Here are 5 School Lunch Box Packing Tips that will make packing school lunches easy, stress-free and even fun! Also, included is my School Lunch Meal Planner (FREE Printable) that will help you get organized and make packing school lunches a breeze!

Graphic for post - 5 School Lunch Packing Tips - Free Printables! Images is of a lunch planner and also of a finished packed school lunch.

I get it!

Packing school lunches can be overwhelming!

When my girls first started preschool, I was so overwhelmed with the concept of packing lunches that I did what any recovering type A personality would do – I read a million blog posts, cookbooks and books about what and how to pack the best school lunches, all at 2am while I couldn’t sleep. I did say I am a recovering type A personality – obviously I still have room to grow:)

And then I put them all away!

I was just too much for me! Too much conflicting information, too much of a stress and they made it seem like a chore to pack lunches, not a fun and holistic approach.

So I got to work!

It was defiantly a learning curve, but I got into a rhythm and turns out I now love packing my girls lunches (most of the time;)!

I even ended up writing a book all about bento lunches that included over 75 of my all-time favorite lunch recipes!

Here are 5 of my easy, stress-free tips for packing school lunches!

And if you want a pdf of these tips to print and post on your fridge, then here it is –

If you want even more school lunch box inspiration, you can get my Little Bento book here!

School Lunch Box Planner surrounded by bento box accessories.

#1 Find Your Ideal Packing Time

Mornings, at my house, are chaos. My kids are half dressed, doing an art project, our new puppy is chewing on a library book, my hair is going to be pulled into another top knot because there simply isn’t enough time to wash it. So the thought of packing healthy school lunches in the morning is completely overwhelming to me.

I have found that the best time for me to pack lunches is at night.

I put the girl’s bento boxes on the counter next to my cutting board and as I prep for dinner I will pack their lunches at the same time.

This method works great for me.

But if you are a morning person, then maybe packing lunches in the morning while sipping on your matcha tea is the right time for you. Experiment and try different times to see which time of day works best for you and your family. 

#2 Plan It Out

Having a meal plan for school lunches is an easy way to make sure you have everything you need during the week to make healthy lunches on the fly.

I start by planning out our dinners for the week and then seeing if I can use any of those leftovers for the lunches (see tip #5). You can use this handy-dandy lunch meal planner if you would like:)

Then I fill in the blank days with lunches I know my girls already love, something they have asked for or if I am feeling creative a new lunch altogether.

A fun way to get your older kids involved is to have them help you plan out their lunches each week. The younger kiddos can help by simply putting a sticker by any lunch they really loved after they get home from school each day. That way you can add that “starred” lunch into their weekly rotation.

I have found that having 4-7 go-to school lunches makes the lunch packing process more manageable.

When your school lunch plan is filled out, then add any food items that you don’t have onto your shopping list for the week. 

School Lunch Box Planner with categories on the left with main course, veggie, fruit and something fun. Along the top there are the days of the school week - Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

#3 Get the Kids Involved 

Most kids tend to have an opinion about everything – that they have to wear head-to-toe purple, that there needs to be 4 blankets on them while they sleep or none at all, that they need to bring at least 8 toys with them everywhere they go.

So it’s no surprise then that they like to have a say on what they have in their school lunches. While sometimes this seems to be just one more thing to add to your list, it really is a great way to get them involved on making their own healthy food choices at a young age.

For older kids, you can let them pack their own lunches (with a little guidance form you).

For younger kids, you can give them choices for some of the compartments in their bento boxes. I will usually just ask my girls questions like ‘do you want carrots or cucumber in your lunch’ or “do you want apple slices or an orange in your lunch”.

They usually get excited to be part of the process and to know they are getting exactly what they want. 

If you you don’t know where to start, then here is my School Lunch Cheat Sheet with over 100 lunch foods for inspiration.

#4 Use those Leftovers

Leftovers are key for me not losing my sanity during a busy week.

There are two types of leftovers – one type you can reuse as is and the other type are leftovers are those that can be repurposed into other meals.

For example – leftovers that can be reused are meals such as a big batch of soup, grain salad, enchiladas, etc.

Leftovers that can be repurposed into other meals are items like grilled chicken that can be turned into a chicken salad, made into a quesadilla or used as toppings on a pizza.

Both types of leftovers are great to have on hand to use in lunches. 

#5 Food Prep

Having a stockpile of your go-to foods on-hand will save you a ton of time during a busy week.

The idea is to pick a couple of hours during the weekend in which you peel, dice, chop, bake and prep your go-to school lunch items – carrot sticks, apple slices, melon chunks, mini muffins, etc. That way, when you are packing your kids school lunch half (or all) of the food is already ready to go and can easily be tossed in to their bento boxes. 

Here are 40 of my favorite weekly food prep items for kids.


Graphic for best-selling cookbook - Little Bento. Picture of book cover and text.