leave. Not only are they basically building their own lunch, which saves me from stumbling around the kitchen in the morning in a panic, the little bit of planning ahead of time makes it easy to grab-and-go.
After five years of packing lunches this way, we don’t even use the chart anymore. My kids learned which food groups they needed to include and how to portion without a single lecture from me. I wasn’t trying to revolutionize lunch packing when I came up with this idea. It was really an act of desperation at a time when I was spread thin. But sometimes, that’s how the best ideas are born!
Have your own lunch-packing hacks?! We wanna see! Tag us on Insta @destin30amomsblog and use #Destin30aMomBoss to show us what’s working for you!