Hacks For The School Year – Lunch Bag Tips, Tricks And Ideas
Hacks For The School Year – Lunch Bag Tips, Tricks And Ideas
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Did you know that the Urban Dictionary defines life hacks as: any trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method that increases productivity and efficiency?
And did you also know that when you google ‘life hack’ and ‘lunch box’ you are mostly directed to sites that show you beautiful, time-consuming ideas that will make your child’s lunch look like Mary Poppins must live in your house? Yes. Practically perfect in every way. And if you’re anything like me, that may make you feel like an inadequate mom, in the event you don’t follow through.
If you’ve been searching for real lunch box tips and tricks that actually save time or make life a little easier to deal with, then you’ve come to the right place. This won’t be the place to get lunch ideas, but if that’s what you’re looking for, I’ve got that covered, too. Before you leave you’ll see a pop-up. Jot down your email and I’ll send you a printable full of over 50 lunch box ideas. I post mine inside the pantry door for easy access.
Although I can offer you 50+ lunch box ideas, I don’t claim to have 50+ lunch box hacks or anything ridiculous like that. No, I claim to have 7. That’s it. I also claim to not make you feel like you’re failing at being parent-of-the-year by not executing hacks other people are claiming as hacks. No. Those others are not hacks, by definition. Do not be misled, people. If a hack, indeed, is to make your life easier, or a more efficient use of your time, then no. Some of these claims are just plain crazy.
Just let me give you an example. I read this one hack, loaded with beautiful pictures, that said to use a cookie cutter to cut out each of two pieces of dry bread. It was either a star or a heart shape, I think. Then you were expected to slice cheese and cut it into the same shape, but in a variety of smaller sizes. You were expected to do the same thing with sliced ham (or meat of your choice). You were also expected to include some sort of sandwich spread in a separate container, and place it all in a neat, compartmentalized container for your child to build their own lovely lunch.
Don’t get me wrong, I totally support getting creative and allowing your child to be a part of putting their own lunch together. But where I find myself having an issue is this: Imagine trying to pull that one off when you spring out of bed a half hour late because you hit snooze too many times, your toddler doesn’t want to get dressed, and your oldest is throwing a fit because you forgot to wash their ‘favourite’ sweater that has been worn every day for the past week. Ummmm-hmmmm. Thank goodness you have that sandwich hack that saves your sanity, right?
With all that said, please understand that my first ‘trick’ might have some people rolling their eyes. Brace yourself, because I am also going to ask you to grab the cookie cutter. I won’t be asking you to cut pieces of meat and cheese, though. Now, I admit, Trick 1 may take a few extra seconds, but where it will save you time (and breath) is when your child comes home with an empty lunch box. It happens when they have eaten every last bite of the sandwich you so lovingly created for them, and when you don’t have to yell and scream (of course you wouldn’t do that, but some parents might) about how many other children out there in the world go hungry every day and would beg to have just a bite of that sandwich (insert child’s name here) so brazenly passed up because they didn’t feel like eating it. This is why I consider it a hack. Yes, I’m claiming it to be a time-saver. Or at the very least, a sanity saver.
Oh, and to all you parents who stumbled upon those sites that give you a million creative ways to spruce up lunches… just let me say, I’ve been there and done that. It lasted about a week in my house. If you’re in the same boat, and you’re just looking for some fun/neat ideas that are real tips and hacks, look no further. And by the way… you’re awesome. Whatever you’re doing, is great. So long as your kids are fed, life doesn’t always have to be fancy. But if you have the time to fancy it up, that’s awesome too. Just be you!
Are you ready for the hacks? I don’t claim any of these are mind-blowing, but they’re life hacks for me. As in, they save me time, or I’m glad I discovered them because they make my life easier.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see the disclosure policy for details.
Let me just start by saying this is probably only going to be best used for younger children. Although, if you find yourself wanting to motivate your older children to pack their own lunch, this trick just might work, too.
Use a large cookie cutter to shape your sandwiches. I know some of you out there may not be impressed with cutting off the crusts of the sandwich, or the waste it creates, but there’s something kids love about ‘little’ and ‘fun’. Shaped sandwiches are both. Just try it. You’ll see less waste in the end.
I use the biggest cutter possible, in order to maximize the largest portion of sandwich I can. For me, it’s usually a flower, and it’s a rare occasion I see it return home at the end of the day.
Do you make homemade muffins, cookies, or loafs? Make them all in smaller versions. You can buy tiny muffin tins and liners at any local department store. The same goes with loaf pans. Of course, if you’re making cookies, just use tiny spoon-drops. I find that my kids could eat three bite-sized muffins, but never be inspired to eat a full-sized one of the same flavour. Again, something about being tiny makes it fun. Try it.
This trick takes a few extra minutes in the morning, but keeps your Thermos warmer, longer throughout the day. First you need to boil water and place it in your Thermos. Leave it for 10 minutes (if you can) with the cover on. When you’re almost ready to empty the water out, heat your item so it is nice and hot. Once you’ve emptied your water and your food is ready, place your heated food inside. This will optimize the length of time your food stays hot. For best results, invest in a stainless steel Thermos.
Place a small freezer pack at the bottom of your lunch bag. Place a cloth over top to keep the condensation off your food and insulate the freezer pack so it will stay cooler, longer.
The big ice-pack-hack going around right now is to take a sponge and wet it, place it in a plastic baggie, and freeze it. We haven’t used that one yet, so I can’t claim it works well, but if you want to give it a try, please be sure to let me know. I like to know my freezer packs stay cold all day, so I still opt for the hard shell ice packs, but sponges may be a money saver if you have them on hand.
Slice your apple, and put it back together, against the core again. Wrap it in plastic wrap and throw it in the lunchbox. This will keep the air from turning it brown and when your child unwraps it, it will be sliced and ready to snack on.
Don’t have plastic wrap? No problem. Grab an elastic or rubber band.
My daughter loves to eat cucumber and salt. It’s not exactly ideal to put a salt shaker in her lunch, though. And it’s a bit of a waste to dump salt into a container. So instead, I keep small salt and pepper packs I get from take-out or restaurants. Need salt? I just pop one of those in the bag and away she goes. Start saving yours so you can put them in your kid’s lunch box, too.
I had never done this until recently, but what I like about it is that I can put a few different items in the same larger container, and they don’t touch. It saves me from having to use the plastic baggies I would have otherwise opted for. For example, when I put cheese and crackers in a lunch, I used to put the cheese in a bag and put that bag, along with the crackers, inside a plastic container. Otherwise, the cheese would make the cracker a bit soggy if they touched. I don’t have this problem now, and I save plastic baggies by using silicone liners. A win for me and a win for the environment. How can I complain? If you’re looking for silicone muffin liners, Amazon has these ones for a reasonable price and I love that they come in the traditional shape as well as rectangular shape.
Do you have any hacks, tips or tricks to add to the list? If so, place them in the comments below. The bigger the list the easier all our lives can be.
Does the thought of packing lunches still stress you out? Why not join the 15-Day Happy Challenge? Take some time for you.
Remember: Life is what you make it. Take lots of pictures.
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