Stress-Free Lunchbox Packing

What's the best method for making nutritious and fun school lunches every day? The first week of school, I'm enthusiastic about the fresh start to the school year and manage to pack healthy lunches. All too quickly, I start to feel frazzled and slip into the same old less-than-healthy sandwich routine. I need ideas on how to get more organized to avoid the morning lunch-prep scramble. - Karen, Ringwood, N.J.

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Sarah Welch and Alicia Rockmore
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Sarah Welch and Alicia Rockmore

Sarah Welch and Alicia Rockmore (once stressed-out professional moms) are real women on a mission to help busy people get organized.After... Read more

It's so true that packing lunches is actually fun when you're swept up in the excitement of the new school year! But then you find yourself five weeks in with 35 more to go, and what was once fun is now officially a chore. In general, we're big fans of shortcuts at Buttoned Up, but healthy lunches are too important to rush. Luckily, there are a few simple ways to get your students off to school with a delicious and nutritious lunch—even when you’ve got a thousand other things on your to-do list.

Think Like a Chef
A chef wouldn't dream of doing everything by herself in the kitchen. She enlists the help of sous-chefs to take care of food prep and assembly, and provides them with her expert direction. As long as your kid is in first grade, he is old enough to help. Your job is to give him the menu for the day (or the week), assign key jobs and then step back and play the role of director, not doer. If your child is too young, ask your spouse or partner to pitch in or alternate days with you.

Designate a Time
Weekday mornings may or may not be the best time to wrangle lunches. Determine a time that works best for your crew and schedule it in as nonnegotiable. Consider it a gift; your kids will fondly reminisce about the time they spent packing lunch when they're in their 30s (trust us).

Prep Healthy Snacks in Advance
On Sunday night, grab a few carrots, a cucumber and an apple. Chop them up into snack-sized pieces and put them into Ziploc bags so anyone can grab a healthy nibble during the week. I've been doing this for a year now and can attest that it takes five minutes—seven, max.

Add a Little Love
We hear from teachers everywhere how much little lunchbox love notes mean to their charges. Keep things interesting for your kids (and you) by randomly slipping a little note into their brown bag once in a while. It doesn't need to be any more elaborate than a big "ILY" with a heart. They take two seconds to write and remind you of why you're spending time on their lunches in the first place.

Sarah Welch and Alicia Rockmore are real women on a mission to help busy people get sanely organized. They co-founded Buttoned Up Inc. and have written two books about getting imperfectly organized: Everything (Almost) In Its Place and Pretty Neat.

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