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The No-Fail Guide to Packing Kids’ Lunches

Here's how to easily and efficiently pack a meal that stays safe, un-squished, and delicious all the way through lunchtime.

1. Get your go-to gear ready

Tired of going
through countless brown paper lunch bags and plastic sandwich bags? Stock up on
some (kid-approved, of course) lunchboxes that will take your family straight
through the school year. Soft-sided, insulated lunchboxes are the norm these
days. And food can go into lidded plastic storage containers. Look for ones divided into several individual compartments, or for bento boxes with removable, interlocking pieces.

2. Or get smart about brown bagging

For older kids who are averse to carrying lunchboxes,
double-bag their regular brown paper lunch bags for added insulation and
strength. The perfect ice pack for this scenario? Just wet a few paper towels,
fold them and place inside a resealable sandwich bag. Freeze overnight and
place in the lunch bag in the morning.

Source: SheKnows Chef Mom

3. Time it right

It’s nearly
unanimous: Parents say packing lunches at night is key to getting everyone out
the door on time on busy mornings. 

Tip: Make lunches while you’re already making dinner, or right
after dinner but before you do the dishes; the kitchen counter is already
messy, some of the items you’ll use might already be out, and all the cutting
boards and utensils can go straight into the dishwasher with the dinner

4. Prep once, eat often

Have a PB and J
lover (or two) on your hands? Make a whole loaf or two of sandwiches and
refrigerate or freeze them individually. To keep them from getting soggy,
spread peanut butter all the way to the edges and limit jelly to the center
area. When it’s time to pack lunches, just grab a sandwich and add a piece of
fruit, some pretzels and a yogurt – done! 

Tip: Wrap sandwiches in moist
paper towels before refrigerating them to prevent the bread from drying out. 

5. Pay attention to temperature

When it comes to
food safety, the cooler (or hotter) a food starts out, the better. For example, store sandwiches in the refrigerator until right before it’s time to leave for
school, and heat up soup as much as possible before pouring it into the thermos
and sending your kid out the door. 

6. Freeze the drinks

Store juice boxes in
the freezer. They’ll keep a lunch bag cool, and they’ll thaw and be ready to
drink by lunchtime. This trick will work with water bottles as
well, or juice poured into an empty plastic bottle; just make sure the bottles
aren’t filled completely, so there’s room for expansion when the liquid

7. Use innovative coolers

To keep lunches cool you can add
a traditional ice pack, or simply freeze items like puddings, yogurts, or smoothies the night before and add them to lunchboxes in the morning. These turn into cold, ice cream-like treats
your child can tuck into when lunchtime rolls around. Tip: Wrap these frozen
containers (as well as any frozen drinks) with a paper towel to keep the
condensation off of other food items. Your little one can then use the moist
paper towel to wipe their sticky fingers after lunch. Source: Family Fresh Cooking

8. Keep hot foods hot

all kids like sandwiches. If you have a soup or pasta fan on your hands, invest
in a short, wide-mouthed insulated thermos. These come in kid-friendly designs
and will safely store hot foods (like beans and rice, or mac and cheese) for up
to six hours. Tip: Keep your thermos hotter by filling it with hot
water and emptying it just before adding the (steaming hot) food. Source: Good Housekeeping

9. Protect fragile fruit

Some whole fruits are more
durable (apples, bananas) but others are prone to piercing, bruising, or even
smashing when jostled – not the most appetizing outcome for picky kids. To pack
delicate, juicy fruits like pears, peaches, or nectarines, wrap a paper towel around the fruit before bundling it into your child’s lunch bag. Bonus:
The paper towel doubles as a napkin. Source: eHow

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

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