Packing Healthy Back-to-School Lunches: Planning and Supplies

willowcrest lane norah pritchard lunches

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Check out this segment on FOX’s Good Day Rochester to see me talk live about making back-to-school lunch packing a breeze!

Today I’m sharing two of my favorite ways to make back-to-school lunches a snap: planning ahead and lunch box supplies.

Making lunches at home for all of us is something that I take pride in. We let Jackson, our oldest, choose to buy a lunch at school twice a month, but it’s important to me that we all eat wholesome, whole food meals most days. With a little bit of planning and the right supplies, it really is easy to make it happen.

Meal Planning

willowcrest lane meal planning

Plan Ahead:

Meal planning our dinners is an important part of my weekly routine already, so taking a few minutes to think about lunches for the upcoming week fits right in. We don’t get too fancy with lunches, and sometimes it’s easy to fall into the routine of serving the same thing day in and day out. I find when I meal plan my kids’ meals right along with the weekly family dinners, I have a few extra moments to think outside the peanut-butter-and-jelly box (which we do love, just not every day). I use a printable that I made for my weekly meal planning and jot lunches off to the side.

Get Inspired:

Sometimes, I need a little inspiration to get me excited about packing lunches, and to surprise the kids with something new and fresh in their lunch boxes.  (and keep exposing them to new, healthy foods).  A resource that I glance at to give me ideas and make sure I’m hitting all the food groups is my trusty Pinterest board of lunch ideas. I find it really helpful to browse through my boards while I’m meal planning to get inspired.

Use leftovers:

Another of my favorite tips for packing healthy lunches is to plan to use leftovers or elements of dinner from the night before.

We have Taco Tuesday or some form of Mexican, every week. With a little pre-planning, I make extra to give the kids for lunches the next day. To save even more time, I make their lunch right after our dinner while the food is still out.

Some examples of this two-meals-in-one approach are our favorite re-fried bean and cheese quesadillas, which I make the night before when I have all the fixings for burritos. I put some salsa and sour cream in there, and the kids think it’s the best lunch ever! Tuck some fruit and an oatmeal bar in, and they are full and happy after lunch.

willowcrest lane norah pritchard lunches
Re-fried bean and cheese quesadillas with salsa and sour cream, tangerines, and an oatmeal bar

During the colder months, I love to make meatballs and sauce, which I then make into meatball sandwiches the next day or even meatball pizzas on mini pitas with mozzarella and leftover sauce. Pack them up with some fruit and veggies, and a hot lunch is easy. Another favorite is packing leftover soup with crackers or bread to dip. I make it a ton over the winter, and there are always leftovers.

Lunch Supplies

willowcrest lane norah pritchard lunches
Reusable lunch containers make packing picnic lunches easy – only one container and no plastic bags to throw away.

Reusable and eco-friendly

Along with meal planning, having the right supplies is a must for packing meals.  I first heard about using reusable containers for lunches a few years ago from Lisa Leake of 100 Days of Real Food. I was immediately intrigued by the idea of leaving a little less waste and teaching my kids about being eco-friendly.

Easy Lunch Boxes

We started off using these bento style Easy Lunch Box containers, which I love. Bento lunches are all about small containers of food, and sometimes people get really creative with the food to make characters and such cute things like flowers made out of cheese or sandwiches. All of that stuff is right up my ally, although I don’t usually have time to do that unless it’s a special holiday. (Halloween pumpkins made out of cheese, anyone?)

willowcrest lane norah pritchard lunches
Pretzel bread with turkey, lettuce, cheese, and a tomato slice, apple slices with peanut butter, grapes, and cucumbers and peppers

I love these Easy Lunch Boxes because they are workhorses. I have had my set for several years now and we use them constantly, along with the companion Mini Dipper sauce containers. The mini containers are leak proof – perfect for dressings and hummus. Whether for school lunches or during the summer when we pack picnic lunches, they pack up easily in standard lunch bags, the containers have space for plenty of food, and they pop right into the dishwasher for cleaning. I’m a huge fan!

willowcrest lane norah pritchard lunches
Apple sandwiches with peanut butter and granola, cucumbers and peppers, cheese and crackers

U Konserve

A new favorite lunch accessory are these containers from U.Konserve. Don’t they look so sharp? My boys’ eyes opened wide when they were delivered and they started calling dibs on containers immediately. The stainless steel containers are leak-proof and BPA free, making them perfect for James’ favorite snack: yogurt with berries and our favorite homemade granola.

willowcrest lane norah pritchard lunches
Yogurt with fresh blueberries and granola

The square to-go container has a removable divider, which makes it easy to mix and match foods. We like to put smoothie pops, pumpkin muffins, and even little homemade lunchables with cheese and crackers and fruit. There are so many options for healthy lunches with these, while also teaching kids about reducing waste.

willowcrest lane norah pritchard lunches

willowcrest lane norah pritchard lunches
Whole grain crackers, cheese, tangerines and strawberries, celery with peanut butter and raisins

One way that I am consciously trying to reduce my family’s carbon footprint is by cutting way down on plastic in our house. We use inexpensive cloth napkins for most meals, which I also pack in lunch boxes. Now, there is finally a solution for sandwich bags. These U.Konserve bags are so easy to open and pop in a sandwich, or Jack’s favorite: a turkey and cheese on Ciabatta.

willowcrest lane norah pritchard lunches
The reusable lunch bags wrap up sandwiches, and then make a nice place mat when open.

PlanetBox

This Rover PlanetBox made my cool-as-a-cucumber Jackson holler when he opened it. Apparently, this stainless steel box and the magnets that come with it are all the rage at his school. I love it for a few different mom reasons, however.

willowcrest lane norah pritchard lunches
Whole wheat pitas filled with lettuce, hummus, turkey, and cheese, yogurt with fruit and granola, grapes and blueberries, pepper slices

First, this lunch box has the beloved compartments that make it easy to pack lunches that are balanced and portioned correctly. Each container reminds me to choose from an assortment of food groups. I love how much fits in there for my hungry guys, too!

This is one of my guys’ favorite things to see in their lunch boxes: English muffin pizzas!

willowcrest lane norah pritchard lunches
English muffin pizzas, cucumbers and carrots with hummus in the Little Dipper, granola, chocolate chips for a little sweet treat

These PlanetBoxes are built to last. I don’t have to worry about buying a new one every year, or wondering if they will need to be replaced anytime soon because they are durable.

willowcrest lane norah pritchard lunches
Pretzel bread slices with hummus, cheese, and cucumbers, chocolate pretzels, cucumber and tomato salad with Italian dressing, strawberries and blueberries

Some of our favorite lunches can get messy – think dressings, yogurt, and soups, but the PlanetBoxes come with two containers, a Big Dipper, and a Little Dipper, that making packing these foods worry-free. We’ve never had a leak, and that’s saying a lot because these boxes take a beating from my guys.  We just love them!

What makes your back-to-school meal packing easier? I’d love to hear your ideas and tips. Share your comments below!

Love Norah Pritchard from Willowcrest Lane

willowcrest lane norah pritchard lunches

 

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One thought on “Packing Healthy Back-to-School Lunches: Planning and Supplies

  1. Erin

    Miss Norah, can you please pack my lunches for school, too? Awesome post and beautiful food shots! XO

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