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7 Ways to Save Time Making School Lunches

It's the first day of school...lunches! Last year was my first year making school lunches for my stepdaughter. I had no idea what I was doing but figured it couldn't be hard. I tried to think back to my school days and consider what I hated and what I loved. Hated: cold grilled cheese sandwiches, cold pancakes, any meat Loved: pudding and granola bars, fruits, some vegetables, the rare Lunchables


From there, it was trial and error to see what this growing four year old would eat throughout the day and what she'd eat on the car ride home. I also had to remember that the No Nuts policy extended to Nutella... 😯😯😯 and that making lunches the night before was easier than juggling it with everything else in the morning. But I was right, it's not hard—and it doesn't have to be time-consuming—once you get organized. Now, I pack lunch in a few minutes, max. Here are my top 7 tips to help you do the same.

1. Pre-pack dry snacks Dry snacks are a lunchbox staple. They provide carbs, some salt and sugar, and most kids will actually eat them. But packaging little bags, reusable containers, etc. of different snacks every day is a boring time-suck that needs to stop...and buying pre-done, tiny-portioned options is an insult to the environment and your wallet.

Take 15 or so minutes on the weekend or right after you grocery shop to pre-pack a week's worth of dry snacks all at once.

  • Raisins

  • Cheerios

  • Goldfish crackers

  • Pretzels

  • Graham wafers

  • Dried apricots


2. Unwrap juice boxes, detach cheese sticks and yogurt containers, etc.


To make your own grab-and-go lunchbox filling station, you need to remove barriers to streamlining. Unwrapping or detaching food items as you unpack your groceries is the most efficient way to prep.


3. Take grapes off the vine


Grapes are a great schoolyard snack, but no kid has the time or patience to pick them from the vine. And so, the tedious task falls to us, the designated adults. Instead of putting ourselves through this each night or morning, simply pick all the grapes at once after rinsing the bunch. Pack into daily portions and forget about it for another week.

4. Go with mini cucumbers


Mini cukes are all kinds of cool. They're healthy, relatively inexpensive, and basically mess-free. Just rinse and pack. Don't worry about slicing or dicing or anything fancy like that.


5. Make cupboard space I have a big basket in our pantry for these pre-packed dry snacks, no sugar added juice boxes, and school-safe granola bars. I bring the lunchbox to the shelf and pick out a combo of snacks in seconds. Wherever you decide to put your lunchbox dry snacks, make sure they are far from any nut products. 6. Clear out a fruit crisper


Remember those cheese sticks and yogurts and grapes? Well it only makes sense to put them all in one, easy-to-access location. Clear out a crisper drawer and designate it for lunchboxes and snacks kiddos can grab for themselves. Other food options:

  • Turkey sausage

  • Blueberries

  • Strawberries

  • Meatballs - no sauce

  • Whole grain buns with sunflower seed butter

7. Make lunch during dinner While making dinner, you have ingredients out, the kitchen's a mess, and you're already on your feet. So while dinner is cooking, take a few minutes to toss all the work you've already done into the lunchbox.

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