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Lunch Planning & Prep 101

Last week I shared the basics about Meal planning and prep. This week I’m starting my series on how I do lunch planning and prep. Over the next month or so I will be sharing all the details on how I make lunch prep and packing really simple in my house including favorite products, pantry and fridge organization, grocery shopping tips, lunch packing tips, and more. My 3 younger kids attend a charter school without a cafeteria and the hot lunch program is way too expensive for me to pay for on a regular basis. I’m not willing to pay $5-7 a day per child for 3 kids to eat hot lunch. When we first switched from public school to our current charter school 3 years ago it was a huge shock to our schedule to have to add lunch packing in each evening. Now it’s just part of our routine. 

Some notes about the way I lunch prep:

  • My kids take their lunch 5 days a week. 
  • My kids are in charge of packing their own lunches every afternoon.
  • We have a fridge dedicated solely to lunch prep and packing in our garage. 
  • In my pantry I have all single serving lunch items separated in bins and all bulk items are in labeled containers.
  • On the back of the pantry door I have an organizer that holds various sized ziplock bags, plastic utensils, and small plastic mini cups with lids for sauces or dressings. 
  • The lunch boxes have a specific spot on a shelf in the pantry so they are not cluttering up my kitchen counters every evening. 
  • I fully stocked the pantry and lunch fridge before school started with a budget of $150. I refill as needed each week with a budget of $25-35. We are a month into school and I’ve only had to refill a handful of things so far. 
  • We use thermoses at least 2 days a week to take hot lunch. These are our favorite ones
  • I stock up on single serving snack items such as Goldfish, Cookie packs, or Belvita breakfast bites when they go on sale at Costco or Sam’s.
  • The majority of our snack items in the pantry are generic and come from ALDI or Walmart. The kids don’t care. The only time I buy brand name is when it’s on a really good sale or there is no generic available. 
  • I have strict limits on what types of items the kids can pack in their lunches and I always double check items in the morning. They must have at least one fruit and vegetable, they cannot have more than one treat item, and fruit snacks do not fulfill the fruit requirement. Nor do veggie sticks or Harvest snap peas crisps fulfill the vegetable requirement. 
  • I assemble lunch boxes in the mornings while the kids get dressed. All the items are already picked out so I do their main item and pack their lunch box for them. 
  • Single serving lunch items are off limits for snacking while at home. They are lunch items only. The penalty for violating this rule is swift and brutal- a week with only a sandwich, fresh fruit and vegetables in their lunch. Only one kid has tested my follow through and he will not do it again. 

I’ll be sharing more about my lunch prep and packing soon including giving you a glimpse into my fridges and pantry and sharing the apps and products that make the process so much easier! You can find all the posts in my Meal Planning & Prep and Lunch Planning & Prep series HERE

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