25 Days To A More Organized You Day 4: What Tips Do You Have to Simplify Lunch Box Duty?

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If you’re serious about pinching pennies, you know packing lunch at home can be a huge money saver for your kids, your spouse, and yourself. However, it’s so easy to let lunch get the best of you on busy mornings! My kids and husband prefer lunches made at home, so this year I’m really working to make our mornings go more smoothly by efficiently handling lunch box duty ahead of time. Here are a few things that have helped our family:

1. Keep your fridge stocked for lunches. Place yogurt, cheese sticks, juice boxes and any other quick foods all together to make packing lunches go more swiftly. (We’ve also tried making pb&js ahead of time tightly wrapped in saran wrap, which has worked for a few days out, but they do eventually get soggy.  Any tips on that one would be so appreciated!)

2. If possible, make lunches for  the next day as soon as those lunchboxes hit the kitchen counter. I can’t tell you how much less stressful our mornings are when those lunches are already packed, so getting them ready the night before is worth so much to me!  It changes the whole mood in our house each morning, and makes for such a nicer start to the day.

 

3. Create a “snack” bin in your pantry for lunchbox snacks to grab as you head out the door. If you’re in a hurry in the morning, this will be one less thing you have to hunt down in a hurry.  Also, if you’re trying to save money on making lunches, bake extra cookies, muffins or even pop popcorn for snacks and place them in single serving bags so you can pinch those pennies as you serve up lunch. (I have to work on that one myself this afternoon!)


 

Here are a few specific items to work on today:

  1. If you have pack lunches, set up your refrigerator and pantry to make packing lunches go more smoothly in your home.
  2. Make single serving food snacks out of larger boxes of food, or bake a batch of cookies to frugally fill those lunch boxes. (I just defrosted 15 bananas and am hoping to fill my kids lunches with banana chocolate chip muffins next week!)

 

Do you have any great tips on handling lunch box duty (and suggestions besides PB&J for your children’s lunch box meal ~ new lunch box ideas could be a whole new series!)  I’d love to hear them, so take a minute and leave a comment to share!  

 

Looking for more ways to get organized? See previous 25 Days to a More Organized You:

 

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Comments

  1. Wanda T says:

    I’ve got a second grader that severe ADHD and she’s very thin, has lost two pounds and I was told to give her PBJ sandwiches for snack so the protein can help her to build and not lose muscle. I’ve been making them on toast nightly and have used jelly, jam and light Kayro syrup so far. She loves all three. Yes they’re sweet to her but they’re also nutritional too. I’m going to get her some Nutella this weekend to go with the peanut butter sandwiches, this girl has a great appetite but the meds are fighting me, shes already very thin and me & the doctor don’t want her to lose anymore weight. Since I’ve just started this, I’ll suggest toasting the bread, we use wheat also, and see if they won’t get soggy as quickly.

    • Elizabeth T. says:

      Have you tried giving her boost to help her maintain her weight? The chocolate ones taste exactly like chocolate milk, all three of my kids love them! We typically buy the normal ones but they also have the plus which has extra protein, tastes a little thicker than the normal but still good!

  2. Allis says:

    I’ve heard that freezing the PB&J sandwiches keeps the jelly from seeping into the bread. You can pull the sandwich out in the morning, and it should be thawed by lunch.

    http://www.thekitchn.com/too-busy-to-plan-lunch-freeze-pbj-sandwiches-to-enjoy-later-175105

    • Jennifer B. says:

      We don’t ever have a problem with jam (or honey!) seeping into the bread because we put a coating of peanut butter on both pieces of bread (the two insides) and put the jam (or whatever you are using for the “sweet” part) in between those two peanut butter layers.

  3. stacy says:

    Have you ever tried pb&j on tortillas? Just spread it on and roll up. The kids love it! The tortillas might not get as soggy as the bread does!

  4. Erica says:

    HEY WANDA!! mY SON HAS ADHD ALSO AND IS ALSO VERY SKINNY….I STARTED ( DOCTORS SUGGEASTION) GIVING HIM THOSE PEDIASURE SHAKES EVRY SINGLE NIGHT, THEY HAVE A whoping 300 calories each and if you give it right before bed, the calories “stick” to that little body :) these would make ideal for lunchboxes also, and they are packed w/ protein and vitamins, and taste great!! Equate brand seems to b most affordable,since they can be a little pricey :) Worked for my son after a few months, he started gaining weight…Hope this helps :)

    • Sue says:

