5 Steps to Take the Stress out of Lunch! (Weekly Make Ahead Lunches)

“This post is sponsored by Everywhere Agency on behalf of Sistema®; however, all opinions are my own.”

With the start of a new year, getting back to planning ahead is one of our big goals. I’m all about doing a meal prep for the week or even the month on Sunday. Mornings are so hectic and there is also a lot in our nighttime activities, so why not get school lunches out of the way as well? It’s really simple. All you need is a little time and organization to have your whole family’s lunches done for the week. When you are done, there is an extra sense of relief that is amazing!

Right now I am 8 months pregnant and with the craziness of the holidays- we got a little off track. Which then led me to feel more frazzled. My meal planning fell off and it greatly contributed to my stress. The mornings were lots of rushing and running around- okay, we always run around a bit but there was extra running. My family wasn’t eating as healthy and we were spending more money on food— that we didn’t really have to spend (reminder from my budget master husband). That is all I needed to remember why meal planning worked so well.

Related: 12 On the Go Toddler Lunch Ideas for Daycare or School

Those phases of life happen to all of us, for various reasons. I don’t even have to say this is great for “busy moms”. Seriously, we are ALL busy moms. Anybody can use a system to make their lives a bit easier.

Pack a week's worth of lunch in one afternoon! Make your mornings easier, simpler and more enjoyable by following these 5 easy steps to make ahead lunch.

I’m pretty excited about how this meal prep went. So I’ll break it down into steps and also end with an amazing printable of  ideas for what to feed your kids on the go- especially when filling Bento boxes. 

Step 1: Gather Materials

Pull out all the containers or bags you use to store lunches. We recently found this line of Sistema containers at Meijer and they are perfect for make ahead lunches. The price is so good that I was able to buy various types and quantity of containers. Then pack them all up for the week without worrying about having enough or washing mid week.

The Sistema containers check all my boxes in what I require also! They can go in the microwave, dishwasher, fridge or freezer. And they are BPA and Phthalate free. With all the different varieties, they make a perfect system for lunch meal planning.

*Sistema will be running a 20% off food storage promo at Meijer from 2/24-3/2/19 and 3/24-3/30/19. So mark your calendars!

You know best what your family likes. That will help dictate what to have on hand. I got 3 Sistema Bento boxes because my boys are obsessed with them. If they have various food items, it’s almost like they think they are just snacking instead of eating a meal. Who knows, but it works! We rounded out with a few sandwich containers, snack catchers, a soup mug and a salad mix.

Step 2: Plan a Loose Menu

Start by making a list of 5-10 lunches that you can rotate weekly or bi-weekly. You don’t have to have animal shaped sandwiches or seasonally themed displays. Kids like simplicity so stick with the basics, especially at first. I have various items from each category that I know myself and the boys like. For example, about 3-4 fruits, 3 vegetables, some snacks, grains and dairy. This helps me make sure I’m making well rounded meals. Rotating through similar items makes it easier to shop for also. 

Make sure to check out the printable at the end of the post that has a full list of ideas to include in lunches, separated by category.  It can be hung up in your pantry or kitchen for an easy resource or inspiration.

Step 3: Involve the Kids

Pack a week's worth of lunch in one afternoon! Make your mornings easier, simpler and more enjoyable by following these 5 easy steps to make ahead lunch.

This will look differently based on how old your kids are. I have definitely noticed that my boys are more interested in their food and lunches if they have had a voice in what gets included or helped cook some of the items.

My 4 & 1/2 year old Miles helps to mix ingredients for recipes and pick out the items to put in his lunch. I steer him with questions like, “Which fruit do you want? Which vegetable?” so he can’t just make a lunch of strawberries and goldfish. My 2 & 1/2 year old Ellis helps mix ingredients (with assistance 🙂 ) and can help pick a couple items. He tends to lose attention quickly so I don’t have him help as long as Miles. Also, he ate all of the blueberries from one of the lunches when I wasn’t looking. So yeah, he needs a bit more monitoring.

As Miles gets older, I’ll have him take over chopping some of the fruit and vegetables, assembling his sandwich and eventually in charge of his lunch in general. Ellis will follow right behind.

Pack a week's worth of lunch in one afternoon! Make your mornings easier, simpler and more enjoyable by following these 5 easy steps to make ahead lunch.

Those are ways I integrate them based on age and personality. Like most things, you decide what the best ways are for your kids to help. And it may not look the same for all of them!

