Make Ahead School Lunches - Only Prep Once a Week

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4 minutes
September 30, 2022
Carole Jones

Hate packing lunches every morning before your kiddos run out the door for school? It’s time to adopt a plan for make ahead school lunches and only prep once a week! Or even better, get your kiddos involved in the process by letting them pack their own lunches. And don’t worry, I’ll teach you a system that will keep them from packing a lunchbox full of treats. Just scroll on down…

make ahead school lunches

As a mom of six kiddos, I totally understand the daily struggle of getting those lunches packed every morning…not to mention hoping they actually EAT something you packed them! It’s time to stop fighting that battle. We are going to do that in two different ways:

  1. Only prepping once a week with make ahead school lunches
  2. Letting go of some of the control and teaching your kids how to pack their own lunches
Make Ahead School Lunches

Prep once a week with make ahead school lunches

The main reason we find making lunches stressful is because there hasn’t been a plan and we are scrambling to shove something in the lunch box before the bus comes. When you only have to prep once a week, you only have to plan once a week as well.

First you have to decide what to prep. For me, a great lunch provides the following five categories….and remember, one part of the lunch (like a sandwich) can mark many of these off the list

  1. Protein
  2. Carbohydrate
  3. Fruit
  4. Veggie
  5. Treat

Scroll down for options of each category that store well after being prepped!

Lunch Proteins

  • cheese sticks
  • hard boiled eggs
  • sliced meats and cheeses
  • peanut or nut butters
  • yogurt
  • hummus
  • milk
  • leftover chopped chicken, beef, or pork
  • almonds or other nuts

Lunch Fruits

Lunch Veggies

  • cucumber sticks or rounds
  • sliced peppers
  • baby carrots
  • jicama sticks
  • celery sticks
  • grape or cherry tomatoes
  • sugar snap peas

If you child isn’t used to eating raw veggies, a small container of ranch or hummus to use as a dip is your key to success!

Lunch Carbs

  • mini bagels
  • tortillas
  • crackers
  • pita bread
  • flatbread

Try making these carbs whole grain when possible!

How to Prep the Lunches

Now that you know what you are making, now it’s time to prep the food so either you or your child can quickly grab it and go in the morning!

The key to success here is containers. Yes, containers. You need ones that are small, reusable, and airtight. These containers are my favorite because they are small enough (3″ x 4″) for individual portions and inexpensive enough that if they get lost at school, not a big deal.

So use these small containers to store individual portions of each ingredient separately, then in the morning whoever is packing lunch can grab one of each from the fridge, stick them in their lunchbox, and out the door.

Some people prefer larger containers that have built-in compartments that hold all the different foods in one, but then you are stuck with whatever is grouped together already. Using smaller, individual containers gives so much more freedom based on what sounds good that morning.

How This Method Lets Your Child Pack Their Own Lunch

Want your school kid to actually EAT what is in their lunch? You have to get them involved. This doesn’t mean they have free reign over what goes into their lunchbox but if they can at least have the freedom to pick one container from each category you have prepped for them, they are much more likely to eat what is packed!

Use some baskets in your fridge or cabinet so they know they can pick one container from each basket. This keeps them from filling their lunchbox full of only treats 🙂

So what does this all look like in real life for your family?

  • Saturday – plan and shop
  • Sunday – prep and portion
  • Monday to Friday – your child picks one container from each basket and packs their own lunch.

Favorite Lunchbox Recipes

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Carole Jones

Carole Jones is an Arizona-based cookbook author & food blogger. She's authored The 30 Minute Cooking From Frozen Cookbook and the self-published Take 5: Chicken e-cookbook. For the past 15 years, Carole has shared her culinary adventures cooking and baking for her six brutally honest children here on My Kitchen Escapades. Hot, crusty bread is Carole's love language, but her two adorable grandchildren are a close second. Yes, second. Don't judge.

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