10+ smart tips & hacks for packing lunches

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Packing lunches that your whole family will love can be challenging. Here are some of my tried and tested tips that’ll make the process easier for you.

A bagged lunch along with a milk carton and apple
Tips and hacks for packing lunches

After having packed lunches for over 10 years, here are my top tips to help you get organized so that your packed lunch tastes and looks good.

Invest in the right containers 

Without the right containers, your soup will end up cold and your sandwiches mushed up! You’ll need to invest in a high-quality thermos, a few ice packs, and microwave-safe storage containers if you have the option to heat up food at school/work.

Check out the lunch box containers I own and recommend.

Note: Always pack dry food separate from wet. For example, keep salad dressing in a separate container so that the salad is not soggy by lunch.

Buy multiple lunch box containers & bags

Always have a backup lunch bag for each kid and multiple lunch box containers. That way you don’t have to stress out if your kid forgets their lunch bag at school or you forgot to run the dishwasher at night!

Keep your lunch supplies organized in one location

No more scrambling in the morning looking for lunch boxes or bags. Assign a space for lunch containers and snacks to make mornings easier.

Keep a well stocked pantry

Always stock your kitchen with a few essentials, such as pasta and marinara sauce, nut butter, cheese, and hummus for sandwiches, greens for salads, veggies for sandwiches and soups, dry fruits, fruits, and veggies to snack on.

Check out this complete list of must-have pantry staples for packed lunches!

A clickable image with caption the essential school shopping list, click here for a free copy.

Leverage leftovers from dinner

Don’t throw away your dinner leftovers – pack them for lunch the next day. Even better, plan your dinner so that you have leftovers. Always make a double batch when possible – in most cases, it takes the same amount of time.

Get started on school lunch the night before

Here are a few things you can do the night before to save time in the morning

  • Pack the leftovers from dinner into lunch boxes.
  • Fill your water bottle and keep it in the refrigerator.
  • Pack your salad in your lunch box. Put the dressing in a separate container.
  • Wipe your lunch bag clean and keep it ready for the next day.
  • Pack silverware in your lunch bag.
  • Pack any snacks that don’t need to be refrigerated in your lunch box.

Meal plan your packed lunch

Have you considered incorporating packed lunch into your meal planning strategy?

Planning ahead can make it so much easier for you to put together your lunches in the morning. Here are a few ways you can plan your lunch:

  1. Decide what you are going to eat each day.
  2. Make soups, muffins, rice dishes and some curries over the weekend. They store well in the refrigerator for 3 days.
  3. You can also freeze soups, chicken nuggets and muffins for up to a month.

For more ways to plan ahead, read How to plan and prep school lunches.

Pack a well-balanced lunch

Make sure to pack a healthy mix of fruits, veggies, proteins, dairy, and whole grains. To learn more, read how to pack a healthy lunch.

More water, less juice 

Limit juice to one small glass per day and avoid sugary drinks such as sodas, sports drinks, etc.

Prevent soggy sandwiches

Hate soggy sandwiches? Me too! There are two things you can do to avoid that outcome –

  • Toast the bread first and then assemble the sandwich
  • Let the sandwich cool down completely before packing it in a lunch container.

Pack lunches that you and your kids will enjoy eating

Lunch is a very crucial meal of the day and the last thing you want to do is have your family skip it because they didn’t like what was packed. Pack healthy options that you know your family will look forward to eating for lunch.

Make packing lunch a family activity

You don’t have to do it alone. Get your kids to help.

In fact, one of the ways to ensure that your kids will eat their school lunch is to let them build their own lunch. They just have to follow one rule – they need to pick an item from each food group to ensure that their meal is balanced.

To make things easy for you and your kids, I have included a chart that lists all the food groups along with a few options.

Click on the image to get a copy.

A cheatsheet with info on how to pack lunch
Lunch Packing Cheatsheet

Pack similar lunch for everyone

Packing different lunches for every kid and adult can be a nightmare! Pick one main course for everyone and let them pick their own fruits and snacks to keep the peace.

As mentioned above – make packing lunch a family activity!

These were my top tips for packing lunches for work or school. Do you have any tips that you would like to share? Just drop in a comment and let me know. I would be happy to include them here!

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