August 13, 2023  

Organizing School Lunch Supplies & Streamlining Lunch Prep


It’s back-to-school time and, for many parents, that means packing school lunches! With a little organization, you can keep this task hassle-free and simplify your lunch packing routine. Check out my tips to set yourself up for success this year.

Our oldest is starting kindergarten and with that comes a whole new territory of packing school lunches. Although my kids get hot lunches at daycare every day, I’ve packed quite a few lunches from home for Chloe to take on field trips with her daycare class this summer and I also pack my own lunches to bring to the office most days. 

With school starting soon, I thought I’d share a tour of how I organize all of our bento boxes and lunch supplies. Because I know without a system in place, packing daily lunches can quickly turn into a chaotic, time-consuming chore. I hope this inspires you to streamline things and set up a system that works well for you this school year!

Looking for more organizing ideas? Take a look at these blog posts:

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How To Organize School Lunch Supplies

Creating a dedicated lunch packing station in your kitchen is an awesome way to prep for the school season ahead. Storing all of your lunch supplies and food items in convenient and accessible spots makes packing lunch so much easier. 

Here are the three stations I recommend setting up:

  1. Lunch boxes, containers, water bottles, etc.
  2. Lunch items in the pantry
  3. Lunch items in the fridge

Designate a spot for lunch boxes, water bottles, etc.

Set aside a drawer, kitchen cabinet, or pantry shelf as the spot where you’ll store lunch bags, bento boxes, food storage containers, sandwich bags, water bottles, extra ice packs, etc. A few bins or baskets are all you need to contain these items and make them super easy to grab when packing kids’ lunches.

Quick Tip: Before school starts, grab your label maker and take a few minutes to add names to all of your lunch boxes and water bottles!

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Designate a spot in the pantry for lunch items

Create a spot for lunch items in your pantry or one of your kitchen drawers and fill it with all of the grab-and-go foods you pack in lunch boxes.

Things like granola bars, crackers, trail mix, fruit snacks, peanut butter, and more can all be stored here. You can even designate a specific snack basket that your kids can go to when looking for an after-school snack.

organized-pantry-with-clear-containers

Related: How To Organize Your Small Pantry

Designate a section of the fridge for lunch items

Make lunch prep easy by storing all of the lunch foods in one spot so you and your kids know where to look when it’s time to grab things for lunch boxes.

Cold items like string juice boxes, cheese cubes and string cheese, yogurts, and fruits are all stored in containers on the bottom shelf of our fridge so it’s easy for everyone to reach. And lunch meat and cheese slices are all organized in the deli drawer so they’re easy to grab for sandwiches.

Related: Fridge Organization Ideas – Tour Our Refrigerator!

Lunch Packing Tips

Implement a meal planning system

A very important part of the process of packing lunches is making sure you have a solid meal-planning routine. Taking a little time to plan what you’re having for lunches this week will help ensure you always have the foods you need.

I add lunch foods to my grocery order as part of my weekly meal planning routine, making sure our containers of grab-and-go items are always fully stocked at the beginning of the week.

Create a list of food categories to include

Decide upfront what categories of foods you’d like each school lunch to include for a balanced meal. You can follow the actual food groups, or maybe your list is more specific to your kids’ diet and preferences.

Having a mental checklist for yourself can be helpful when you’re too tired to make one more decision at night. It can also be really useful to post the list near your lunch supplies so you can see it as well as your kids if they are packing their own lunches.

As an example, you might want to include food items from each of these categories:

  • Fruit or vegetable
  • Sandwich, wrap, or meat/cheese/crackers
  • Cheese, yogurt, or other protein
  • Snacks

Involve your kids in the planning as well and ask them to come up with ideas of foods in each category that they like. 

Take advantage of leftovers

If your kids prefer warm foods for lunch, the easiest way to simplify this is by making enough dinner to have leftovers that can be taken for lunch the following day. I personally do this often for lunches to bring to the office myself and it works great!

When you’re meal planning at the beginning of the week, plan a couple of meals that will reheat well and prepare enough food so you have leftovers. Then after dinner is over, pack single servings in food containers that your kiddo can bring to school the next day!

Pack lunches at night

Prepping school lunches the night before is so much easier than scrambling to throw together a lunch during the morning rush. You’ll be so thankful you have one less thing to do in the morning! I usually have my five-year-old pack her own lunch while I’m making dinner.

Don’t try to reinvent the wheel

You do not, I repeat, you do not have to reimagine new lunch ideas all the time! Find a few tried-and-true lunch options that your child enjoys and stick to those.

I know it’s easy to get sucked into the large variety of lunch box ideas on social media, but just remember that it doesn’t have to be fancy or new to feed your kid. Some variety is great, but most kids will be fine with a few general lunches on repeat.

