These hacks will make late-night lunch-packing a distant memory ...
September is here, and everyone is settling back into the rhythm of the school year. For my kids, this means re-adjusting to screen-free weekdays and afternoon homework. For me, it means trying to remember my Renweb login and which kid’s planner hasn’t yet been signed. No matter what this time of year looks like for your family, there’s one place we’re all on common ground: packing lunches.
Oh man. I cannot be the only mama out there who dreads the packing of the lunches with the same intensity usually reserved for impending apocalypses and spiders, right? Maybe it’s not too bad if you have one or two kids, but with five? Or six? Or, God bless you, seven?! You’ll be packing lunches into the wee hours, my friend. And I’ll be right there with you.
But listen. It doesn’t have to be this way. After the first few weeks of late-night lunch-packing cutting into my rare and precious sleep, survival mode kicked my creativity into overdrive. Lo and behold, fellow parents … there is a path to lunch-packing liberation, and I’m going to show you how to get there.
1Create a lunch drawer
At least 50% of lunch-making time is composed of rooting around in the fridge and pantry, trying to find all the disparate elements requested by various children. Half the time, I find something I wasn’t looking for, grab it, and forget about what I was originally seeking. Multiply that by five kids and subtract those minutes from sleep, and you can see why I was desperate. And grumpy. So I emptied out a drawer in the fridge and rededicated it to all things lunch. On Sunday afternoons, my daughters help me cut fruit, bag crackers. slice cheese, and basically prep a week’s worth of lunch extras to stick in the drawer. It’s all in one place, ready to go — and that one hour before the week begins saves me at least three during the week. #worthit
2And a lunch cabinet
One night, after spending uncountable minutes wandering around the house trying to round up everyone’s lunch boxes, I snapped. I sat down on the kitchen floor and consolidated cabinet items until one cabinet was totally empty. Then I filled it with lunch boxes, water bottles, Tupperware, snack bags, bento boxes, tiny hummus containers, and literally everything else I could think of that might go into a lunch box. Then I labeled it (with duct tape, because I am not Joanna Gaines). Then I slept soundly. This simple hack makes a big difference — your kids know where to put their lunch boxes, and you know where literally everything that’s not food is.
3Freeze sandwiches for the week
This is my favorite discovery of all time. It’s brought me so much joy and freedom, y’all. Listen up: you can make sandwiches, wrap them in plastic wrap, and freeze them. Pretty much any sandwich will freeze great, and when you’re ready to pack lunches, just grab the sandwich and stick it in the lunchbox. Then stick the lunchbox in the fridge. By the time your kid gets to lunch the next day, they’ll have a fresh, cool sandwich to sink their teeth into.
4Just freeze everything, actually
I used to spend a stupid amount of time trying to figure out how to keep yogurt from spoiling in the hours between 7:30 am and noon. Not once did it occur to me that I could just throw those yogurt tubes my kids love into the freezer — but guess what? It totally works. The yogurt thaws during the morning and is still cold at lunch. You can also freeze cut-up fruit, juice boxes, pudding, hummus, and even CHEESE!!! Toss out your thermal containers and ice packs, lunch-packers, and embrace the freedom of the freezer.
5Pass the torch
Now that you’ve put all lunch-making supplies in one place and prepped the contents for the week, guess what? Your work here is done. Time to give your kids the responsibility of actually packing their own lunches — yes, even the kindergartener. That’s why the lunch cabinet is close the floor. Make it an after-dinner chore, so you’re available to inspect and approve the lunches. By the time the kitchen is cleaned up for dinner, lunches will already be packed and our liberation, fellow parents, will be at hand.