Would you like your children to pack (or prepare) their own lunches? Here’s how to create lunch stations in your pantry, fridge and freezer.
This post was created in collaboration with Produce For Kids.
Whether “back to school” means for your children in person, online, or both, one thing stays the same: They still have lunch every day.
If you’re already locked out of summer meals, the idea of lunch at school can feel extremely stressful. Lunch stations to the rescue!
I set up lunch stations for my children a few years ago to help them pack their own lunch boxes. And it worked! So good that I kept the system running. But it can easily work for children who also prepare their own lunch at home.
How to do lunch stops
Here’s what you do: Often, place packaged or prepackaged items in three containers: one for the refrigerator, one for the freezer, and one for the counter or pantry. Your trash cans don’t have to be fancy, but here are a few options like the ones shown here:
You kids can choose other things to pack or do, of course, but These containers are good starting points. (And I don’t know about your kids, but sometimes they need my help narrowing down the options – or they may not even notice the soup can in the pantry or the burrito in the freezer unless I point it out.)
Lunch stops are also a way for you to make packing and making healthy decisions a little easier. Decide together what to include, and swap articles regularly to add variety. Here are ideas to get you started:
Counter Lunch Station Ideas
- Bread, bagels and tortillas
- Nuts & seeds
- Boxes of macaroni and cheese
- Cups or cans of soup
- Fruit cups (packed in juice)
- Trail mix
- Unsweetened apple sauce
- Dried and freeze-dried fruits
- Energy bars
- Bag of tuna and salmon
- Canned beans such as chilled beans
- Dried seaweed
- Squeeze sachets or jars of nut or seed butter
- Whole grain crackers
- Mini boxes of raisins
- Homemade muffins
Do you want more ideas for lunch? Here are 40 easy home lunches for kids and 100 lunch box ideas your kids will love
Fridge lunch station ideas
- Container with leftovers
- Pre-washed lettuce greens
- Delicatessen + cheese
- Baby carrots
- Pre-washed vegetables such as sugar snap peas and broccoli florets
- Cups of ranch dip
- Cheese sticks and individually wrapped cheese wedges
- Yogurt in cups or tubs
- Washed and chopped fruits
- Individual cups of hummus, guacamole, or cottage cheese
- Hard boiled eggs
- Individual milk boxes (dairy or non-dairy products)
- Homemade energy bites / bars
- Washed grapes
Ideas for the freezer lunch station
- Frozen vegetable burgers
- Frozen edamame
- Frozen burritos
- Frozen pasta (ravioli, tortellini)
- Frozen vegetables
At what age can children pack or prepare their own lunch?
All children are different. Of course, young children need help preparing or packing their own lunches, but preschoolers can also learn tasks like spreading nut butter on bread and pouring a drink. Young elementary school children can choose items for their lunch and prepare simple things. This pediatrician and author of Raising an organized child says children from third grade can pack their own lunches.
Need help teaching your children to pack their own lunches?
My free 5 day email course, Pack your own (damn) lunchguides you through the basics of job submission. It has resources, recipes, and printables to make it easy (and, may I say, fun). Sign up for the free email course here and soon you’ll be putting your feet up with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine instead of packing lunch.
About my partner: producing for children
I am currently the official nutritionist for Produce for children, a cause marketing organization dedicated to creating a healthier generation. Since its launch by Shuman Farms in 2002, Produce for Kids has raised more than $ 7 million to help children and families. You work closely with Feed America and other charities that benefit children and families across the country.
I wrote this post as part of their year Turn on your lunch box Campaign to help families establish a nutritious lunch routine. This year, the program’s brand partners (including the products from Zespi Kiwifruit, Litehouse and Crispy Green shown above) have committed to a donation to the United Fresh Start Foundation to improve access to fresh produce for children and families.
Produce For Kids also has plenty of healthy recipes and family-friendly tips on your website, and really fun to follow Instagram (Sometimes I go there doing IG Lives!). Or join their Facebook group, The healthy family project, talk about feeding children.
I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Affiliate Program, an affiliate advertising program that allows me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and related websites.
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