      Erica and Wanda,

      This is off subject from the PB&J convo but I wanted to share what worked for my son. My son is 7 and also has ADHD. He was put a new medication that seemed to be working so well for him but he was losing weight quickly. Because the med was working so well his Dr. wanted to add another ADHD medication at night to help his appetite adjust. The medication she suggested was one of the ones we started out with when he was diagnosed last year. He did not do well on it at all it caused him to be distant and agitated. I was really against giving it to him again and did not want him on an upper during the day and a downer at night. I was giving him pedisure and it helped some but his was still losing if even a tiny bit each week. I started doing some research and found that Periactin (which is more of an allergy medication) was known to increase appetite. After talking it over with my Doctor we decided to give it a try. From the info I gathered it could take up to 2 weeks for appetite to increase, he may be very tired for the first two days. His dosage is 2mg 1/2 in the morning and 1/2 at night. We saw results within hours of his first dose. He was actually eating lunch and even asked for a snack a bit after!!! He had no drowsiness, or any other side effects beside weight gain. He was on Flonase for allergies , I had to stop giving the flonase since the medications are in the same group. So instead of giving him another ADHD medication I just replaced the kind of allegory medication he was on. He has been on it for 3 months now. He has gained back all if the weight he initially lost. He was started to get self conscious about losing weight and getting weighed each week at home. He was starting to get so thin. He was like a feather to pick up. Now he is confidence has returned full force. He is solid. I grunt picking him up again. This has worked so well for me it allowed my son to stay on the ADHD medication that has helped him greatly.

  5. Lisa Weinaug says:

    I’m hoping that you’re going to talk about your freezer for the more organized you series. Mine makes me crazy, and I just saw where you had 15 bananas in your freezer. I don’t even put bananas in the fridge because it turns them black. But I guess if you’re gonna bake ith them, that’s not a problem. Anyway, I’d like to see how you control your frozen mess! lol

  6. jennie says:

    My youngest who is 6 is picky. So some things I found that she likes is when we make or own lunchables. The other thing she has grown to love is what we call roll ups. It’s just some kind of lunch meat and cheese rolled into a tortilla. She loves them

  7. Sherry says:

    I’m in the same boat with the freezer issue. We only have a regular side by side freezer as well and I’ve been wondering what to do with the DiGiorno pizzas I plan on purchasing tomorrow. Laurie, I’m looking forward to your ideas on organizing/clearing some freezer space. I need all the help I can get.

  8. Michelle says:

    Laurie, I have been making PB&J, putting them in a sandwich bag, then putting them all in a freezer bag. I have made a week’s worth or so and the kids have so far like them. (homemade uncrustables)
    I do one bag for my oldest with crusts on and another bag either crusts cut off or shapes and I put them in in the morning frozen and they are soft when they eat lunch.
    Another lunch idea success for us has been Once a Month Mom’s Pizza Balls
    http://onceamonthmom.com/easy-pepperoni-pizza-balls/
    I do the same with them put a portion in a sandwich bag and then all into a gallon freezer bag. So far these have been a success.
    Michelle

  9. Ana L. says:

    I’m not doing lunchboxes yet, but to help my stay-at-home dad husband, I’ve started putting together snack boxes for my toddler girl so they can just grab and go in the morning. I do it once a week and at the same time prep snacks/lunch for myself for the week.

    For my girl, I use a bunch of square and rectangular silicon baking cups that fit nicely into these clip top tupperware boxes I have. They help me picture the right portion size for tiny toddler stomachs, and it feels fun to do the bento box thing, plus she eats more when there’s more variety. It goes so fast just to put together the whole week at once, and then in the morning I just check the box, add anything it needs (if there’s something like cut fruit that wouldn’t stand up to a week in the fridge), and it’s ready to go.

    I try to mostly pick sturdy foods that will keep all week. This week veggies were grape tomatoes and the tops of broccoli florets, that had been frozen, and then thawed. Blueberries for fruit, plus she gets a whole apple and one of those fruit pouches too. For protein I alternate mini-meatballs with tortilla rollups. I make these with those really tasty Mission Artisan tortillas that have a lot of flavor and whole grains, spread with cream cheese, topped with fresh salad greens or shredded broccoli, and some preservative free turkey bacon or lunch meat. I roll them up and cut them in half, one half is enough for my girl. I made a half dozen then put most of them in the freezer for future weeks, because I know they’ll thaw just fine (greens will be a little wilted, but you’d never notice). Finish things off with mini banana muffin and mini savory cornbread muffins. Probably my biggest trick for lunches is that I cram extra vitamins and protein in everything I bake, so the banana muffins had ground up walnuts, pumpkin and spinach in them too, and the cornbread had mustard greens, kale, yogurt, and ground up white beans. I promise, they both tasted great.

    At the same time I did her lunches I put away extras of everything for breakfasts and snacks in a bigger tupperware we keep in the fridge, all portioned up and ready to grab. It makes sure we use everything up, and isn’t any extra time or effort. I also included a couple different items just for breakfast, little stacks of mini pancakes with cups of yogurt for dipping, and portioned out oatmeal with cubes of pumpkin that I froze first, so they’ll slowly thaw all week and be safe in the fridge. In the morning I just microwave the pancakes, put them on a plate with the yogurt and some blueberries, or for oatmeal, dump in a bowl the oatmeal, the pumpkin and use the cups to measure out some milk, again microwave for half a minute, and stir. Either way, healthy breakfast in under a minute.

