It’s back to school time which means early wake up calls, rushed mornings, and (sometimes) grumpy kids. To simplify things, even just a little bit, I came up this easy school lunch idea to set up a lunch station in the fridge and pantry for the kids to pick and choose, and pack, on their own.
Do you ever wish your kids liked the hot lunch option at school so you didn’t have to mess with packing a lunch? I sure do, even though I don’t blame them. My three are weirdly not sandwich eaters and frustratingly like very different things so it’s always been a struggle. After 6 years of this mess I finally figured out how to make it easier – a lunch & snack station. It takes up some valuable real estate in the fridge and pantry but that’s a price we’re willing to pay. Read on for how I set it up.
School Lunch System
I grabbed a few bins I had on hand (because extra bins are a staple in my house) and divided them into categories: 1. Fruit & Veg, 2. Main Dish, 3. Drink, 4. Sweet, and 5. Side/Snack. Categories 1-4 live in the fridge and each have a numbered label on them. The fifth category of side/snacks are kept in the pantry and is labeled “School”. Grocery day is Sunday and everything gets stocked for the week. I’ve given the kids instructions that these bins are for school only, so no snacking on them during the school week. When the weekend hits they have free license (and are encouraged) to finish anything off in the school bins before the Sunday restock.
#1 Fruit & Veg
Everyone has to choose at least one fruit or vegetable. This bin is filled with apple slices, clementines, baby carrots, and jell-o (not a fruit or vegetable but to help out my kiddo with braces for a bit). I’ll swap out items depending what’s in season and there are usually other options around.
#2 Main Dish
Since none of my kids eat sandwiches, one newly has braces, one doesn’t eat dairy, and one doesn’t eat basically anything, the main dish is like a lunchable. It’s packed with cut up summer sausage, turkey sticks, salami, and cheese for those who want it. I’ve also added crackers to the school pantry bin to accompany it.
Everyone brings a water bottle to school, but I decided to add some extra drink options this year. The drink bin is filled with Capri Sun and fruit smoothies. I purchased Bolthouse Farms smoothies and repackaged them into smaller bottles that I found on Amazon to help add some extra fruit and veg to their diet.
We pack lunches in bento boxes that always have a little compartment for something sweet. I’m filling it with a mini candy bar and somehow my kids always start with bin number 4 instead of 1. Funny how that works.
The snack & side dish bin holds chips, popcorn, crackers, snack-sized packages, fruit snacks, granola bars, fruit leather….basically everything. This is the critical bin for making sure the kids aren’t snacking on it at home so that it lasts the week. Some items are purchased in larger quantities and the excess is just stored in the pantry where the kids can munch on it during the week.
Would you try this easy school lunch idea?
Find more organization ideas on the IHB blog. The bins used to set up this lunch station are linked below.