Big thanks to the Rock the Lunchbox for sending me coupons and nifty lunch containers. Check out my tips and enter the giveaway for free product coupons (for organic foods) and awesome lunch packing containers.
In just a few days, my lunch packing sabbatical ends. But I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get back to packing school lunches. I love seeing all the cute cartoon characters and animal shaped foods that other parents make for their kids’ bento lunches. Honestly, I’m just too tired and lazy to that myself. The best I can do is to buy dinosaur sandwich cutters and hardboiled egg molds. You won’t find any tips for making bunny apples or making flowers out of fruit.
Here are my practical tips for packing a bento lunch box for school–or any kind of lunch container:
1. Ask your kids to make a list of their favorite lunch foods. If they can’t write yet, help them write a list or ask them to draw pictures. We keep the list on our fridge. My husband and I refer to it when we feel stuck on what to pack. We know that at the very least, they’ll eat something from that list.
Bonus tip: ask your child to update the list every 2-3 months. That’s how we found out my daughter no longer liked Nutella sandwiches. Instead she prefers peanut butter and honey.
2. Think small. As in finger foods, that is. The benefits of packing lunch in a bento box are the compartments. Mini versions of foods not only look cuter, but they’re more appealing to kids. Try bite-sized chunks of chicken, baby cut carrots (a staple in our lunch repertoire), snack-sized cheese, and sandwiches cut into triangles or squares.
3. Use a fun bento lunch box. I think I get more excited about cool bento containers than my kids do. They make packing lunches more fun. With the different compartments, I’m less likely to overpack or underpack their lunches. Less waste and no hungry kids. Plus a box like Laptop Lunches Bento-Ware (pictured above) can save you money. Instead of purchasing individual snack sized bags, just buy the regular size and fill up a compartment.
READ MORE: 12 Bento Boxes for Back-to-School
4. Pack the rainbow. This rule applies to every meal, not just lunches. The more visually appealing the lunch is, the more our kids (and we) will eat. I usually pack the protein or main course first. My kids love pasta, chicken, salami or hummus–which aren’t usually very colorful. Then I add color with fruit (cut up, of course) and vegetables (sugar snap peas or edamame). Sometimes I luck out and find multicolored carrots at the grocery store. While they’re not already cut, I just spend about 10 minutes and prep a week’s worth of carrot sticks.
(Fruit salad, Nutella sandwich on whole wheat, steamed edamame, Annie’s Cheddar Snack Mix, Honest Kids Berry Berry Good Lemonade)
5. Leftovers are your friend. Seriously. Leftover ravioli goes right into the bento box after dinner. In the morning I add the fruit, veggies, yogurt and whatever I need to round out their lunch. Other lunch friendly lunches are chicken tenders, fried rice, meatballs, spaghetti, and baked potatoes. I’ve even been known to stick broccoli florets in their lunches.
6. Let your kids help pack their lunch. It might feel like more work that packing the bento yourself, but consider it training. Eventually they’ll be able to do all the work! Teach them how to pack a rainbow and give them selection to choose from. You’ll teach them how to make healthy choices. If your kids are young, let them add the cut fruit or vegetables to their container. Older kids can make and cut sandwiches, etc.
READ MORE: 7 Fun Bento Lunch Box Supplies Under $10
Need Lunch Box Ideas?
(Brown rice with furikake topping, carrots, sugar snap peas, blueberries, Stonyfield YoKids Squeeze Strawberry, Organic Valley Cheddar Cheese)
If you’re stumped on what to pack, head over to Rock the Lunchbox website for ideas featuring Honest Kids, Organic Valley, Annie’s, Rudi’s Organic Bakery, and Applegate. You can even submit your photos! While you’re there, download coupons from those companies to help fill your child’s lunchbox with healthy, organic foods.
I received a Rock the Lunchbox kit. All opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.