The best lunch box hacks, tips and ideas that will make packing your kids’ school lunches a breeze.
Another new school year is just around the corner, and while our kids might be dreading the return to class work, us moms are dreading the return of the insanely hectic gotta-get-to-school-on-time dash.
If your school mornings are anything like ours, it can be a stressful process of getting kids dressed, eating breakfast, preparing lunch boxes, and racing to the bus stop (and hopefully making it there on time!).
So we’re here to help streamline your morning chaos, with a list of over 75 genius lunch box hacks for kids, certain to make at least one of your back-to-school chores a little easier. Whether you’re worried about what to pack, how to keep the food fresh, or just how to let your kiddos know you’re thinking of them, we have you covered.
Read on for all the tips and tricks you need to know!
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PIN for when the lunch packing chaos begins!
A huge part of successfully streamlining your lunch packing process involves planning ahead and being organized. These ideas will make sure you’re totally ready when the first day of school rolls around.
Stations & Storage
(1) Carve out the perfect school lunch station in your kitchen with these simple tips. (via Design Improvised)
(2) Have a smaller kitchen or not a ton of storage space? You may find a mobile lunch station a better fit using one of these neat rolling storage carts. (via How Does She?)
(3) Check out these tips to be sure your pantry is stocked with kid-approved groceries! (via The Shirley Journey)
(4) Keep lunch components under control with this back to school lunch box station. (via See Vanessa Craft)
(5) Keeping snack stations in your pantry and fridge mean kids can independently grab mom-approved goodies. That’s a win-win! (via Mom Always Finds Out)
(6) Some simple hooks in your mudroom or pantry cupboard can keep lunch bags neat and organized. (via Hi Sugar Plum)
(7) This genius snack storing idea uses an over-the-door shoe organizer like this one to keep school snacks close at hand – making it easy for you (or better yet, your kids), to grab one to pack in their lunch bag. (via Mom Always Finds Out).
(8) Another smart way to use that over-the-door organizer? Keep your water bottles easily accessible! (via The Krazy Coupon Lady)
(9) Alternatively, a magazine file holder can make storing water bottles within reach super simple. (The Krazy Coupon Lady)
Meal Prep Tips + Packing Printables
(1) You can save a ton of time with these make ahead cold lunches. Prepare a week’s worth at a time! (via Happy Money Saver)
(2) You won’t believe how many tasty foods can be prepped ahead for simple lunch packing. (via Family Fresh Meals)
(3) Making sandwiches in bulk and freezing them means you can cut down on daily prep time. Many varieties freeze well, including peanut butter and jelly and ham and cheese. Use this clever method to make 2 weeks of school lunches in 20 minutes! And bonus – the sandwiches will act as an ice pack in your child’s lunch box, but will thaw in time for lunch. (via The Pinning Mama)
(4) Pack lunch while you prep dinner. Chopping extra veggies or baking a double batch of a meal can help cut down on time spent in the kitchen.
(5) Freeze individual portions of meals, so they can be defrosted in the fridge the night before packing a lunch.
(6) Mason jar lunches are fresh, tasty, and perfect to tuck into a lunch box! (via Babble)
(7) Healthy, homemade trail mix is a perfect make-ahead option that your kids will love. (via Mom’s Kitchen Handbook)
(8) Mix and match the perfect packed lunch with this printable lunch card system. (via Must Have Mom)
(9) Plan ahead and give your kids some input about what’s in their lunch box with these handy lunch packing printables. (via Craftaholics Anonymous)
HOT + COLD TIPS
Few things upset our picky eaters as much as food that isn’t served at the right temperature. These clever solutions will make sure your little one’s lunches are always just right, so they’ll be happy to dig in!
(1) You won’t need any fancy ice packs thanks to this handy DIY option. (via Mama Cheaps)
(2) Frozen berries are an easy, tasty way to keep yogurt cool all morning. (via My Kids Lick The Bowl)
(3) Pack a few extra veggies while using frozen peas to keep cheese cool + slime-free until lunch. (via My Kids Lick The Bowl)
(4) Keep water cool and refreshing by freezing the bottle the night before. We like to fill a water bottle about ¼ full, and lay it on its side to freeze. This solution is perfect for bottles with narrow spouts that are tough to fill with ice cubes. (pic via Passion for Savings)
(5) Grabbing some special trays to make skinny ice cubes is another great option for those bottles with narrow openings.
