Tips and Tricks for Packing School Lunches


It’s almost that time of year again, moms. No, I’m not talking about pumpkin spice lattes. School, my friends, school is almost back in session, and with it comes the seeming unending task of packing school lunch boxes. This will be my fifth year packing lunches, and I’ve got a few things to share.

packing school lunches tips and tricks

Let’s Talk About Gear

Bags & Boxes

I’ve gone through several types of lunch totes, from the standard vinyl-insulated fabric ones, to the classic metal lunch boxes. The vinyl/fabric ones tear and harbor smells and stains (even if I put them through the washer), while the metal ones get dinged up, slightly rusty, and the parts keep falling off. Last year I tried a new kind of lunch tote, called the Solvetta lunch bag, and they’ve held up so well I won’t need to buy new ones for next year because they still look and feel brand new. This neoprene lunch bag unzips into a placemat, which is great because sometimes my kids eat their lunches outside when the weather’s nice. Best of all, I just throw it in the washing machine once a week and it comes out clean and smelling fresh. I am never going back to vinyl or metal lunch boxes again!


There are a lot of great ones on the market, from inexpensive and utilitarian plastic containers to fancy-shaped bento boxes. My biggest tip is to make sure the container is leak-proof. I go with the popular Rubbermaid LunchBlox sandwich set. They’re just the right size for my kids’ appetites and fit perfectly in the lunch bags we use. I use standard-size silicone muffin cups to hold portions of fruits and vegetables inside the main compartment, and use the smaller containers for snacks or dips. I also use the Thermos wide-mouth insulated jars for sending hot soups or casseroles for lunch. IKEA has an inexpensive set of colorful plastic cutlery, which is what I send with my kids when they need it.

The only kink in our lunch routine is that I haven’t found a fool-proof milk container. It must be small, leak-proof, easy to clean, easy to use and preferably insulated in some way. It’s a tall order. Yeah, shelf-stable milk boxes would be easy, but they’re expensive and amount to a lot of waste. Let me know in the comments about the amazing milk container you use for you kids’ lunches, I’d really appreciate it!

{Several affiliate links are included above.}

What’s In a Good Lunch?

There’s a whole PTA’s worth of moms who have Pinterest boards devoted to the subject, so I won’t go into anything too specific, but I do have a few guidelines.

Protein, fats, and carbohydrates: balance is key

Brains are built by fats and fueled by carbohydrates, and the stomach is satiated by proteins. They’re all important. According to the USDA, children should get roughly 50% of their calories from carbs, 25% from healthy fats, and 25% from proteins. The best kinds of nutrients are those in naturally-occurring foods. Pack lots of fresh fruit, veggies, nuts, seeds, whole grains, diary, and lean (uncured) meats. I try to limit the use of not only obvious junk food, but food that has sneaky amounts of sugars, like dried fruit, fruit juice, and granola bars.

Food Safety

Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. If you are packing a Thermos, don’t put it in with the cold foods in the lunch bag. If your child is going on a field trip and needs a fully-disposable sack lunch, freeze the drink box and wrap any perishables around it with some paper towels to help insulate it until lunch time.


Ask your child’s teacher about what the lunch routine looks like, and if your child is young, what help they’ll get. I was surprised to find out how little time is allotted for eating lunch. Don’t pack items that your child cannot open by him/herself, since it’s a lot of work for a teacher to help every child who’s struggling with their lunch. Cut up large pieces, like fruit, so that they’re easier to eat. Make sure items like oranges are already peeled. And pack a napkin, especially if the food you’ve packed is messy.

What are your awesome secrets to packing an amazing school lunch? Let us know in the comments!