The 12 life-saving lunch hacks you can steal right now - PLUS recipes for alternative lunches your kiddies will LOVE!

After surviving a couple years in the lunchbox trenches, here's a few tricks I've learned to keep myself sane... most of he time. Here are my 12 life-saving lunch hacks!

1. Make too much dinner! 


In other words, cook once eat twice.. or more. 

Leftovers make packing lunch SO much easier, it just makes sense to build them into your dinner plans after all, boiling up extra pasta on spaghetti night or roasting a larger chicken doesn't require any extra effort. This is true when making breakfast too! Extra pancakes and waffles make a great "bread" for sandwiches! 

2. Crazy ideas are sometimes pretty awesome.

Try to trust, or at least sometimes indulge – in the occasional crazy idea. One time my daughter dreamed up the idea of a pizza sandwich! 

So I used two English muffins, and filled it with pizza ingredients! (Sauce, cheese and pepperoni) she loved that I had listened to her, she didn't care that I made it healthy with whole wheat muffins. 

3. One word: Compartmentalize. 

Lunch boxes were just that – boxes. Today, most are modelled at least in part after Japanese bento boxes, which have multiple containers and compartments. Find. These. kids and adults, love this approach too packed lunches. Having choices makes lunch more interesting. It also spurs creativity when you're making them! 

Photo credit:  via  /  CC BY

Photo credit: via / CC BY

4. Don't be afraid of the cold. 

If you have a thermos, great if you don't, no big deal! Plenty of the meals you usually eat hot also taste great cold. My kids love cold, leftover pasta carbonara! I think of it as an Italian version of a cold Asian peanut noodles. 

5. Break it up. 

Warm lunches can be tricky to pack. Popping them in a thermos may seem like a good idea, but many can't handle the heat without getting soggy. The solution? Deconstruct the components. Pack hot sandwich fillings that are moist – such as barbeque pulled pork, in a thermos with the bread on the side. At lunch, kids can just assemble and enjoy!

6. Involve the eater! 


When practical, the person eating the lunches should be involved in the food shopping, prepping, and packing. Sometimes it is helpful when it comes to actually getting them to eat the food. Shopping and cooking with kids isn't always fun and easy, but what about raising children is always fun and easy? 

7. Pick your battles. 

When your children say they don't like something you packed for them, trust them and thank them for trying It. Save the green being battles for dinner, and when you are their role model for good eating habits (not their snotty nosed friends)!

8. Skip the kid food. 

It doesn't even exist.... well, it shouldn't. "Kid food" is nothing more than a marketing ploy to try and get you and your kids hooked on a food companies over process, overpack, and overprice. give kids real food with real flavors, they'll eat it! ...if you do, too. 

9. Ignore the pressure! 

Try not to get sucked into the "but Agnes Lilly the 3rd gets to bring pop and chips for lunch every day!" Fights. Try not to demonize other kids and their parents for their awful lunch choices, but rather tell them the truth: "every family makes different choices." 

10. Think "DIY"

Kids love assembling their own meals, that's why the packaged, overpriced,  bullshit "lunch kits" are so popular. It's cheaper and healthier if you just create your own DIY lunch kit. A section of crackers, cheeses, jam, deli meats and nut butters, can become a mix and match cracker jacked lunch! 

Whole wheat pitas cut open with sliced leftover meat, cheeses, guacamole, and whatever the fuck else.... can be the best build your own taco kit! 

11. Embrace feel-good convenience! 


When we're trying to get through yet another hectic morning, convenience foods can be an important part of what keeps us sane, especially when they are convenience foods, you can feel good about.

  • Popcorn. (Even when dusted with cheese) popcorn is still fun, and whole-grain! 
  • Deli meats. Say what you will about them, but most varieties of ham, turkey, and chicken are low fat and calories. 
  • Fruit pouches. Puréed fruit that you suck from opening at the top, some of these little guys even sneak in veggies.
  • Rice cakes. Prepare for a 90s flashback, except this time they actually taste good, and are whole-grain. 
  • Rotisserie chicken. Super simple to grab one and just use for the lunch week. 
  • Phyllo pastry cups! Super easy, versatile, and fun! Fill them with egg and cheese to make a mini quiche or nut butter and jelly!

12. The best thing since sliced bread. 

Sometimes all it takes to transform the same old boring sandwich, is changing up the bread! 

  • Pancakes! Make extra breakfast, and freeze some for his purpose! Smear them with PB&J 
  • Waffles. You can even grill them for grilled cheese
  • French toast! Delicious with him and cheese
  • Dinner rolls
  • Naan bread, pitas, tortillas 
  • Biscuits, tea biscuits
  • Banana bread


13. Alternative ideas for lunch!