I am not a morning person, at all. But, on weekdays, I set my alarm for 6:15 am so I can get up and make the kids breakfast before waking them up at 6:30 and leaving for school an hour later. It takes them at least 20 minutes to eat breakfast (some of them are not morning people either. Ahem.), and then they get dressed, brush their teeth and grab their lunchboxes.
I know a lot of moms make the lunches before school every day. I can’t do that. I try to shower while they’re eating breakfast, and if I’m lucky, by the time everyone is ready, we have a few spare minutes before we have to leave. Sometimes we don’t, and I’m frantically trying to brush hair and find shoes before we’re late getting out the door.
So, to help streamline our mornings a little bit, I set out the kids’ outfits the night before and pack at least four days worth of lunches on Sunday afternoons (I’d do a week’s worth, but we only have eight containers at the moment). My BFF told me forever ago that I should share my method, so I’m (finally) doing that now.
Just a note: I think the Bento boxes that some people make for their kids are awesome, and super cute. But I don’t do that. I don’t have time for that, and when you don’t eat gluten, it cuts WAY down on the “design” options. I choose, instead, to write a little note or draw a little picture to stick in their lunchboxes (something else that I like to do ahead of time and takes ten minutes).
I keep it simple and gluten free when I pack their lunches, and use an assembly line method. The whole process maybe takes me 15 minutes. I use Easy Lunchboxes, so there is one big compartment in each container and two smaller ones. Generally, I pack one protein, one fruit/veggie, and one carb in each lunch. (The containers aren’t leak-proof, so in the rare cases that I’d put something runny or liquid in a lunch, I use a small Thermos container.) Because my two oldest have slightly different tastes, I designate certain colors to each child so I never have to worry that I’ve mixed them up (although, I did, once). My daughter gets red and orange, while my son gets green and blue.
Here are some examples of each category of food. I rotate them all and send different combinations, and they’ve proven to last all week in the refrigerator with no problem.
Protein:sliced turkey or beef hot dogs sliced brats/sausage turkey or ham roll-ups (to keep them gluten free, I roll a slice of cheese up in the the deli slices, but you can also roll the meat and cheese in a tortilla and slice to make pinwheels) Rice cake “sandwich” with peanut butter and jelly leftover pizza from the night before (regular pizza can be eaten a couple of days after you had it for dinner, but since ours is homemade and gluten free now, it tastes better the next day and not usually beyond) leftover grilled chicken, pasta, etc (I generally send these kinds of leftovers the next day, as well) turkey pepperoni slices and a cut mozzarella cheese stick (add pizza sauce if you want…I like little takeout dressing containers with lids for sauces) a hamburger or cheeseburger (I cut them up so the kids can just eat with their fingers) rice and beans
Fruit/Veggie:Apple slices (to keep them from browning during the week, I sprinkle a little lime or lemon juice on them. The kids don’t mind at all….it just adds a tiny bit of tang) Carrot or celery sticks Grapes Orange slices An unpeeled banana (I put these in their boxes in the morning, never in the fridge) An applesauce or fruit puree pouch A yogurt tube (sometimes frozen ahead of time, usually not)
Carbs:Gluten free pretzel sticks Baked tortilla chips Gluten free cheese crackers (we’ve tried these from Schar) Mini rice cakes Baked Cheetos Gluten free cookies (like these bunnies) Fruit snacks Popcorn (either ready-made from a bag, or popped in the microwave) Cereal or granola bars (we like the gluten free EnviroKidz bars, or for the boys who don’t have to eat gluten free, the Nature’s Bakery fig bars are really popular)
I’ve found this method to be super easy and really quick. It hardly takes any more time than making one day’s lunches, and saves me so much time during the week!
None of the above products are affiliate links, I just like them and use them. A LOT. We were sent samples of the Nature’s Bakery fig bars to try, but I was not compensated in any way, and all opinions are my own (or rather, my boys’ who tried them out).