back to school

This Small but Mighty Refrigerator Trick Saves Me So Much Time During Lunch Prep

published Sep 8, 2023
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A hand reaching into a refrigerator
Credit: Shifrah Combiths

I’m always amazed by how drastically our days change between summer and back-to-school season for our family of seven. On the last Tuesday of summer, we sleep in, have a few staggered breakfasts as kids wake up at various times, play games in the playroom while I sip coffee, shop for school supplies, and then hang out for an open-ended afternoon at the pool before a leisurely dinner and a midweek movie night. It’s one of our family’s favorite back-to-school traditions.

On the first Tuesday of school, though, we’re up before the sun, frying eggs and packing lunches, herding kids into shoes and out the door for school, getting as much work done as we can before they come home in a flurry of school papers and backpacks, hungry for a snack. Then it’s time to shuttle everyone to activities, make dinner, clean up, pack lunches, get ready for bed, and do it all again the next day. Whew!

Along with the change in routine, the way our home is used shifts dramatically — especially in the kitchen. While I’m relieved to not have to prepare and clean up three meals plus snacks like I do in the summer, early morning breakfasts and lunch-making mean the kitchen and fridge need to be more organized than ever so we can be efficient in getting everyone where they need to go without frustration or rushing.

In light of this, there’s one special area I create in the fridge when back-to-school season rolls around: a designated bin for the kids’ lunch items. 

The bin is the same size as my other in-fridge bins, made of clear plastic so we can easily see what’s inside. This bin is where we stash both the smaller refrigerated items that are used for lunch-making as well as already-prepared food that will go in lunch boxes in the morning. For instance, sliced cheese, lunch meat, and pre-portioned hummus packets might go in that bin. In addition, if we make PB&Js the night before or slice up cheese for crackers and cheese, these will also go in the bin. 

Having this designated section in the fridge not only keeps our fridge organized, but parceling out specific lunch items also makes them easy to grab and use during the evening or morning rush while we’re getting lunches ready. Instead of the sliced cheese going in the cheese bin, putting it in the lunch bin allows us to grab that and the other items we’ll need for lunch-making all at once without searching for them all over the fridge. Ultimately, kids can even pack their lunches themselves if they’re old enough because they know where to find all of the ingredients.

This lunch bin change may seem small, but it’s just the kind of tiny, thought-out tweak that really makes our home run according to how our family uses it. Never underestimate the difference in time and energy that small adjustments in your organizational systems can make!

If you have children, how do you tweak your kitchen for back-to-school season? Let us know in the comments below!