(6) Add color, flavor, fruit and fun while keeping beverages cool with these simple infused ice cubes. (via This Beautiful Day)
(7) Juice boxes, yogurt tubes, applesauce pouches, and other lunch box staples all freeze well, and serve as an ice pack until lunch time. (via Food Network)
Store a few single-serving stainless steel containers or bento boxes in the freezer – use them to pack lunch in the morning and everything inside will stay nice and chilled.
(8) Keep it simple – this freezable lunch bag eliminates the need for ice packs all together!
(9) This genius bento box makes it easy to pack both hot and cold foods together in one double-insulated container.
(10) Brush up on hot lunch basics and tips, so you know how long it’s safe to keep warm food in a lunch box. Have a thermos but still not sure exactly how to best use it for warm food? Here’s what you need to know! (via Momables)
(11) For older kids, frozen grapes, blueberries or other fruits make a perfect edible ice pack! (via The Krazy Coupon Lady)
(12) If chicken nuggets are a lunch staple for your kids, be sure you know the best way to pack them to keep them warm come lunchtime. (via Passion For Savings)
CREATIVE LUNCH BOX NOTES
Kids of all ages look forward to finding special messages in their lunch boxes – these ones top our list for creativity and go far beyond “have a great day”.
(1) You’ll never be hunting for pen and paper with this adorable chalkboard lunch box idea. (via Scissors And Spatulas)
(2) These punny printable lunch box tags will have kids giggling while they’re eating. (via Alpha Mom)
(3) Kids will go bananas for this fun secret message idea. (via The Pin Junkie)
(4) Saving old notes means you’ve got back ups for extra busy mornings. (via Just Is A Four Letter Word)
(5) Dry erase markers make these reusable lunch box notes extra practical. (via Today’s Creative Life)
(6) You can make fruit cups extra sweet with these loving printable notes. (via Thirty Handmade Days)
(7) Use edible markers to write notes making fresh fruit extra sweet. (via Cake Whiz)
(8) Magic slider note cards will have the entire lunch table in awe! (via She Loves Science)
(9) A game of ‘I Spy’ will keep your student entertained in the cafeteria. (via Whimsy Love)
(10) Kids can keep learning, even during lunch, with these fun facts lunch box notes. (via Whimsy Love)
(11) These interactive secret messages will get your child thinking while they work to decode the various notes. (via Five Marigolds)
(12) If your kids love hidden picture hunts as much as ours, these seek and find cards will make their day! (via Teach Mama)
(13) Make sure to include a pencil so kids can solve these dot-to-dot printable notes after they eat. (via Forks And Folly)
And of course we’d be silly not to highlight our very own Interactive Lunch Box Notes printable. These notes are packed with a pencil and require your child to fill them out over their lunch break. They’ll answer a different fun question each day that will give you some insight into exactly what happened in the cafeteria, how they enjoyed their lunch, and even future meal requests.
They’ll leave the completed note in their lunch box for you to discover, and it can serve as a great icebreaker for finding out more about their day.
Head over to our full post for the free download, and give them a try – we had rave reviews from our kids!
School days can feel long for some kids. Break up their day with a little bit of extra fun, packed right into their lunch box!