Prep what you can when you get home from the store

Getting in the habit of washing produce and prepping foods as you unpack groceries will save you a lot of time. It’s also a great way to make sure you eat that fresh produce before it goes bad in the fridge because no one took the time to wash it.

I go as far as removing individual items from their wrappers so they’re easy to grab from a container. Even things like pulling apart the string cheeses as you put them in the fridge make it easier to grab one to put in a lunch bag.

Have a game plan for cleaning out lunch boxes

Decide now when lunch boxes will be cleaned out and who is in charge of that. I think in most cases it probably makes sense to teach your child to take his or her lunch bag out of their backpack and bring it directly to the kitchen when they get home from school.

Depending on their age, they could also be responsible for emptying out any leftover foods and washing their lunch containers and water bottle or putting them in the dishwasher.

The key to this is to start the new school year off strong with a definitive plan in place so everyone knows what’s supposed to happen and when. You could even add this to your child’s chore chart!

Having a process for cleaning out lunch boxes will help ensure old food doesn’t go forgotten in backpacks over the weekend and make sure you have clean lunch packing supplies for the next day.

Favorite Lunch Boxes & Lunch Packing Supplies For Kids

I don’t necessarily want to commit to creating Pinterest-perfect lunches every day, but I do think putting a little effort into the presentation of school lunches can make it more appetizing to eat. And I want my kids to actually eat their lunches, not leave their food untouched. Plus, making cute lunches is pretty fun with the right gear!

Make school lunches easier to pack and fun for your kids to eat with these cute and practical lunch supplies. From lunch boxes to snack containers to sandwich cutters, I have you covered with some great lunch gear for kids all available from Amazon.

Bento Boxes

  • Unicorn Lunch Bog Set – Isn’t this lunch box adorable?! It comes with everything you need for school lunches.
  • Spoondrift Silicone Lunch Box – I ordered a couple of these in colors that the kids would like but that I could also take to work myself. The compartments are nice and large and the lid is leakproof!
  • Purple Bentgo Box – We’ve had this bento box for years and it’s perfect for younger kids! We use them for school and even for lunches at home sometimes. The compartments are a little small for older kids, but perfect for preschoolers and kindergarteners.
  • Yumbox Bento Lunch Box – This lunch box is highly rated and comes in the cutest designs.

Lunch Bags

  • Glitter Heart Lunch Bag – We have this bag and it fits our Bentgo and Spoondrift bento lunch boxes with enough extra room to add a bag of chips or veggie straws as well. There’s a zippered mesh pocket inside that can hold an ice pack, utensils, etc.
  • Preppy Pink Lunch Bag – The little letter patches on this bag are soooo cute! It’s a great size and has a carrying handle plus a removable shoulder strap.

Water Bottles

  • Owala Kids’ Water Bottles – These are our current favorites! Chloe says they’re easier to drink from and less noisy than the others we’ve tried.

Ice Packs

Snack Containers

  • Silicone Snack Bags – These are self-standing and dishwasher safe, easy to toss in a backpack or lunch bag.
  • Bentgo Snack Cup – This screws apart to reveal two compartments, a larger bottom and a smaller top. Perfect for yogurt plus fruit or apples plus peanut butter.
  • 2-Compartment Snack Containers – I like that these have two compartments, great for fruit and nuts or veggies and dip. The compartments are both removable, too.

Containers For Sauces & Dressings

Reusable Sandwich Bags

Fun Sandwich Cutters & Accessories

  • 152-Piece Food Picks – These are such a fun addition to kids’ lunches! Stick a couple of them in their sandwich or fruit and you have a cute lunch box with zero effort.
  • Lunch Box Supplies Kit – This box has everything you need! Sandwich cutters, food picks, and silicone cup dividers to use in their lunch boxes.
  • Silicone Cupcake Liners – I use these as little dividers inside lunch boxes, great for keeping foods from touching.

Kids’ Knife Set

  • Kids’ Knife Set – We gifted this set to our five-year-old and she loves using it to pack her own lunches. The set includes safe knives, cutting boards, and even a few mini sandwich cutters.

Shop all of my kids’ lunch box finds in my Amazon Shop!


Looking for more organizing ideas? Take a look at these blog posts:

Have a fantastic day!

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About the author

Emily Counts is the founder of Small Stuff Counts, a home and organization blog she created in 2013. Her goal is to help moms make home life easier so they can create beautiful, organized, and thriving homes. She shares life at home as a mom juggling two young kids and being a working mom with a corporate job. The Iowa-based blogger lives in the suburbs of Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband, two children, and rescue dog. Emily has collaborated with brands including The Container Store, Cricut, Command Brand, Bissell, Sam's Club and Rubbermaid.

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