Healthy Kids YMCA Child Care

Brilliant hacks that make packing school lunches a breeze

A group of school age children sitting around a table eating lunch

Next week marks the beginning of a fresh start for kids across the city as they embark on a new school year, but for many parents, it’s the return of a task they dread: preparing school lunches. Crafting a nutritious and delicious lunch — that won’t come home half-eaten — can be a difficult and time-consuming feat. And packing said lunch becomes even trickier when you’re dealing with the chaos that comes with getting the kids up and out the door on time.

To make your life a little easier, we’ve rounded up 4 sanity-saving hacks that make packing school lunches a cinch:

1. Get a head start

Leaving all your meal-prep duties for the morning is a recipe for disaster. Instead, begin organizing meals and snacks the night before, while making dinner. As you chop veggies for supper, set aside a few extras to make a healthy finger-food lunch like vegetable skewers, or plan your meals with lunch-friendly leftovers in mind. The secret to winning the school lunch game isn’t creating culinary masterpieces on a daily basis; it’s about being practical and efficient with how you make wholesome eats.

2. Think outside of the lunchbox

Has the new zero-waste policy at your child’s school got you in a tizzy? Stress not, because the bento box will be your lifesaver this year. With its multiple compartments, this upgrade to the traditional lunchbox eliminates the need for plastic sandwich bags or storage containers. A bento box is also a great solution for parents with kids that don’t like the different foods on their plate to touch.

3. Create your own ice packs

Keeping cold foods cold is extremely important, because it helps prevent the growth of bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Health Canada recommends using an ice pack in your child’s lunchbox to ensure that perishable foods (such as milk products, egg salads, and cold cuts) stay at an adequately safe level of coldness. Don’t have an ice pack? You can toss a frozen juice box into their lunchbox to keep things chilled. Or, better yet, create a couple DIY ice packs from clean, unused kitchen sponges.

4. Make fruit appealing

Apple slices are a time-honoured school lunch tradition, but kids often complain about one thing: by the time lunch rolls around, the slices have gone brown. Fortunately, there’s an easy hack for such a problem that will no doubt come in handy during this year’s lunchbox-prep routine. To prevent a crisp, juicy apple from browning, simply slice it into equal parts and use a rubber band to secure the pieces in place around the fruit’s core. Now your kid can reach into their bag and pull out an apple that not only tastes good, but looks good, too. (Pro tip: for days when you’re short on time, just pack the whole, unsliced apple.)