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

updated Aug 13, 2019
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

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.

Credit: Joe Lingeman


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.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

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.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

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.