No more soggy bread, warm ice packs, and brown apple slices! These lunch box hacks will help simplify lunch packing for you and your kids.
Thank you to PackIt for sponsoring this post!
I remember the very first school lunch I packed for my older son, Henry. It was his first day of kindergarten, and I had finally joined the ranks of Lunch Packing Parents. I was determined to make that first lunch memorable. I carefully cut a heart shape out of the top slice of bread so the strawberry jelly in his PB&J peeked through. It wasn’t elaborate, but I couldn’t wait for him to open his lunch box and find it.
When I picked him up from school (after being a teary mess of mixed emotions all day), I asked excitedly, “What did you think of your sandwich?” He gave me a blank look. Turns out, my PB&J gesture hadn’t really registered on his first day radar, which was no doubt filled with lots of exciting moments and firsts. I felt a pang of disappointment. We were not going to be starring in the next tug-at-your-heartstrings peanut butter commercial.
But it did teach me a valuable lesson: When it comes to lunch packing, keep it simple.
That’s one reason you won’t see elaborate lunch boxes here. (Limited skills in the arts and crafts department is another.)
What I AM all about is finding ways to make lunch packing easier. I’ve collected some tips and tricks over the years that help me to that.
8 Lunch Box Hacks
1. Use a freezer bag instead of a cold pack. I’ve been using these PackIt lunch bags for a few years now, and they solve a couple of problems: No more rummaging through the freezer looking for a cold pack and no more wondering whether one little cold pack will really keep the whole lunch at the right temperature. PackIt’s bags have walls that are filled with freezable gel, and the whole thing goes into the freezer overnight (it folds down for easy storage). By morning, the walls of the bag are completely frozen and ready to chill just like a fridge.
2. Preheat the thermos. These instructions are sometimes in the fine print of insulated food containers, but they’re easy to miss. Your thermos will keep food warmer longer if you “preheat” it first. Here’s how: Pour boiling water into the thermos, close, and let it sit for a few minutes. Then dump out the water and add the hot food.
3. Use cupcake liners to separate compartments. I love using bento-style lunch boxes but sometimes need to divide the containers even more. I use silicone muffin cups, but simple paper cupcake liners do the trick too.
4. Pack kiwi with a spoon. Do you know this trick for a fun and easy way to eat kiwi? Slice one in half and pack it with a spoon. Your child can scoop out the center to eat.
5. Avoid soggy sandwich bread. When making a PB&J, smear a thin layer of peanut butter on both sides of the bread and put the jelly on top so it doesn’t soak through. A layer of butter under mayo or mustard does the same thing. And when you’re adding lettuce to a sandwich, tuck it between the meat and cheese (not against the bread) so it doesn’t cause sogginess either.
6. Soak apple slices in OJ: I picked up this trick from Pinterest years ago and my boys still love it. Instead of sprinkling apple slices with lemon juice (which some kids find too sour), soak them in a combo of lemon juice and OJ. It adds a great tangy flavor and prevents the dreaded browning.
7. Make a slice in the banana. Bananas can be tricky for little hands to open. Make a small slit in the top—enough to get them started but not enough that the top will turn brown.
8. Create a lunch packing station. If you want your kids to learn to pack their own lunch (aka The Holy Grail), make it easy for them. Gather the items they need and put them together in a bin in the fridge or pantry or on the counter.
I’m hosting a giveaway for one PackIt Freezable Lunch Bag in the pattern of your choice over on Instagram. Come over and enter!
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