    For myself, my favorite lunch dish is frozen bagel sandwiches. Same basic ingredients as the tortilla roll-ups (lunchmeat or bacon, cream cheese, and greens) just with fancy bagels for extra flavor and to be extra filling. When I make a big batch of bagel sandwiches for myself, I use the extras for the tortilla wraps for my daughter. I wrap the sandwiches tightly in wax paper envelopes, then put them in a freezer bag, and haven’t had any trouble with freezer burn. The bagels thaw pretty slowly, so I make sure to cut them in half (and half a sandwich might be plenty for a school-age kid), and if I’m having them for breakfast, or they’re thawing too slowly to be edibly by lunch, I either microwave them on defrost for three minutes, or put them in the fridge to thaw a night or two before. (Microwaving is the best, melts the cream cheese a little and makes the bagel soft.)

    Two other things I put in my lunches a lot are peanut butter carrot cups (a spoonful of peanut butter in a small container, then standing up baby carrots on end to fill the cup up–could be done with dip or dressing too, standing the veggies up keeps things from getting too soggy) and salad bowls (greens, feta cheese, and any leftover fresh veggies from the week before, all chopped up and mixed together in a tupperware; with the feta I don’t need dressing, but you can add that in a separate container). These I make up every week, of course, but they definitely keep several days as long as the produce is fresh when you make them up.

  10. Denise says:

    I have heard that it helps if you put thin layer of peanut butter on both slices of bread and then add jelly on top of peanut butter. Not sure if it helps, but worth a shot.

  11. Megan says:

    I always toast the bread before adding the PB&J. Works great and doesn’t get soggy! For something different try homemade lunchables with cut-up deli meat or pepperoni, cheese, and whatever crackers you’d like. So much better tasting than the meat in the real lunchables. Just make sure to store the crackers separately from the meat and cheese so they don’t get soggy.

  12. Laurie says:

    Thanks so much for all the great suggestions – I’m going to try making the sandwiches for the freezer (that makes sense because that’s what Smuckers does with Uncrustables, right?) :) I also love the ideas of toasting sandwiches and using tortillas … gotta add flour tortillas to my Sam’s Club list this week. Thanks so much to everyone for sharing! :)

  13. Shanda says:

    Put a thin layer of peanut butter on each piece of bread and then put the jelly on top of the peanut butter on one piece of bread. The peanut butter acts as a barrier to keep the jelly from making the bread soggy.

  14. Ashley says:

    My family has done several large wedding receptions, and when we make finger sandwiches the night before (these are chicken salad, pimento and cheese, cucumber and cream cheese, etc. not PB&J) we spread the bread with a VERY thin layer of butter or margarine. The oils sort of seal off the bread and prevent the moist ingredients from soaking in. Anyway, this should work with jelly as well :)

  15. Debra DeBord says:

    Good ideas Laurie! I don’t pack as many lunches as I used to when my sons were little, but you are doing some things that I used to do. Organizing things in one easy to reach place and prepacking your own snack bags. It saves so much time and you really don’t have to think about it on a busy morning. Those little silicone cups I think are at Walmart too. I believe they were in the baking section where you find the cup cake liners. The only thing I maybe could add to your ideas is a reusable juice box. I used to fill my sons drink/juice box the night before when I cleaned up the kitchen. I also used to make jello (while cleaning after dinner) and pour into reusable snack pack containers. Rubbermaid makes round small ones perfect for this. Anyway, if I didn’t have a great deal on jello or pudding, it didn’t really seem like an effort to make it while I was already in the kitchen. Great article!

  16. Ginger David says:

    I bake pizza calzones often for my kids, making it just the way they like them so I know they'll be eaten. It's nearly their favorite lunch. I am a stickler for packing a fresh lunch so that will always trump morning activity (I've never liked an old PB&J). I also pack the pre-packaged bread sticks (green box) and let the kids microwave spaghetti sauce for dipping. They love it. Sometimes I can make french toast for dipping too.

  17. Kristen Davenport Byrnes says:

    We plan meals (just 2 if us) for dinner that allow for leftovers so we have lunches but not the same thing every day for a week.

  18. Sharon Amante Lamson says:

    I put peanut butter on both sides of the bread, then the jelly in between. That way the bread does not get soggy with the jelly. Don't make days in advance but it works for that days lunch!

  19. Audra George says:

    Freeze the PB&J, like smuckers does. Should be thawed by lunch time

  20. Linda H. says:

    The best way to keep PBJs from getting soggy quickly is to spread a thin layer of butter on both slices of bread before spreading on the peanut butter & jelly or jam. The butter acts as a buffer to keep the jam from soaking into the bread & making it soggy. I’m guessing the PBJs will last quite a while this way. :-)

  21. with lunch meat sandwiches the bread won't get as soggy if you put the mayo/mustard between pieces of meat or the meat and some cheese or even lettuce. Just as long as the mayo isn't applied directly to the bread

  22. instead of a PB sandwich, try putting a couple tablespoons of PB in a small container and add a bag of carrot sticks for dipping. I did this when my son was younger and he wont eat cooked carrots. He is 19. Also to make ahead put a cheese slice in a tortilla and roll it up. Small tortillas fit in a snack bag.

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