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School Lunch for the Whole Week: Make Ahead & Save Time

It’s morning. You’re tired and moving slow. Your brain is trying its best to remember all the morning tasks and get the kids off to school on time. About 5 minutes before the kids head out the door you remember you need to make their school lunch. And then it’s crunch time. You worry if they’ve even remembered to brush their teeth as you open the fridge to see what they will be having for lunch. With not enough time…it’s either going to have to be hot lunch again or another boring peanut butter sandwich.

Sounds familiar?

This is pretty much my life.  Always rushing, feeling like it was just too much hassle to do the whole “cold lunch” thing. Money is tight and so is time. I want my kids to have a healthy lunch but struggle with variety, time and preparation. I usually do really well for the first few weeks of school and then get lazy. I found that if I didn’t prepare the night before, it was a mad rush in the morning. But now I have a method that really works. I have been making a week’s worth of lunches all in ONE day for a year now, and it is the best thing for busy moms! This method has totally saved me.

School Lunch – How to make them all in one day?

So how this works is the following: Once a week, I chop and bag up all the fresh fruit, vegetables, crackers and any other lunch items all at once.  Then I add them to 3 lunch buckets to store in my fridge, freezer, and pantry. The kids can quickly grab the items to throw in their lunches themselves in the morning or evening before and my work is done. Takes a ton of stress away.

Dry goods lunch bin

The dry good lunch bin currently sits in my pantry. It’s filled with individual bags of dry lunch items such as bagged pretzels, crackers, granola bars, trail mix, treats and more.

Here is a list of ideas of dry lunch items:

  • Crackers
  • Pretzels
  • Fruit Cups or applesauce
  • Granola or Trail Mix
  • Granola Bars
  • Popcorn
  • Nuts
  • Beef Jerky
  • Chips
  • Graham Crackers
  • Cookies  or brownie bites

Cold refrigerator lunch bin

The cold lunch bin sits in my refrigerator. The cold lunch bin holds all the cold lunch items that need to stay refrigerated. Once a week I will separate grapes, chop oranges or apples (if I did apples I would first soak them in pineapple juice or fruit fresh so they keep longer), and chop carrot or celery sticks.

Here is a list of ideas for cold items:

  • String Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Carrots
  • Sliced apples
  • Pasta salad
  • Sliced oranges
  • Mandarin oranges, whole
  • Green peppers, sliced
  • Celery sticks
  • Grapes, cherries, cantaloupe
  • Seasonal fruit cut up
  • Green Salads
  • Turkey Rollups
  • Hummus

Frozen Freezer Lunch Bin

I typically just fill up my bin in the freezer with sandwiches or frozen homemade yogurt tubes. I have found that the easiest way for me to make the sandwich part is to take a large roll or sandwich bun, add in meat and cheese only, wrap and freeze individually. My children will take them out in the morning frozen, add them to their lunches and by the time it’s lunch at school the sandwich has thawed. If they must have the condiments on their sandwiches, you can always add them in between the meat and cheese as it won’t penetrate the bread and make it all soggy. But don’t add in your lettuce or it will be a gross slimy mess. If your child likes lettuce, pickles, peppers or anything else on their sandwiches you could always make up individual bags of sandwich fixings and add it to the cold refrigerator lunch bin. Wraps and quesadillas will also freeze really well (my kids will eat them cold.)

Here is a list of ideas for freezer bin:

  • Meat & Cheese Sandwiches
  • Peanut butter & jelly sandwiches
  • Quesadillas
  • Yogurt tubes
  • Wraps

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