25 Lunch Box Hacks to Simplify Your Mornings

With 6 kids in school this year, I have finally figured out that I’ve got to be organized when it comes to our morning routine and making school lunches!  I’m a proponent for teaching your children how to work… and one of the ways I teach them is by having them do for themselves as much as possible.  That includes making their own lunch!  My kids that are over 8 are proficient at making their own lunch… the younger ones still receive some assistance from me or an older sibling.  🙂   Here are some tips to help make cold lunch prep easier… (p.s. – here are even more lunch prep ideas!)

Packing school lunches is easier than ever with these tips and ideas!

One other reason why it’s important to get your  kids involved in the lunch choices and process is because no matter how cute or healthy the lunch is, they won’t eat it if they don’t even like it!

Here are my TOP TIPS and HACKS to packing lunches they will eat, love, and make themselves:

  • Make sandwiches in advance and freeze them. This works great with any sandwich! Take one out in the morning and pack it in the lunch – it is thawed and ready to eat by lunch time!
  • Prep as much as possible for the entire week of lunches on Saturday or Sunday (more on this below).

  • Use drinks as ice packs! Stash the Capri Suns and other packaged juices for lunches in the freezer. The drink will thaw by lunch, but keep the lunch box cold in the meantime. This takes up less space than adding an ice pack and keeps the lunch box lighter too. Frozen grapes or other frozen foods would also be great options for this purpose! (If you are like me and are too cheap for Capri Suns, these slim ice packs are pretty awesome!)
  • Create a cold lunch station or snack station with pre-portioned foods in separate bins that are labeled and all ready for kids to select and pack up.
  • If you love the idea of leaving cute notes or jokes in the lunch boxes, find some free printables that you like, print and cut them all out at the beginning of the month. Then just grab your note of choice and place it in the lunch box each morning. I like to invite my kids to write kind notes to each other.  🙂

Click the image to see this cool lunch time sanity saver!

I’m LOVING the Thermos Food Jar!!

  • Pack chicken nuggets in a thermos food jar. Cook the nuggets in the oven, then place a paper towel in the bottom of a small, good-quality thermos. Get the nuggets in there while they are still hot. Packing the nuggets in the thermos will keep them nice and warm until lunch. (Most food jars should be warmed with boiling water before use for best results, so be sure to read the instructions that come with it.)
  • Pack a hot dog in a thermos. Fill the thermos with hot water, then add two halves of a hot dog and seal it up until lunch. Send two halves of a hot dog bun in a sandwich bag as well, so they can assemble their own hot dog for lunch.
  • You can also keep soup, pasta, or dinner leftovers warm when packed in a good thermos!
  • If you have a small water bottle that is difficult to put ice cubes into: Fill 1/4 of the water bottle with water, then lay the bottle on its side and freeze it. Then you already have ice in the bottle and ready to keep the drink cold. (Or you can purchase ice stick trays that produce smaller or narrower ice cubes!)

  • Use cookie cutters to make sandwiches in fun shapes. It only takes a few seconds and it may even improve the chances of your child actually eating all of the sandwich. Small cookie cutters will also work well for fruits and cheeses! Perfect for the holidays, special occasions, or just to brighten the day. (You can also buy sandwich cutters made especially for sandwiches.)
  • Make your own fruit leather – a yummy, healthy snack for lunches! Find some great homemade versions of the favorites snacks and treats. BUT don’t stress if not everything is homemade. I like to have a combination of store-bought and fresh or homemade items. (Find more recipes here
  • Make a list of your lunch menu ideas and just rotate through it! Keep it on the fridge or pantry for inspiration. Planning ahead will save money and you can be sure that you will have all of the ingredients and items needed. Check out our helpful lunch ideas printable!  THIS HAS TOTALLY SAVED ME!!!

  • A lunch box with divided compartments reduces the amount of packaging used and helps you to remember to pack all of the key lunch components. Also great for making your own, healthier (and cheaper) lunchables!
  • Lunch box smoothies are delicious and easy to store in the freezer until you are ready to pack them in your lunch.

  • Pack lunches in advance and store them in the refrigerator. Have veggies and fruit prepped, sandwiches made, cheese sliced, etc and all placed in the lunch container. If there’s something the shouldn’t be refrigerated, like crackers, just have it portioned out, stored in a designated spot, and ready to go. Then you just grab the lunch when you need it and go! The bento style lunch containers are perfect for this. Do this once a week and be sure to have the kids help you assemble!
  • Use baking cup liners as dividers if you don’t have a bento box or enough compartments to keep everything separate. The silicone cupcake liners are awesome for this!
  • Pack small, disposable wooden utensils when needed. They take up less space then other utensil options, are less likely to break than plastic, and they can still be tossed. No worries about them throwing away your nice silverware.
  • Buy reusable or disposable pouches and bulk amounts of applesauce or yogurt to fill them with. This will usually still cost less than buying the pre-filled food pouches from the store.
  • Make a little extra for breakfast and/or dinner, then pack the leftovers for lunch! Think beyond the sandwich!

  • Tortillas can be useful in lunches when sandwiches get boring. Use a cookie cutter to cut them into mini size or fun shapes, make a mini pizza or taco, or wrap the tortilla up with cheese and lunch meat for a pinwheel.
  • If mornings are hectic and you don’t use the other pre-packing ideas in this post, at least pack the lunches the night before. Especially if you plan to pack up leftovers from dinner anyway – you can pack as you are cleaning up dinner!
  • On a birthday or special holiday, wrap each part of the lunch in gift wrap for an extra fun lunch time!
  • Use Glad Press ‘n Seal to seal and label separate lunch compartments. Or you can write a note on it with a Sharpie! The labeling comes in handy if you also need to have a separate snack packed in the lunch box or if you want to guide them eat the food in a certain order.
  • Use skewers or beverage stir sticks to make lunch kebabs with cut up sandwich, or meat and cheese, or fruits.

  • Slice sandwiches on the diagonal– they won’t get squished as easily! Also, spreading a thin layer of mustard or mayo on each slice of bread will help keep it from getting soggy from lettuce or tomato. OR put the veggies for the sandwich in a separate snack sized baggie so they can assemble it at lunch time.
  • Buy juice in bulk and pack it in a reusable, leak-proof water bottle. This will end up costing less than buying the prepackaged, convenient juice boxes. Or save even more money and just send water!! Water is good for them!
  • To keep crackers or chips from getting crushed, add some extra air to the bag before you seal it up and pack it. The air will take up more space, but it will help cushion the food and protect it from getting squished.

P.S. Have you seen the one going around about slicing an apple, then putting it back together with a rubber band or plastic wrap to prevent browning? I tried it recently and it didn’t work for me! The apple slices were just as brown as they would’ve been otherwise.

You will also want to check out this post of my favorite lunch recipes and even more lunch preparation ideas!

Also, check out these 75+ Healthy Snack Ideas

Healthy snack ideas for kids!


  • Lucinda Nutting

    I’m always looking for ideas to bring food to work for myself and my fiance. Thanks for these tips! I especially love the thermos ideas with nuggets and hot dogs.

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