Want to start packing lunches for your kids, your spouse, or yourself to take to school or work each day? Here are three strategies to help you simplify and streamline the process:
1. Have a Plan
I know that this sounds so simple, but your success in actually following through with your good ideas and ambitions all hinges on actually having a plan. Just as you need to plan a menu for the week and buy the groceries to make those meals if you want to, you know, eat at home, you also need to have a plan for lunches you want to pack if you actually want them to be able to get packed!
Think ahead of time how many lunches you’ll be packing that week, what you’ll be packing, and what groceries you need to purchase. I recommend keeping it as simple as possible.
Don’t feel pressured by Pinterest pictures to think you need to come up with fancy new meal ideas every single day. Really, you don’t. Trust me on this.
Instead, rotate a few different sandwich options and side options throughout the week. It really won’t hurt anyone to eat the same thing a few times each week!
Write this list of lunch ideas down, write down the ingredients you need to buy, and then you can use this plan over and over again. I recommend typing it up and laminating it or keeping it in an app on your phone so that you never have do the planning work again.
If the thought of making the same thing over and over and over again just won’t work for you or your family, try a 4-week or 6-week rotating lunch menu. This is more work to plan and follow through with, but once you’ve made the plan and created a grocery list based upon the plan, again, your planning work is done.
Need some motivation to put forth the effort to plan and make lunches? How about considering how much money you’ll save by doing so.
Over the past 12 and a half years of our marriage, I’ve packed countless lunches, not only for when Jesse was in law school and then working outside the home, but also for myself and/or the kids when we are out and about for the day or on a field trip.
One time a few years ago, I sat down and did the math. And it astounded me!
I figured out that most of the lunches I’ve packed cost anywhere between $0.75 to $1.50 each (remember, that’s mostly because I’ve shop the sales, used coupons, and stocked up on items when they are at their lowest prices!). A lunch at a fast food restaurant is likely going to cost at least $4-$5 at a minimum.
Based upon these calculations, it is very safe to say that packing a lunch has saved us at least $3 each and every time. Over the course of the year, that could add up to as much as $750 saved — just for packing a lunch for one person!
And that could be a low figure. You see, if someone is eating out at nicer restaurants most days and spending $7-$12 per lunch, the savings would be significantly higher! In addition to the savings, there’s also the added benefit of homemade lunches also often being much more healthful for you as well–especially when compared with fast food meals.
2. Prep Ahead
Part of the drawback to packing a lunch is the part where you have to pack it. If only lunches just magically packed themselves, eh?
One of the best ways to make things simpler is to prep things in bulk. When you get back from the grocery store, wash and chop all the carrots and celery and store them in a little water in an airtight container in the fridge. Slice the cheese. Cut up the melon. Wash off the berries. Hard boil the eggs. Bake the chicken.
Have everything as ready to stick into a lunchbox as you possibly can. This will make packing a lunch a breeze and will give you little excuse not to actually make it happen.
I’ve also found that doing sack lunch prep the night before makes it so much easier. For some reason, I’m much more motivated and creative at nighttime than I am most mornings. Take a few minutes after dinner to figure out what you’ll be packing the next morning and even get as much as possible ready. You’ll never regret this in the morning!
A few of our favorite Make Ahead Lunch Ideas:
- Hard-Boiled Eggs
- Sliced Cheese & Crackers
- Homemade Soup — especially great for the colder months!
- Homemade Instant Oatmeal Packets (these are great if you have access to a microwave at work
3. Use Your Freezer
One thing that helped me in packing lunches was to divvy up serving-size portions of muffins and cookies in baggies and stick them in the freezer. Then, when I’m packing lunches, I can just pull a few of these baggies out to add to the lunch and round things out.
Baggies of muffins and cookies are also great to have on hand for when we’ll be out and about running errands. Being prepared with our own food means we divert the urge to make a quick stop through the drive thru!
A few of our favorite Freezer-Friendly Lunch Ideas:
- Freezer-Friendly Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches
- Freezer-Friendly Banana Bread
- Easy Morning Glory Muffins
- Homemade Energy Bites
- Brown Bag Burritos
- Homemade Pizza Pockets
- Southwest Roll-ups
- Best Ever Chocolate Oatmeal Bars
Looking for more make-ahead sack lunch ideas? Check out my Lunchbox Freezer Cooking series. And speaking of prepping ahead of time, you might also want to check out my post on 8 Make Ahead Breakfast Ideas.
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Note: MightyNest sent us some products to try out. Here are the products featured in the pictures in this post: Blue Lunchbox, Green Ice Pack, Neon Green Container, Divided Container, Black Lunchbots Rounds, Silver Insulated Bottle, and Green Din-din Spoon and Fork Set.