Simplify the Lunch-Making Process with Mini Zones

posted by Aby

Organize lunch staples in mini-zones to simplify the lunch-making process.

If you have school-aged kids, then you likely know all about the grind of daily lunch-making! By putting together mini zones loaded with school lunch essentials, you can make the process smoother. Here are some ideas and photos for creating your own lunch-making mini-zone so you can get organized and simplify the lunch-making process! Enjoy.

Start by purchasing (or re-purposing) a plastic storage bin sized to fit on one of the shelves in your refrigerator. I used an ITSO bin from Target…because I just happened to have some on hand, and because two of them fit perfectly side-by-side on the shelf in my refrigerator. (I love it when things like that happen.)

Organize a bin with lunch and snack foods to make lunch-making a cinch.

Load your bin with prepackaged lunch-making items such as cheese sticks, and/or small packages of yogurt, smoothies, juice or milk. Once a week stock your lunch bin with items such as grapes, baby carrots, celery sticks and dip, stored in small, reusable lunch containers. This is also a great place to store left-overs that would make good lunch items.

I decided to store fruit and veggies in bulk instead of prepackaged to save space in my bin. My food storage containers are always on the counter when I make lunch…so I think this will work just fine. I used a small plastic cup to hold cheese sticks upright, making them easier to see and access.

Stock a container with easy-to-grab items for lunches.

Keep non-refrigerated lunch-making items like napkins, cutlery, bread, chips, crackers and cookies in a second bin in your pantry. I’ve been using a pantry lunch-making bin for years, and it works great for us! It takes a lot of steps out of the lunch-making process.

All that’s left to do is actually make lunch…and that’s where things can get a little dicey around here. One thing I’ve noticed in past years is that as the school year goes on, I tend to get into a lunch rut. I start running out of ideas and end up sending the same things for lunch day after day.

I was really thrilled when I came across the Wendolonia blog and this blog post with a terrific list of lunch ideas a while back. I printed out a copy of the list and gave it to my kids. They crossed off items that they don’t care for, added items they like that weren’t on the original list, and we put together a customized lunch idea list. I have it coded as to who likes what…so I can safely put together a lunch that I know is healthy and the kids will enjoy. (Here’s a link to our Lunch Ideas List…if you’d like to see it or even use it.)

One suggestion for using this list is to laminate it, and then highlight what’s available for lunch each week. Kids can use the laminated list to write down their requests on a chalkboard or dry erase board, or to help decide what to pack in their own lunches. The best part is that you won’t have to deal with half-awake kids trying to figure out what to take for lunch. (I’ve found the answers are never very helpful at that time of day.)

With my lunch-making mini-zones ready to go, I think we’re all organized for lunch this school year. How about you? Any tips or ideas to share? I’d love to hear from you.


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