(1) Grab a Sharpie and get tracing so your child can eat lunch with their favorite characters. (via Pink Stripey Socks)
(2) Keep lunch time extra goofy with these simple silly face bags. (via I Heart Crafty Things)
(3) These classic butterfly snack bags will make any meal beautiful. (via Clicky Chick Creates)
(4) We love this fun gift wrap idea as an extra special way to let your child know you’re thinking about them while they’re at school…perfect for birthdays! (via Happy Home Fairy)
(5) Kids will be twice as likely to eat all their food with these silly eye-adorned lunches. (via Eats Amazing)
(6) This easy DIY Lego Lunchbox turns lunch time into play time! (via BuzzFeed)
(7) Snowman cheese sticks are a super cute addition to any lunch when the snow starts to fall. (via Savvy Saving Couple)
(8) Pizza fanatics will love making their own in the cafeteria thanks to these DIY pizza lunchables. (via Damn Delicious)
(9) Fancy up your child’s utensils with this easy Washi tape DIY that lets them eat lunch in style. (via The Krazy Coupon Lady)
(10) Any food tastes better when it’s served on a stick, including these sweet fresh fruit caterpillars. (via Must Have Mom)
(11) Let kids put lunch together themselves! Cut a hot dog in half, and send it to school in a hot thermos. Be sure to include a sliced bun in the lunchbox, and kiddos can assemble their own meal, right at the table! (via Passion for Savings)
(12) Even if you have zero art skills, and can still wow your kids with these tattooed bananas! (via Pinterest; original source unknown)
RELATED: For our top picks for school lunch supplies, head to: The Best Bento Boxes, Supplies & Tools To Take Your School Lunch From Boring To Blast-Off!
Packing healthy lunches (that kids actually want to eat!) can be tough, especially as the school year wears on. These practical tips are sure to make the process easier and more efficient.
(1) If your kids dislike the crusts as much as ours, you’ll save plenty of time with this pizza cutter hack. (via The Krazy Coupon Lady)
(2) Crushed chips are the worst – no one wants just crumbs! Check out this simple tip to keep chips whole and crispy until lunchtime! (via The Krazy Coupon Lady)
(3) Kids love to dip, but it can be tricky to send in dips and sauces in their lunchbox. These upcycled bottles are such a clever solution. (via Passion For Savings)
(4) Everyone ends up with extra packets of ketchup, mustard, and other condiments after a take-out meal. Be sure to save your packets (or buy them in bulk here) – they’re an easy option to tuck into a lunch box.
(5) Bento boxes are popular, but sometimes sending sauces in them gets messy. Luckily, sticky plastic wrap is a genius solution for sealing sauces! (via Food Network)
(6) This apple puzzle makes sure sliced apples don’t turn brown before lunch time. (via At Home With Real Food)
(7) Kids that love their apples dipped in peanut butter will love this trick: Fill the center of a cored apple (this corer is genius) with peanut butter before slicing the apple into eighths. Wrap the apple in plastic wrap to keep it fresh until lunch. Kids will love the apple slices with peanut butter built right in! (via TipHero)
(8) When making sandwiches, be sure to spread anything wet or gooey within slices of cheese or cold cuts. No more mushy bread or soggy sandwiches! (via PopSugar)
(9) All you need is a clean skewer and a little bit of tape to make sure your child’s fruit cups don’t leave you with a sticky mess to clean! (via Your Modern Family)
(10) Straws make eating applesauce so much easier and less messy! (via A Few Shortcuts) Cutting these jumbo smoothie straws in half works especially well for thick applesauce.
(11) Frozen smoothies are the perfect prep ahead lunch box addition, since they’re packed full of fruit and taste delicious! (via One Good Thing By Jillee)
(12) A travel-size bottle of hand-sanitizer is a must-have for any lunch box. Kids will always have clean hands before eating! (via The Krazy Coupon Lady)
(13) Alternatively, make cleaning up messy hands and faces convenient by adding a travel pack of wipes to your lunch box.
(14) You only need 3 ingredients to make these sweet fruit rolls ups for a homemade lunch box treat. (via Passions For Savings)
(15) Mason jar lunchables are easy to pack, and a practical way to keep lunch ingredients separated until it’s time to eat. (via Smart School House)
No matter how your kids may be feeling about the start of another school year, at least you won’t need to stress about packing lunch! As you’re pulling out lunch boxes and stocking your pantry over the next several weeks, be sure to keep these tricks in mind. We can’t guarantee you make it to the bus stop on time, but at least lunch will be under control!
about the author:
Kate is a former fashion designer turned (semi-reluctant) stay-at-home-mom. She began blogging at Homebound But Hopeful as a creative outlet following the birth of her third son. Kate is a life-long learner, hoping to raise her boys with the same curiosity. Follow along on Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest for early literacy, early learning, and mom life.