Learn how to meal prep school lunches to make your school mornings much easier!
School Lunch Meal Prep Tips
School is coming. That means busy days and busier mornings. Do you have a game plan for your kids’ school lunches? Meal prepping and planning makes putting together school lunches much easier.
Instead of waiting until the morning and throwing together whatever you can find (been there done that!), you can meal prep ahead of time and have the opportunity to put together a wholesome lunch for your kids.
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Meal Planning Containers and Accessories
Before you begin, you will need to get some containers and accessories that you can use for planning your kids’ lunches.
Some of the items you could have on hand include:
- lunchbox, preferably bento style box
- small individual containers for lunchboxes without compartments
- reusable water bottle
- ice packs
- larger containers for prepped foods
Start with the lunch boxes of course. Which kind do your kids (or you) prefer: character boxes/bags or bento style boxes?
There are pros and cons to both styles. Choosing a style makes it much easier to plan ahead and make sure your kids have healthy meal choices within the different food groups.
If your child prefers a regular ol’ lunchbox or bag, you can get small individual containers like these portion control containers that fit inside the lunch box in order to pack different lunch items.
Some other containers you might need are small mason jars and reusable snack-size bags.
TIP: Reusable silicone muffin cups are great for separating foods!
We personally love the Re-Play Snack Stacks for snacks, fruit, and other prepped items.If you get the travel lid with the strap, you can attach it to the handle of a lunch box for a little extra storage!
Bento style lunch boxes are perfect if you’d rather not deal with a bunch of small containers. These lunch boxes have small compartments where you can put various food items.
Need to keep your child’s food cold until lunchtime? Invest in some icepacks. There are all kinds of smaller ice packs that you can use to keep your kids’ food cold enough until lunch time.
Another item to have ready is a reusable water bottle. Insulated water bottles are perfect to have filled, chilled, and ready to go in the morning. We love using them, especially since my kids’ school has water bottle refill stations.
And of course, you’ll need larger containers to help with the meal prep. You’ll want containers that are BPA free and dishwasher safe.
Lunch Foods You Can Prep Ahead of Time
Once you have everything you need to meal prep, you can then plan lunches ahead of time. While not all parts of the lunches will be done before you actually prepare them, there are quite a few things you can do ahead of time.
TIP: Meal prepping over the weekend or in the evening before can really help to save time on busy mornings!
Some foods you can prepare ahead of time include:
- hard boiled eggs,
- fresh fruit,
- fresh vegetables,
- grilled vegetables,
- trail mix,
- dips (for veggies, fruit, etc),
- muffins (mini muffins fit in lunch boxes well!),
- banana bread or zucchini bread,
- cubed or shredded cheese,
- brown rice
- overnight oats
- ground meat (beef, chicken, turkey)
- pasta (with or without sauce)
- steak strips
- and more!
Keep in mind that some fruits may not keep as well as others when they are sliced, such as apples or pears. To prevent apples or pears from browning, toss sliced pieces in a citric acid, such as lemon juice or pineapple juice, and then store in an airtight container.
Also keep in mind that while it would be easy to pack nuts in a school lunch for a snack, nuts may not be permitted according to school policy concerning allergies. Contact your school if you are unsure.
Here are some meal prep recipes and ideas you can use:
If your child brings pre-packaged snacks, you can have them organized in bins so that they’re easy to add to the lunch box when it comes time to actually pack it up. Snacks such as cheese sticks, crackers, snack bars, pretzels, and more should be in an easy to reach place.
Save These Things For the Night or Morning Before School
While you can get individual foods and ingredients prepared in advance, sometimes it’s best to wait until the night before school or even the day of to prepare some meals.
For example, if you are making a sandwich that includes lunch meat, cheese, and veggies on bread, you shouldn’t put it together and keep it wrapped for days at a time. The ingredients can cause the bread to get soggy and the sandwich won’t be fresh. It is something you should leave for the last minute.
This also goes for fruit or veggies that have juice, salads (unless prepped in a jar), and a variety of similar foods. While the ingredients can be kept in separate containers, they shouldn’t be mixed together until the absolute last minute to ensure freshness.
Do You Meal Prep School Lunches?
Meal prepping school lunches can take a little of the stress from your busy school mornings.
Do you meal prep lunches? Have any tips you would add? Please share!
READ NEXT: How to Make Your School Mornings Less Stressful
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LOVE THIS LIST! Especially the RePlay snack containers! Awesome find. They look perfect for my boys to actually pick a snack since they eat lunch so early and only have 10 minutes 🙁