HOW TO PREPARE A WEEK OF SCHOOL LUNCHES IN ONE DAY

How to Prepare a Week of School Lunches in 1 Day
If you're anything like me, you start out the school year with the best intentions of sending a healthy, fun and unique lunch with your child each day to school.  Then as life gets busy, you start to get burned out with the endless lunch prep, lack of ideas, and picky kids.  So you end up giving in to hot lunch way more than you care to admit.  Don't get me wrong, I don't have any problems with hot lunch.  I feel like there are more healthy options these days, but the fact that I don't know exactly what my kids are choosing to eat and my pocketbook are two reasons I try to avoid resorting to hot lunch every day.
  
I set out on a mission this school year to send more lunches from home and make it as easy and painless as possible.  I'm happy to report that after over 5 weeks of implementing this strategy, it's been a huge success!  So here it is, my tried-and-true strategy for preparing a week of school lunches in one day.
  
THE MAIN IDEA: MEAL PREP
I've done several rounds of meal/snack prep for myself, so I don't know why I had never thought of it for my kids' lunches, but it's the same idea. You prepare a week of school lunch components in one day.  Yes, your kids will be eating the same thing for lunch every day for one week.  I did receive some push-back from my kids the first week, but they quickly got used to the idea and haven't complained since.  In fact, it gives them some predictability which I think they've come to like.
  
My routine is to meal prep their school lunch components on Monday (the day I grocery shop).  They eat hot lunch on Monday, so they do have one day each week eating hot lunch, which they enjoy (because hello, chocolate milk).  Then I prepare enough for 4 days worth of school lunch.  What you chose to prepare is up to you depending on your child's preference, but here are 4 important tips that will ensure you're successful with this strategy:
  
1. FIGURE OUT WHAT QUANTITIES YOU NEED TO PREPARE
  • You don't want to take the time to prep food for a week of lunches and run out before the week is done.  I have 3 kids that are in school full-time and 1 toddler in preschool two days a week, so I prepare enough food for 14 lunches.
2. CHOSE FOODS THAT WILL KEEP WELL FOR 4-5 DAYS
  • This plan only works if the food you prepare will keep well for the week.  Sandwiches are best kept in the freezer (although you'll want to avoid mayo or mustard on a frozen sandwich).  Think SIMPLE here.  Kids don't need an elaborate array of different foods cut into cute shapes.  If that's your thing, go for it, but I try to strive for super simple and convenient so I don't burn out.
3. CHOSE FOODS THAT CAN BE ENJOYED COLD
  • A lot of the school lunch ideas I see on Pinterest look delicious, but you have to consider that they'll be eaten hours after they're prepped and from a cold lunch box. Chose foods your kids will enjoy cold so they actually eat what you prepare.
4. MONITOR QUANTITIES AND ADJUST TO REDUCE WASTE
  • Throwing away good food is throwing away money, so I try to avoid that as much as possible.  I tell my kids to keep any extra food in their lunch box and bring it home.  That way, they can finish any leftovers after school if they want. It also gives me a good idea of how much each child is eating at school and I can give them more or less, as needed, to reduce waste.

  

Once you chose all your lunch components for the week, prepare everything (make and freeze sandwiches, bake muffins, cut fruit and veggies, etc) so that all you have to do each day is assemble.

  

5 MAKE-AHEAD LUNCH IDEAS

Here are 5 school lunch ideas I've used with my kids that have worked well with this strategy

(link to my very favorite, dishwasher-safe lunch containers here).

Kids Meal Prep School Lunch Idea Lunchbox

Pesto Pasta with Grape Tomatoes and Mozzarella Balls

Grapes

Cookie Dough Bites (recipe here)

  

Kids School Lunch Idea Lunchbox

Criossant Sandwiches (filled with a slice of ham and cheese, then frozen)

Go Gurt (frozen)

Pirate's Booty

Watermelon

Chocolate Chips + Marshmallows

  

Kids School Lunch Prep Idea Lunchbox

Banana Muffins (recipe here)

Fruit Salad (strawberries, pineapple, grapes)

Yogurt Smoothie Drinks

Rolled Deli Ham

  

Kids School Lunch Idea Bento Box Lunchbox

Deli Skewers (cheese, grape tomatoes, peppers, deli turkey)

Ranch

Ritz Crackers

Cheesecake Yogurt (Greek yogurt mixed with a packet of sugar-free cheesecake pudding mix)

Strawberries + Crushed Graham Crackers

  

Kids School Lunch Idea Bento Box Lunchbox

Sweet Spinach Muffins (recipe here)

Vanilla Greek Yogurt

Fruit (strawberries and peaches)

Granola

Fruit Roll

 

I hope you feel less intimidated and more empowered to prepare a week's worth of lunches in one day for your kids.  It's worked really well for our family and actually gets me excited to think of new lunch menus, so I hope it does the same for you. 

I'll continue to share new lunch ideas and videos of how I prep for the week over on our Instagram page, so make sure you're following along there!

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Brittney Hanks

Comments

Brittney Hanks

love these!!! will have to try some of these!

Brittney Hanks

I’ve been following you on Instagram for a few months. Thank you for all the great ideas!! Snack platters and all the food prep ideas! So great!

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