Planning & Prep
Tips & Ideas for How to Make a Lunchbox
While it might not seem like it, a lot of thought does need to go into getting a lunchbox ready. For parents whose kids take lunch to school each day, you get into a routine. But there’s a risk of it getting boring. The same lunch of a peanut butter sandwich with a banana is a recipe for the food to be tossed straight into the trash.
We’ve created a list of tips for making your child’s lunchbox appealing as well as easy. Read on to learn how to make a lunchbox, including how to choose a lunchbox, what foods to select, and packing tips.
How to make a lunchbox: 7 packing tips
Here are tried and true tips that make packing lunch boxes easier:
1. Pack lunch boxes the night before to save time in the mornings.
After you get your groceries, portion out bulk items like chips, crackers, trail mix, deli meat into small containers to have ready to go. Make it a habit to pack the non-perishables in lunch boxes before bed. Designate a spot in the refrigerator for these items so you can easily add cold items right before you head out the door.
2. Use ice packs and thermos containers for temperature control.
Freeze yogurt and pudding cups, so they stay cold and do double duty as an ice pack. When you use an insulated container, be sure to preheat it by filling it with boiling water, closing the lid, and letting it sit while you heat the food that will go inside. This allows the container to heat up and keep the food warm longer.
3. Keep portions small.
Send smaller amounts of more options. A baggie of ten carrot sticks will find a couple eaten, so send two carrot sticks, a celery stick, and a cucumber stick. You can prep fresh produce for the week on Sunday night so that it won’t be any extra work for you.
4. Don’t underestimate the power of sauce.
Whether it’s barbeque sauce for chicken nuggets or ranch for bell pepper slices, having a little extra flavor may be the difference between lunch getting eaten or thrown in the trash. Buy individual sauces or make your own dipping sauce cups with reusable food containers.
5. Use kid-friendly containers.
Use food storage containers that can be opened easily. Lunchroom assistants are busy people, and by lunchtime, kids are hungry. Ensuring that your child can open all of their food containers and drink their juice means that one less kid gets hangry at lunchtime.
For young ones who are new to school, do a week of lunch box lunches at home. This will allow you to see how well your child can handle their lunch. Then make any necessary adjustments before you send her off for her first day of school. Not only will your child feel confident, but you’ll also feel sure that they can eat her lunch without having to wait for the lunch lady to help open a bag of chips.
6. Cut food items into fun shapes with cookie cutters.
You do know that a star-shaped piece of cheddar cheese tastes far superior to the slice that it was cut from, right? Do not underestimate how much more willing your child will be to eat foods, especially new-to-them foods, which are cut into even the most simple squares and triangles. Use heart-shaped cookie cutters in February or pumpkin cookie cutters in October to up the fun factor of your child’s school lunch.
7. Try bento boxes.
Add a twist to even the most basic lunch by putting the food in a compartmentalized bento box. Having things tidy in their own places makes eating the food all the more fun. Bonus points if you’re able to spare the time and creativity to put together a super-cute bento box-like Japanese parents are known for doing.
How to choose a lunchbox
A lunchbox is a big deal for a child. Choose the wrong one, and your child may be embarrassed to take it to school and may even get chided by classmates for it:
- You don’t want the lunchbox to be too big that your first grader feels weighed down by it.
- The lunchbox should be insulated and hold an ice pack for the days when you need the food to stay cold.
Find a few lunch boxes that you feel will fit your child’s needs, then let them choose the one they like best. It’s a win-win since you selected appropriate lunchboxes that will work, yet your child gets to make a choice, too. Expect kids to need a new lunch box at least every other year.
How to select foods for a lunchbox
When you fill your child’s lunchbox, less is more in terms of portion amounts. A ham and cheese sandwich, banana, and a bag of chips may only be half-eaten before the contents get dumped in the trash. Your child is more likely to finish four apple slices and a mandarin orange than an entire apple. Capitalize on this by choosing five to seven items for their lunch.
To ensure your child’s energy stays up, choose at least one protein-rich food plus several sides of fruits and vegetables. Carbs like bread and crackers are good, but go easy on desserts, and your child’s teacher will thank you.
Main dishes for lunchboxes:
- Sandwich fillings in a pita pocket or rolled in a tortilla
- Leftovers warmed and put in a thermos to keep hot
- Cheese, meat, and crackers
- Pasta salad with pepperoni and cheese cubes
- Pizza slices
- Seven-layer taco dip cups served with a side of tortilla chips
- Sandwich skewers
- Egg muffins
Fruit options for lunchboxes:
- Apple slices (dip in apple juice to prevent browning)
- Prepackaged fruit cups
- Fruit leather
- Easy to transport and eat fruits like bananas, oranges, blueberries, and grapes
Vegetable options for lunchboxes:
- Mini sweet peppers
- Sugar snap peas
- Baby carrots
- Celery sticks
- Cucumber rounds
- Grape tomatoes
Dessert options for lunch boxes:
- A package of mini cookies
- Two miniature candies
- A blueberry muffin
- Trail mix
- Yogurt cups with candy toppings
Save time on lunch box prep by ordering grocery delivery from Instacart
You’ve got a lot of things on your proverbial plate; let Instacart help with the grocery shopping! You can select in-store pick-up and stop by to pick it up on the way home from soccer practice or get it delivered to your door, so you don’t even have to leave the house. Try it today; there’s nothing to lose but the stress of navigating the grocery store with hungry kiddos in tow.
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