Our 20 All-Time Most Brilliant Tips for Packing Better Lunches

A parent can pack more than 180 school lunches between September and June, for just one person. Multiply that by the number of kids you have (and whether you’re packing lunch for yourself and a spouse, as well), and it can quickly become overwhelming.

There’s good reason, then, that we’ve published so many lunch recipes, ideas, tips, and tricks over the years: It’s a struggle to make healthy and economical lunches week in and week out without risking mutiny by making them all taste exactly the same. To help you make this year as easy and successful as possible, we offer 20 of our most effective lunch packing tips. We have ideas for streamlining the process, ways to make lunch food last longer, and hacks for making lunches a little better. Read on, and good luck!

Get organized.

To alleviate the weekly (or daily) question of what to pack, write down a list of lunch ideas and post it to the fridge or somewhere prominent. Then take a few hours on the weekend to clean all your lunch gear and put together a lunch drawer or pantry shelf to make packing faster and less stressful.

Kitchn Daily

  • The Lunch Drawer: Streamline Lunch Preparation with a Pre-Stocked Drawer
  • The Essential School Lunch Grocery List
  • The Best Grocery Store Buys for No-Guilt Lunch Box Shortcuts
  • Give Your Lunch Gear a Bubble Bath After School (or Work)
  • 10 Tips for Mastering School Lunch from Multitasking Mamas


Kids 8 and older can pack their own lunches. Really! To teach them good packing skills and set them up for success, follow these tips.

  • 7 Lunch Box Ideas Kids Can Pack Themselves
  • One Mother on Why Packing Your Own School Lunch Is the Key to Autonomy
  • 5 Questions I Ask My Kids Before Packing Their Lunch
  • This Is the Secret to Packing a Better Lunch Your Kids Will Actually Eat

Pack food so it’s still good to eat.

Warm, gooey mac and cheese can be pretty unappetizing when it’s cold and congealed. And nice crisp carrot sticks are much less tasty when the heat turns them soft and rubbery. If you want your kids to eat their lunch, you want to make sure it looks as tasty when they open it at noon as it did when you packed it that morning. Here are some ideas to help you keep food fresh and appetizing.

  • The One Thing You Should Always Pack in Your Lunch Box
  • Turn Protein-Packed Chia Pudding into a Fun School Lunch
  • Here’s How to Pack a Grilled Cheese Sandwich That’s Still Warm for Lunch
  • How to Keep a Cut Apple Fresh in Your Lunchbox
  • The Best Way to Keep Chopped Fruit from Turning Brown
  • 7 Ways to Turn Leftovers into Lunch

Keep that packed lunch safe.

Practically speaking, you also need to make sure that your lunches stay cool (or hot) enough to be out of the temperature “danger zone” (where bacteria grows fastest) as long as possible until they eat it. Here are some of our best general safety tips.

  • 5 Tips for Mastering Lunch: Build to Last All Week
  • 5 Smart Tips That Will Help You Actually Pack a Lunch
  • 5 Food Safety Tips for Your Lunch Box
  • What a Food-Safety Pro Wishes You Knew About Packing Your Lunch
  • 10 Photos That Will Help You Pack a Better Lunch
  • How To Make Your Own Lunch Box Ice Packs

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