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Get simple school lunch ideas for Moms who don’t want to pack lunches for the kids every single night. Save money, time, and sanity with this method!

I eagerly checked the weather from our local news station, looking for any possibility of a snow day.

It’s not so much that I enjoy snow (I don’t).

But a snow day means a couple of things.

No alarm clock.  (Hallelujah!)

No worry about whether all the kids have the right clothes clean for picture day, or gym day, or red and gray day.  (Yahoo!)

But, best of all…

no lunches to pack.

Ugh!  Packing lunches is the worst.

First, you have to make sure you have everything on hand.

Then you spend an hour trying to make sure this kid gets their daily PB&J made just so without the crusts, while that kid gets anything at all but a sandwich.

There’s a headache for ya.

Still, some days there are enough battles to fight. Amirite?

But you know another parenting technique I’m a fan of?  Teaching the kids to do things themselves.

Mama, I promise.  If your child can throw packages into the grocery cart when you aren’t looking, they can toss together a lunch, too.

(pssst…There’s a free printable at the end of this post to make that shopping go easier, too!)

Now, here’s the method I’ve used to make easy lunch packing happen in our home.

Simple School Lunch Ideas

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Get the Kids Involved

If the kids are eating, they should be involved in the packing.

That’s right!  Our kids start packing their own lunches in kindergarten.

But that doesn’t mean the same thing for our 5-year-old as it does for the 11-year-old.

We’ll teach our five-year-old daughter to pack her own lunch this year.  By the end of the year, she’ll know how to make a sandwich.

She’ll also know how to choose options from the other food groups to complete her meal.

Now that the older kids have years of practice under their belts, they don’t need much help anymore. My job is to have the groceries around here to simplify their packing.

Remember, parents, that we’re trying to work ourselves out of a job!

Simplify the Choices

A lunch in our home consists of a main course such as a sandwich, salad, leftovers, or things from the list further on in this post.

Then they choose a fruit, a dairy, a junk food (or treat), and a drink.

There’s no reason for them to eat a fancy 4 course meal.  Besides, they spend a lot of their lunch period socializing with friends.

How much food do you think they throw away each day?  Don’t add to the waste.

Cute lunch box for kids or adults!

Ok, so who else wants this adorable lunch box??

Do it the Night Before

A common complaint about making sandwiches the night before is that they would get soggy.  But my kids have never complained.

If you know making a sandwich ahead of time is grounds for a complete fit, or wasted food, no worries.  Just make it the next morning.

Pulling together just a sandwich in the morning is much easier than figuring out the entire lunch. 

To save the most money, buy bigger bags of nuts, chips, trail mix, or whatever your kids like and bag them up yourself.

Bag up snacky foods the night before.  Choose and wash up your fruits.

Pick your dairy item.  I like to buy big containers of yogurt and portion them out into smaller containers.

I’ll add a bag of cereal for them to sprinkle over the top when I’m feeling fancy.

A Place for Everything

When we pack the night before, I don’t mean stick everything in the lunchbox.  (Who has room for a bunch of lunchboxes in their fridge?)

Sure, stuff that won’t go bad (like a box of raisins), you can toss in the lunchbox ahead of time.

Otherwise, let me introduce you to “the basket”.

Each child has their own basket labeled with their name.  They fill it and leave it in the fridge each night.

It takes up much less space than a bunch of lunch boxes in the fridge.  And it’s so easy to dump it right in their lunch box the next day!

I put together thermoses of water for them while they eat breakfast for easy grab and go.

Make a List

I’ve printed off my list of lunchtime ideas along with a copy of the school lunch menu.  They’re hung next to our lunch making supplies.

When they’re tired of sandwiches, they can make a different choice.  (Although some of them would eat PB&J for every meal!)

Here are some quick recipes you can make ahead of time to pack in lunches:

5 Minute Chicken Taquitos

Healthy Homemade Chicken Nuggets

Easy Quick Pear Bread

Zippy Homemade Pizza Dough

Yummy Cranberry Orange Bread

Pickle Dip Roll Ups

Click this picture to print a PDF copy of the menu.  Totally free for your personal use!

Free printable list of lunch menu ideas

Click here to download a free MS Word copy of this list that you can customize yourself!  Totally free for your own personal use!

These tips for packing school lunches should help your family dread this chore a bit less.

Prayers for a snow day not necessary!

Now, let’s do something about that book bag that keeps breaking…here’s a list of Mom approved durable backpacks!

durable backpacks

Did I miss a great tip?  Let me know!

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