Project Lunch Box: 10 Best Lunch Packing Tips

by Marla on September 23, 2011 · 54 comments

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Project Lunch Box on Family Fresh Cooking

First of all I must tell you how proud I am of you guys for taking charge with packing your own lunches. Project Lunch Box has been in full swing for over a week and you guys are doing great!

Learning new stuff is FUN and y’all have some awesome ideas about lots of things. We are heading into week 2 of our 30 day challenge. You can add our Project Lunch Box badge at any time and link up your blog URL’s or relevant blog posts at anytime too. Most of the conversation has been on Facebook, so I encourage you to join us over there.

Healthy Bacon Lettuce Tomato kebab party skewers with lunch box

1) Plan ahead: When grocery shopping map out a few meals ahead of time. Keep your staples on hand. Fresh, frozen and pantry ingredients should be available and at the ready.

Momables says: “Have a plan for the week. Streamline the process by packing everyone’s lunch in an “assembly line” Pack the night before while making dinner or right after. the kitchen is already messy and many of the items you’ll use are already out.”

Look at what Nikki does…brilliant! “Save time by making a whole loaf or two of PB&J and then freezing them. When you go to pack lunches, just grab a sandwich then add fruit and yogurt. Makes morning so much faster & easier.”

2) Pack ahead: No matter who we are packing lunches for, we are all in agreement that all lunches need to be packed the night before. Mornings are way too rushed to feed, cloth and get everyone out the door on time.

Cooking for My Kids says: “I make a menu for each week. When the boys get home, I clean their lunch container for the day and then immediately re-pack it for the next day. That way, the next morning, I just have to get out of the refrigerator and put it in their lunch boxes with a little note.”

Project Lunch Box on Family Fresh Cooking

3) Leftovers: This pretty much goes hand in hand with #2′s plan ahead. When you prepare dinner make sure you make plenty for lunch box meals for the next day or few days out. You can always freeze small portions of casseroles, etc. for grab and go meals. We love these Three Cheese Spaghetti Nests….

Recipe for healthy pasta and cheese for the home cook

4) Freeze puddings, smoothies, drinks, etc: A lot of you freeze those items the night before and then add them to your lunch boxes in the morning. You might want a post-it note somewhere to remind you to pack it, I forgot a few times. This great idea doubles as a ice pack and turns into a cool, slushy/ice cream treat by the time lunch rolls around. I am thinking my recent Tutti Fruitti Chcoolate Coconut Pops would be great as a frozen smoothie.

These Blueberry Banana Milkshakes would be yummy too.

Healthy diet fruit milk shake on Family Fresh Cooking blog

Joggermom says: “Freeze a GoGurt or juice box to keep food cold.”

Becka, from Just a Bunch of Momsense makes….”fruit pucks.” What are fruit pucks, you ask? Fruit pucks are pureed fresh fruit, (nothing else) poured into a mini muffin pan, (or ice cube tray) and frozen. They resemble little hockey pucks. They thaw into a nice sherbet-like consistency by lunch time, and my kids LOVE them.”

So I am assuming we can use some homemade applesauce to make those “fruit pucks”

Family Fresh Cooking homemade apple sauce with strawberries

You can also freeze other items: Laura says: “If you think that an ice-pack might not be enough to keep the tuna salad or yogurt cold, throw it in the freezer first thing in the morning when u wake up. An hour in the freezer plus an ice-pack really helps keep things cold.”

5) Involve the Kids: Everyone agrees that if you are packing lunch for kids involve them in the process in some way. If they are small let them pick out a some fruit, fill a container or help you make a sandwich. When they feel a part of the process they are more inclined to eat what you send to school.

Little kids in kitchen making ice cream

6) Plentiful supply of small/reusable containers: Having these around will help make lunch packing quick, easy and eco-friendly. I am in love with our Klean Kanteen insulated water bottles…I have left it out on the counter overnight and the ice cubes are still frozen inside!

Klean Kanteen insulated water bottle

7) Don’t fill the box with too many choices: This applies to little kids. I hear time & time again from teachers (especially for little kids) that too many choices confuses the kids. They might take a bite of each thing and leave the rest. This causes excess waste and confusion for the parent and the child. It is hard to tell what you should really be packing each day. As adults we love choices.

8) Bring your kids to the store with you: Or have them help with the shopping list. Sometimes their choices are not what we would pick, but we can help guide them in the right directions. Kids really want a say and to feel independent. Helping with food choices makes them more likely to eat what you pack. Believe me I get it that it can be hard to bring your kids to the market…occasionally might work.

9) Think smart: Keep foods separated so they don’t goop up and run into each other. Use spreads mindfully so sandwich bread stays fresh. Literary Lana says: “Keep pb&j sandwiches from getting soggy by spreading peanut butter on both slices of bread. Go light on the jelly and keep it in the center.” Love this!

Our Easy LunchBoxes convenient bento box styling helps with this.

Project Lunch Box on Family Fresh Cooking
10) Love notes: Sending your sweeties off to school, work, camp, etc with a little not tucked inside their lunch box always brightens up their day. A simple I Love You will do. Calli says: ” We do a note & a joke of the day!”

