Packed lunches are great. They offer both better value and more control over what your little one eats, offering a healthy alternative to the often low-quality, unhealthy options available at the canteen.
For many parents, getting up early to pack a lunch can be daunting at first. You’re already super busy, and packing a lunch can seem like a lengthy, time-consuming chore – but it doesn’t have to be.
In this post, we’ll look at our picks for the nine must-have essentials to make packing your child’s lunch a breeze.
So, whether you’re new to this, never having packed a lunch before in your life, or a seasoned lunch packing pro looking to pick up a few tips and tricks – keep reading.
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9 must-have lunch-packing essentials
While packed lunches are excellent, being hands-down the best way to go if you want to ensure that your little one gets a healthy, nutritious lunch, they can take a bit of prep. This is our post’s point – providing a list of essential items to start packing your child’s lunch while making it as quick and painless as possible.
For the benefit of this post, we’ve excluded things like sauce containers and a thermos. This is because lunchtime can be messy enough with young children without adding more liquids than absolutely necessary into the mix.
So, let’s jump right into it – here are out nine must-have items to make packing a lunch for your little one a breeze.
1. First thing first – you’re going to need a bag or box to pack everything in
It should go without saying – you can’t start packing a lunch without a box or bag to put it in – which makes this item an obvious, must-have essential.
When picking one out, you’ll want to consider a few things. First up – what are your little one’s interests? There are lunch boxes in all sorts of styles and themes; whether they’re into unicorns, sharks – or dinosaurs – there is a perfect option out there.
And it’s not just the dinosaur lunch box – you also need to consider the size of the dino backpack they’ll carry it in, as its storage capacity will impact the size of the box you can pick up. Another option is to coordinate the whole thing, choose one of the several matching sets.
2. Consider a bento-style box, as an alternative to a traditional lunch box
An alternative to the traditional lunch box is a bento-style box. If you’re unfamiliar, this option contains separate compartments, making it great as an option to organizer your little one’s lunch without all the usual tin foil and plastic wrap that you’d otherwise need.
If you’re looking to give your child as balanced a lunch as possible – with a meal that meets all their daily recommended food groups – then a bento box could be a much better choice, as it will allow you to mix and match all sorts of food items with ease.
Considerations for this lunch box style are the same as the more traditional style – specifically, the backpack size it will be carried in, as this will determine how large a bento box you can go for. And just like lunch boxes, these alternatives are available in all sorts of themes and styles, perfect for reflecting your child’s interests.
3. Pick up an ice or cold pack to keep lunches chilled and fresh during the warmer months
Keeping your little one’s lunches fresh is just as important as packing them with healthy fruits and vegetables, which is where an ice or cold pack can come in handy.
They’re especially good during the warmer months, where a yogurt or other chilled item might not make it to lunchtime without turning disgustingly warm. It’s also likely that your child’s preschool or daycare doesn’t provide access to refrigeration, making them a useful alternative.
You can pick up ice packs in pretty much any size, style, or theme you can think of – and better yet, there are plenty of lunch boxes and bags in the market that include them – so be sure to look out for any bundled with ice packs when picking one out.
4. Get a few smaller, lidded containers for packing fruit, nuts, and other side dishes and treats
It’s worth picking up a few smaller containers with lids, giving you the perfect solution to packing fruit, nuts, and other smaller treats and side dishes.
These containers are perfect if your little one prefers pasta or other similar foods, rather than sandwiches, as they will help you better separate and seal these types of food, keeping everything as well-organized and hygienic as possible.
If you’re short on space, you could always opt for reusable, sealable snack bags – which offer all the same benefits of containers, with the added benefit of a smaller pack size.
5. Pick out a unique, super cool refillable kids water bottle
A refillable water bottle is a must-have for any packed lunch, offering a reusable way to pack all the water your little one will need to make it through the day.
Water bottles can also help keep any liquid cool, not just water, which is great during the warmer, summer months – as who wants to gulp down a warm mouthful of water or juice.
There are tons of great water bottles to choose from – including dinosaur water bottles – which means there will be the perfect bottle out there, whatever your child’s interests.
6. Silicone muffin cups aren’t just great for baking; they’re also useful for organizing lunch
If you’re short on space, don’t want to invest in additional containers, and just so happen to be a baker – why not put those silicone dinosaur molds and muffin cups to better use by utilizing them as a way to store snacks individually.
This is also a great option if you’ve got a traditional lunchbox that doesn’t offer separate compartments for storing different types of food. As when they’re laid flat, these multi-purpose containers provide a great storage solution for organizing your little one’s lunch.
While they won’t work for everything, they’re ideal for things like nuts, chips, and pretzels – but obviously, liquids and anything likely to leak is a no-no.
7. Choose a set of fun, kid-friendly reusable utensils
It’s essential to limit waste as much as possible, both for the environment and your wallet, so pick up a set of reusable utensils sized perfectly to find in your little one’s lunch box.
You could even think about opting for a spork – as this will help to save on space, giving your little one a convenient, multi-purpose utensil that’s perfect for eating everything in their packed lunch.
Remember to avoid sharp knives, instead choosing utensils made from more kid-friendly materials, as you don’t want to increase the risks of any mishaps or accidents at mealtimes.
8. Invest in a good sandwich crust cutter
We all know that kids can be fussy eaters, and one of the most common things they refuse to eat are sandwich crusts.
Thankfully, this problem is a pretty easy one to deal with – simply get yourself a crust cutter, saving you time in the morning doing it manually as you can remove crusts effortlessly in just a few seconds.
It’s worth also considering shaped-cutters, like a dinosaur sandwich cutter, as, let’s face it – there isn’t much cooler than a dino-shaped sandwich. Another option, especially for any parent bakers out there, is to use a dino cookie cutter, which can offer more versatility than a purpose-made sandwich cutter.
9. Label it, or lose it
While kids can be quite good at taking care of their possessions, they unfortunately just as equally apt at losing them.
There’s always going to be another kid with the same – or nearly the same – gear as your little one, which can easily result in someone else’s child picking up and leaving with your kid’s lunch box.
If you want to save a few bucks, and retrieve your kid’s lost property, it’s always best to label it – just like you would their coats, sports kit, and other brought-from-home essentials.
When it comes to our children, we want them to eat as well and as healthily as possible – which makes packing a lunch a much better alternative to the often greasy, low-quality options offered in the school canteen.
While it takes a little more effort, with a bit of prep and practice, you can fast become a lunch packing pro, provided you’ve got the right kit at your disposal.
Sure, it requires some investment at first – especially if you don’t have a lunch box or bag, containers, crust cutters, or any other items covered in this list. But packing a lunch will save you money in the long wrong, as well as setting your child up on a path to more healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime.
Well, there you have it – our picks for the nine must-have essentials to help make packing your little one’s lunch quick and easy.