Step 4: Get Organized & Prep all the Food

Pack a week's worth of lunch in one afternoon! Make your mornings easier, simpler and more enjoyable by following these 5 easy steps to make ahead lunch

After you have all your containers organized, take out the food items you’ll incorporate in the week’s lunches. This week we added muffins that we made that day and a veggie soup because it has been soo cold. You can definitely just do cold items and not cook, but these were our special adds this time.

This step is where the majority of the work happens. Chop up all your fruit and veggies. Assemble sandwiches, pinwheels, bagels, and anything else you are including that week.

Pack a week's worth of lunch in one afternoon! Make your mornings easier, simpler and more enjoyable by following these 5 easy steps to make ahead lunch.
Making muffins 🙂

These banana zucchini muffins are super delicious. Followed this recipe but left out the sugar and added a little extra banana and applesauce. They are still sweet and a great compliment to a sandwich or salad.

Step 5: Assemble Containers

This is the easiest part! You have all your stuff prepped and just need to assemble your different lunches. Here are some of ours for the week:

Pack a week's worth of lunch in one afternoon! Make your mornings easier, simpler and more enjoyable by following these 5 easy steps to make ahead lunch.

Miles assembled a couple and helped put some toppings on his yogurt.

Pack a week's worth of lunch in one afternoon! Make your mornings easier, simpler and more enjoyable by following these 5 easy steps to make ahead lunch.

Can’t have a lunch prep without a homemade lunchable. A variety of this is always rotated in our house. I’ll change up the types of crackers, cheese or any of the items to keep it interesting. In the Sistema Multi Split to Go

Pack a week's worth of lunch in one afternoon! Make your mornings easier, simpler and more enjoyable by following these 5 easy steps to make ahead lunch.

This Sistema salad container is everything! I love that I can separate certain items- especially croutons or other things that could get soggy. There is a place for dressing and cute silverware so it really encompasses everything I need.

** This was for me when we go straight to gymnastics or soccer at lunch time pick up.  No, my boys don’t care for green olives but this pregnant mama does. 😉

Pack a week's worth of lunch in one afternoon! Make your mornings easier, simpler and more enjoyable by following these 5 easy steps to make ahead lunch.

Some of our sandwiches for the week. These sandwich containers are a perfect size for just packing a sandwich or something small, so I got a few of them.

We’ll pair them with fruit, some snacks and one of the muffins we made. Since my boys are young, they often share a sandwich.

Pack a week's worth of lunch in one afternoon! Make your mornings easier, simpler and more enjoyable by following these 5 easy steps to make ahead lunch.

Sistema large Bento box with half a sandwich, muffin, clementine, trail mix, apples and peanut butter. My boys would sometimes share a box like this.

*You can sprinkle lemon or pineapple juice on cut apples so they don’t brown.

Pack a week's worth of lunch in one afternoon! Make your mornings easier, simpler and more enjoyable by following these 5 easy steps to make ahead lunch.

Square Bento box with a turkey cheese pinwheel, tomatoes, apples, grapes and yogurt with honey (in green container) and granola.

Pack a week's worth of lunch in one afternoon! Make your mornings easier, simpler and more enjoyable by following these 5 easy steps to make ahead lunch.

Square Bento box with bagel, carrots, granola bar, goldfish and strawberries (underneath granola bar).

Pack a week's worth of lunch in one afternoon! Make your mornings easier, simpler and more enjoyable by following these 5 easy steps to make ahead lunch.

Voila! All set!

Pack a week's worth of lunch in one afternoon! Make your mornings easier, simpler and more enjoyable by following these 5 easy steps to make ahead lunch.
Having lunch before gymnastics.

I also have cuties, muffins, and other sides sitting next to the containers or pantry for easy access in the morning.  Enjoy this prep- your mornings will thank you. 

Download this reference sheet of over 60 easy lunch ideas! Just fill out the form below to access the free resource library.easy lunch ideas for school or daycare, toddler lunches, preschool lunch, bento box lunch, meal planning lunches, make ahead lunch

Access Your Free Printable of Easy Lunch Ideas!

Lunch ideas for school or daycare printable

Use this list to create healthy & delicious lunches for your little ones!

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One thought on “5 Steps to Take the Stress out of Lunch! (Weekly Make Ahead Lunches)

  1. Do these lunches keep all week in the fridge or are you freezing them? I’m worried about the sandwiches/bagels getting soggy. Thanks!

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