Pink, green and turquoise Project Lunch Box badge

Do you have any other tips you would like to share? There are never enough great ones! Just leave them in the comments.

Brown Bag Challenge I am adding this post to the Food Network’s Brown-Bag Challenge, a month-long initiative to eat consciously and save money by packing a lunch each weekday instead of eating out. Join us here and share what you’re eating on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #brownbag.

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{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rosa September 23, 2011 at 8:31 am

Beautiful ideas and tips! Leftovers make such great lunchbox meals.

Cheers,

Rosa

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2 Alex@Spoonful of Sugar Free September 23, 2011 at 8:32 am

Such great ideas!!! The morning is always a rush, so packing the night before is key! Thanks for all the tips!

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3 Marla September 23, 2011 at 8:56 am

Alex, trying to pack in the morning is beyond disastrous!! Waaayyy too much going on around here ;)

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4 Kelly Lester September 23, 2011 at 9:22 am

Marla! So delighted to share your exceptional Project Lunch Box with all my fans. Thanks for all your gorgeous input here – promoting healthy eating and packing yummy, affordable meals at home! A plethora of ideas is what makes it fun, delicious, and something to look forward to doing as opposed to “just another chore”. Brava!

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5 Marla September 23, 2011 at 10:20 am

Kelly: Healthy, yummy & affordable. All of the essentials tucked inside a lunch box. The benefits do out weigh the “chore” of it. If we can all flip the image of “having another thing to do” to “I GET to do this” then we would all be much happier :) So honored that you have been sharing my blog & Project Lunch Box with your loyal customers.

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6 Angie September 23, 2011 at 9:49 am

Loving leftovers for a healthy lunch. You are such a good mommy. Everything looks so yummy!

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7 HeatherChristo September 23, 2011 at 9:55 am

I absolutely LOVE the frozen smoothie idea. That is so easy and my 4 year olds favorite. She would be delighted to find it in her lunch!

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8 Marla September 23, 2011 at 10:21 am

Heather…anything to make them *smile* :)

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9 carolinaheartstrings September 23, 2011 at 9:56 am

What a great post full of wonderful tips, ideas and of course your pictures.

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10 Marla September 23, 2011 at 10:22 am

Thanks! You know how much fun I have taking pictures :)

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11 Grishma September 23, 2011 at 9:57 am

I am glad I stopped by..loved reading your post and good usage of leftovers too :)
Amazing clicks as well!

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12 Amanda September 23, 2011 at 10:13 am

Looks fantastic Marla!! I am excited to make these for my kids!

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13 Cristi @ BentOnBetterLunches September 23, 2011 at 10:24 am

My hockey fan family will love fruit pucks :)

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14 Marla September 23, 2011 at 10:55 am

Cristi, yes they would!! What a smart idea for the those hockey families :)

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15 chinmayie @ love food eat September 23, 2011 at 10:42 am

Very helpful post! Such beautiful and colourful lunch boxes :)

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16 Heather @ Get Healthy with Heather September 23, 2011 at 11:25 am

These are all great tips! I need to work on planning lunches for the week when I do my weekly dinner time meal planning. Usually it’s leftovers, but sometimes we run out so I need a good backup plan.

I should start sending little notes with my hubs :)

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17 Allison [Girl's Guide to Social Media] September 23, 2011 at 11:26 am

I am totally loving these lunchbox posts. Especially, since I am a huge advocate for homemade lunches!

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18 Natalie @ Cooking for My Kids September 23, 2011 at 11:42 am

Thank you so much for all of the tips. It was so sweet of you to use my comment. Thank you! Happy Friday!!

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19 Marla September 23, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Natalie…you have some great wisdom when it comes to this stuff. So glad you are a part of the fun :)

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20 Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga September 23, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Awesome tips and I am digging your sidebar IG widget..right now it’s showing your new haircut which looks amazing!!

As does all that food!

Loving the peach/pink lunchbox that seems vintage-ey toward the top of the post.

And not having too many choices; yes, I agree. It overwhelms anyone, especially a little kid.

And also, dont be afraid to just have food…just be food. Basic things: fresh fruit and veggies, some dried fruit, raisins, a couple crackers…it doesn’t have to always be ‘amazing’.. I think some moms get intimidated thinking they have to create masterpieces every day when really, anything from home will work. Even basics :)

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21 Marla September 23, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Averie, you are so right and fabulous! You couldn’t be more spot on about not “over thinking” everything. Simplicity is key. Keeping fresh fruits, veggies, cheese, yogurt, dried fruit on hand at all times….essential.
“just be food” that’s it.
Glad you like the new hair ;) Won’t look like that fro longer than a few hours so I had to take a quick click.

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22 Jeanette September 23, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Loving all the tips these wonderful moms have to share!

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23 Lori September 23, 2011 at 1:50 pm

With two middle school-aged children, I am challenged. So far, I’ve been able to find suitable reusable lunch “boxes” that meet the acceptable level of coolness (in both style and functionality). But I’m meeting with huge resistance from my 13-year old when it comes to packing anything that goes in a container. My daughter is more compliant and will take a small insulated thermos-type container for hot foods, and I’m on the hunt for something that won’t take up too much lunch bag or locker space (they’re small). Any suggestions?

