Lunch Box Love: Keeping lunches healthy, inexpensive and easy!


Can you believe it’s ALMOST back to school time?! This summer has both flown and creeped by – seemingly at the same time. Now that I’ll have three kiddos in school, I want to share a bit about how we manage lunches in this house (spoiler alert – I don’t have the time or energy to recreate anything Pinterest-worthy – it’s about being efficient over here!). I know that packing lunches can be a little monotonous and with the go-go-go mentality of today’s culture, it can be easy to fall into the ease of processed foods. Listen – my kids eat their fair share of junk and I’m not here to judge anyone – I just want to share how EASY it can be to make the lunches more “clean” and full of real foods that your kids will love! So let’s talk about how to make a FUN lunch box: keeping lunches healthy, inexpensive and easy!

Homemade vs. Packaged Food. What’s more expensive?

I want to first talk about a myth that fresh, wholesome, homemade lunches are more expensive. Raise your hand if this is something that comes to mind when you think of making healthy lunches for your kiddos?? I know that I definitely thought this! Consumerism has led us to believe that convenient and easy-to-grab packages cost LESS than a few extra minutes of planning and spending time in the kitchen to make our own.

We are a culture of instantaneous. We want things NOW and we don’t want to wait. When I actually stopped and looked at my grocery bill and how much I was spending on these pre-packaged lunch items, the amount I could have been saving was enormous.

So how to make the shift? Start thinking in ingredients.

• Instead of applesauce or fruit squeeze pouches, buy reusable pouches and a big container of unsweetened applesauce. (We use these Squooshi Reusable Pouches for applesauce and yogurt.)
• Block cheese instead of prepackaged cheese sticks.
• A huge bag of nuts instead of individual packages.
• Grill chicken breast to make chicken salad instead of buying pre-made stuff that can often be full of preservatives.
• Water instead of juice (this saves a TON!) We love our Contigo Gizmo water bottles.

Let’s talk about lunch containers!

We use Bentgo boxes and love them – they are leak-proof and air tight and super easy for the kids to open (plus we are going on year THREE of using them!). As for lunch boxes, we love the ones from Pottery Barn (they hold up amazing and fit the Bentgo boxes perfectly) and we also have a Skip Hop one.
 
  
The Bento style containers make it so easy to pack lunches because you can literally prep them for a few days at a time (if you have multiple containers). Not to mention WAY less plastic waste – we hardly even use plastic baggies anymore and no longer have to buy single serving anything – we just buy the big bags or in bulk and can easily divide into the little compartments. If you want to use plastic containers you already have, try using silicon baking cups to make your own dividers.
 
Here’s a few other lunch box options that have gotten two thumbs up from mama friends of mine:

We love these ice chillers as well.

So what do I pack in the lunches? I try to simplify and stick to these basics:

Protein – This helps me know they are getting healthy food that will keep them full until the end of the school day. (think nut butter, Greek yogurt, hard boiled eggs, grilled chicken). 
 
Fruit and/or veggies – These are super easy to pack because they don’t require much prep. And if your kids are dippers like mine, you can add ranch, hummus or Greek yogurt with seasoning to add a little flair.
 
Something crunchy – I love to have something with a little crunch. This could be veggie straws, sweet potato chips, whole grain crackers or something similar.
 

Something sweet – I always throw in a tiny treat for the end of their lunch. (It’s usually a Hershey kiss!)

Think beyond the sandwich. My kiddos love their PB&J, but sometimes I like to get creative. Here are some sandwich-free lunch ideas:
 
• Food on Sticks. Think chicken satays, beef skewers, or sausage kebabs, packed on lunchbox-sized sticks for kids.
• Quesadillas
• Spring Rolls
• Deli Meat Roll-Ups
• Vegetable Sushi or Onigiri
• Cold Noodle Salads
• Hummus and Pita Plate
• Quinoa Salad

One of my favorite places to get inspiration on lunches is 100 Days of Real Food. She has a ton of simple, clean eating lunch ideas that my kids love.

I hope you can find some fun in packing school lunches. Invite your kids to help or even pack their own! We try to get everything ready the night before so our mornings are not as rushed. Now, let the back to school countdown begin!

Share some of your favorite lunch tips, hacks or tricks in the comments below!

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