Packing lunch is often the least favorite among a long list of back-to-school chores. Here is a list of six lunch packing tips to help it go a little smoother.

1. Plan Ahead

• Pre-pack snacks and sides in re-usable storage containers for the week so you can “grab and go” on school days. Sorting and packing your own sides is more economical and eco-friendly than buying pre-packaged single serving items.
• When you come home from the market, clean, chop and store fruit and veggie sides right away.
• Make a game plan on weekends as to what lunch will be each day.
• If the weekend is too far out, do it the night before and get much of the packing done ahead of time.
• If you are a “morning of” kind of gal, wake up early to avoid the mayhem.

2. Involve the Kids

• Brainstorm lunch ideas with your kids. The more involved they are, the more likely to eat their lunches.
• Find out their likes and dislikes. Having a peek at what comes home uneaten each day can help.
• Get their input when you are writing out a shopping list.
• Try a new sandwich or other food item together on non-school days to see if it’s a winner.
• Let them have some control: they get to choose snacks, sides or sandwiches.

3. Make Use of Leftovers

• Turn leftover rice or noodles into a lunchbox main course by adding veggies to create a one-dish lunch.
• During dinner prep make enough extra to set aside for lunches.
• When putting food away after dinner, package up leftovers for school lunch; one less thing to do in the morning.
• Invest in a good wide mouth thermos to keep leftovers warm.

4. Enlist some Helpers

• Get the kids involved in preparing lunches to help promote independence and lighten your load.
• Given some parameters, older kids can do the job themselves, younger ones can pitch in.
• Ask kids to empty reusable containers when they come home from school. Older kids can clean lunchboxes and wash containers themselves.

5. Make it Fun

• Get creative to make the process more interesting for everyone.
• Try cookie cutters to create interesting sandwich shapes.
• Use bento box style lunch containers for a variation on the norm.
• Include a little note reminding your child how much you love them.

6. “Try it on Tuesdays” (This one I lifted directly from one clever commenter…you know who you are, so thank you for the idea!)

• Pack foods you know are safe bets every day of the week except Tuesday.
• Take Tuesdays to get a little adventurous with the lunchbox, experimenting with new menu items.
• Get the kids involved in deciding what the next “try it on Tuesday” is going to be.
• Incorporate new foods that go over well into the weekly rotation.