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24 Donna September 23, 2011 at 2:05 pm

Fabulous post – such great ideas! Your kids are so lucky to have you!

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25 Nancy@acommunaltable September 23, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Great Tips Marla!!! I do miss those days of packing the boys lunches!!

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26 Katrina September 24, 2011 at 4:37 am

These ideas are great (even for me)! Thanks!

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27 Marla September 24, 2011 at 5:30 am

Hi Katrina, I make sure to apply the principles of packing a great lunch box for ourselves and for kids. Such an important habit to get into if your regularly have meals outside the home.

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28 Mari's Cakes September 24, 2011 at 6:49 am

Katrina, these are excellent options. Your lunch packing tips are of great help. Thanks.

Have a nice weekend :)

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29 Rachel September 24, 2011 at 6:55 am

I have a while before I have to worry about school lunches but love these tips. Thanks! :) And the container you used is perfect – no more plastic bags to toss out! I’ve got to look for some of those when the time comes.

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30 the urban baker September 24, 2011 at 7:27 am

you and I are cut from the same cloth. I use re-usable containers, no trash or waste in the lunch box and totally healthy. no goldfish, fruit strips, or packaged cookies for my kids. great tips, marla!

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31 Marla September 24, 2011 at 7:45 am

Thanks Susan. Glad to hear you make true efforts to minimize waste and pack the perfect lunch box!

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32 Sanjeeta kk September 24, 2011 at 8:03 am

Wow..what a treasure for all moms out there..love the healthy, refreshing and totally yum lunchbox ideas, Marla.

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33 Joanne September 24, 2011 at 9:59 am

I always pack my own lunch and think it’s completely crucial to leading a healthy life! (and also economical) These are some great tips!

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34 Brooke @ Food Woolf September 24, 2011 at 6:24 pm

Faaaaaaaaancy lunchboxes, mama! Totes impressed.

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35 Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. September 24, 2011 at 6:44 pm

fabulous as always! Hope you had a good weekend so far

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36 Leanne @ Healthful Pursuit September 25, 2011 at 9:00 pm

These tips are fantastic! Many of my clients have a tough time with packing lunches for themselves and their kids. It all comes down to just a bit of planning. I love the fruit puck idea, I’m totally going to do that! My mom used to leave notes in my lunchbox everyday, without fail. I LOVED it.

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37 The Cilantropist September 25, 2011 at 9:34 pm

I can definitely use some help planning my lunches! I do bring healthy and homemade stuff, but I need some variety. Thanks for the tips marla! But definitely the best one – love notes in the lunch box. My parents did that for me almost EVERYDAY when I was little and I loved it!!! I have still saved them, and now they are cherished.

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38 Cookin' Canuck September 25, 2011 at 9:41 pm

This is a FANTASTIC post, Marla. I find myself falling into the same lunch box ruts and always welcome new ideas. We like to stick notes with jokes into our kids lunches, too. They love sharing them with their friends at lunchtime.

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39 Deliciously Organic September 26, 2011 at 12:48 pm

Fabulous tips Marla! Thank you!

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40 Heather McCoy September 28, 2011 at 6:10 am

Buy a fun lunchbox! Kids will be excited about lunch if they have a fun container to house it in. I love laptoplunches.com or lifewithoutplastic.com. Both have fun yet eco friendly, plastic free containers.

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41 Marla September 28, 2011 at 8:56 am

Heather, I often switch up the containers & boxes to keep things interesting. We have many colors and styles to keep everyone happy :)

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42 Suzanne September 28, 2011 at 11:38 am

Something I struggle with daily with my kids trying to get them to eat healthy foods. I saw a tip the other day that I thought was a good one, freeze the little containers of applesauce so they seem more like a treat. I always buy the no added sugar applesauce that my kids love and I tried this trick and it was well received. Thanks for the ideas here, I think I will try the kabob.

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43 Marla September 28, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Suzanne, kids seem to love apple sauce when it is half frozen almost in a slushy form. Besides, it acts like an ice pack too. I usually have homemade on hand, but when I purchase it always organic & sugar free. No need to add sugar to apple sauce right? It is often a struggle here too to get them to eat all the stuff I make…one day at a time ;)

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44 Curt September 29, 2011 at 6:13 pm

That’s the kind of food kids should be taking to school. Plus the fact they learn to be better eaters with those choices.

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45 Kristin September 16, 2012 at 5:55 pm

I am in love with the Rubbermaid LunchBlox System if anyone is looking for a great lunch system. They all stack in each other. I bought 4 salad kits and 4 sandwich kits. I also went online and got the lunchboxes. I have been packing lunch everyday for myself and almost everyday for the kids and my hubby. It already paid for itself in savings on school lunch and fast food. Thanks for all the recipe ideas!

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46 Marla September 16, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Thanks for sharing this lunch packing system with us! We can never have enough great ideas like this :)

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