5 Tips from a lunch bag – organizing school lunches

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It is time for packing lunches for school.  Are you dreading it?  Children learn better when they are not hungry so the task is to pack food they will eat and not throw out, hide or trade.

1. You know what your child likes and doesn’t like.

Children will food jag, eat the same thing over and over and never get tired of it.  If there is a lunch they like, give it to them, a fruit, a vegetable, a protein and a carbohydrate.   When I went to school I would eat a cold chicken sandwich, bread butter and chicken, an apple, a cookie and drink usually milk every day for months.  My mom couldn’t understand why I didn’t get bored but I just loved it.  Life was easy she made it for me and I enjoyed it.

A drawing of a lunch box with an aple, banana , thermos and sandwich.

2. I hate sandwiches.

Some children don’t like sandwiches so give them leftovers.  Heat up the leftovers and put them in a Thermos.  I had a child who hated sandwiches, I would heat up taco meat and send the shell and toppings cold, a baked potato with butter or cheese, soup, stew, homemade macaroni and cheese. Pack warm chilli with taco chips, cheese and salsa. When you are cooking make extra and freeze it in individual meals and then you have a supply of lunches in your freezer.

3 thermos, black, blue and pink

Send warm foods to school in an unbreakable thermos.

3. Get lunches packed after supper when the food is out.

As part of our evening routine, each child would pack the food for their lunch that didn’t need to be refrigerated.  They packed veggies, pickles, crackers, and cookies.  In the morning I would add a sandwich or hot food to the lunch bag.  If you have more than one child this really makes life easy because you don’t need to remember which child likes what.

Lunch bags

Pick a size and shape of lunch bag that makes it easy to pack and send the correct amount of food to school, not too much, not too little

4. Finger foods are great but you might want to send a fork

Some schools have schedules where children eat smaller meals a couple of times a day.  Pack things that your child can eat a few items at a time.  Cut up cheese, meat, and bread into cubes.  Send nuts, hard-boiled eggs, veggies or cut-up fruit.  If you have a container with lots of sections they can open one box and see all their choices.  It makes it easier to pack and the child doesn’t have to struggle with lots of containers.  There is less to wash at the end of the day.  Children are not good at washing their hands before every meal so encourage them to use a fork, send a plastic one in their favourite colour.

Box with finger foods

Send a variety of foods in small quantities for quick snacks throughout the day.

5.  Leftover lunches – plan differently

When your child brings their lunch home remember it has been unrefrigerated all day, 8 hours, and dirty hands have been in the container touching all the food. Compost the leftovers.  Re-evaluate what you are sending and how much food you are putting in their lunch.

Plastic counter top compost bin

At the end of the day, compost leftovers to prevent a mild case of food poisoning.

Don’t use school lunches as a time to introduce new foods or worry about variety in their diet.  Use supper time or weekend meals to introduce them to new foods.  You want them to eat a healthy lunch every day.  Since you are not there to supervise them when they are eating, make a plan with your child so you can all be happy.

I think I have covered the basics.  Share your tips about school lunches in the comments.

If you need help with menu planning book a complimentary appointment with me. 

A blue and white striped tunnel in the background with Julie Stobbe in the foreground wearing a white blouse.Julie Stobbe is a Trained Professional Organizer and Lifestyle Organizing Coach who brings happiness to homes and organization to offices, in person and virtually. She has been working with clients since 2006 to provide customized organizing solutions to suit their individual needs and situation. She uses her love of physical activity to reduce clutter, in your home and office. She guides and supports you to manage your time. If you’re in a difficult transition Julie can coach you to break-free of emotional clutter constraining you from living life on your terms. Online courses are available to help instruct, coach and support your organizing projects. Get started by downloading Tips for Reorganizing 9 Rooms.

Contact her at julie@mindoverclutter.ca

Click here to learn more about her online course Create an Organized Home.

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  1. Janet Barclay on September 10, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    These are great tips, but I’m so glad my days of packing lunches are over!

  2. Diane N Quintana on September 26, 2022 at 8:11 am

    Reading this I am so thankful that the school my children attended provided lunch. I can only imagine the time and effort that goes into packing lunch for your child (children) every school day morning. I think your advise about doing as much of the packing the night before is invaluable.

    • Julie Stobbe on September 27, 2022 at 4:40 pm

      I am so glad to be passed this stage. Now when I meet up with my kids at the beach or somewhere we all bring our own lunches. Everyone gets to eat what they like.

  3. Sabrina Quairoli on September 26, 2022 at 9:54 am

    Great tips! My daughter didn’t like eating sandwiches because the bread needed to be toasted, so Gluten Free crackers were her personal choice.

    • Julie Stobbe on September 27, 2022 at 4:43 pm

      Sabrina that is an option. Toasting bread early in the day may not get the results you like. Although I do toast a bagel and put peanut butter and jam on it when I am flying. I like the bagel better toasted, even though it is cold than not toasted. My one child didn’t like sandwiches either. I sent warmed-up leftovers.

  4. Seana Turner on September 26, 2022 at 3:56 pm

    I still eat the same lunch every day, and like your younger self, I love it!

    I think kids would love that little snack box. It looks fun to eat. When my kids were little, I sent a lunchbox. By the time they were older, I usually sent leftovers in a large thermos. It was quick and easy, and living in CT, having a hot lunch was nice.

    • Julie Stobbe on September 27, 2022 at 4:45 pm

      I eat the same lunch a lot of days especially when I am packing a lunch to take to work with me. It makes grocery shopping and lunch planning easy. I think the box with lots of choices may be great for a “picky” eater. They can decide what they want first.

  5. Julie Bestry on September 26, 2022 at 4:27 pm

    For years, I would eat my sandwich, pretzels, and dessert, but give away whatever fruit my mom packed to the lunch lady. Unfortunately, the lunch lady met my mother at a parent- teacher night and told on me! (She wanted to thank us for our generosity! Oops!)

    When I went to school, most kids bought their lunches, but after two attempts in first grade, both ending with me, rejecting everything on my plate, except the ice cream sandwich, I brought my lunch for the next 12 years. Your advice is ideal and it’s good that you recognize that kids go on food jags. I still eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich almost every day!

    • Julie Stobbe on September 27, 2022 at 4:50 pm

      Thanks for sharing your story. At my kid’s school, if you didn’t eat it, it had to go back home, not to a friend or in the garbage. This was to help parents know what the child ate. Set lunches at school do make it easier for the parents. They don’t need to pack a lunch. Some children will have a hard time finding things they want to eat when there is no choice about what is on the plate. My kids bought their lunch once a week in 7th grade and up for a change from a packed lunch. They could pick what they wanted.

  6. Linda Samuels on September 27, 2022 at 2:24 pm

    I love that tackle box with the compartments full of food. What a great way to give kids variety and make it fun (and organized!) You shared such wise advice for packing school lunches. Early on we got our kids involved in making their own lunch. That way I knew they’d eat what they liked…with less trading.

    I don’t remember what I ate for lunch growing up, but I think I had a pretty limited menu. Even now, I have some, but not a lot of variety. I’m fine with a repeat of the menu. I don’t get bored.

    • Julie Stobbe on September 27, 2022 at 4:53 pm

      I am fine with a repeat menu too. I cook the things I like and don’t mind eating them often. It makes meal planning and preparation easier for me. Every week we have large salads twice a week. I make them all at once, and use up the vegetables so they don’t get rotten. It works in our house.

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