Make packing lunches easier than ever when you have a school lunch packing station made! Kids can grab what they need and you know that they are packing nutritious options! The 2023 Back To School Campaign has raised $16,000 for the Foundation For Fresh Produce to support children’s accessibility to fresh fruits and vegetables thanks to our amazing partners, like Nature Fresh Farms.

How To Create a School Lunch Packing Station

Back-to-school season is a busy time for families and it can be easy as a parent to get overwhelmed. There are clothes to be laid out, backpacks to pack, homework to check, and lunches to be made. All of that is on top of all the normal household duties you have to take care of to keep your home running smoothly. 

Why not take one of those items off of your list entirely? As your children get older, you can have them take the responsibility for packing their lunches each day. With a little help from your handy school lunch packing station of course! 

How To Make a School Lunch Packing Station

A school lunch packing station is a selection of bins that you can place in the refrigerator and pantry and fill them with the school lunch foods and snacks your kids enjoy. From there the kids can make their selections each day and pack their lunch. Not only will this take a task off of your plate, but it also teaches your children responsibility and independence, and they get to put together a lunch that they know they will enjoy. 

*Pro Lunch Packing Tip – Keep your tomatoes on the counter for the best flavor! We love including snacking or cherry tomatoes in lunchboxes for a healthy snack, and then let the kiddos pick their favorite dip.

Having your children pack their lunches themselves is an opportunity for them to learn more about making balanced meals, and making healthy food choices. 

School Lunch Packing Station

Items for Your Pantry Lunch Packing Station

You may need two bins for your pantry lunch packing station depending on the items that you plan to include.

Some suggestions for lunch items that you can keep in your pantry lunch packing station include: 

Packets of tuna, salmon, or chicken – These individual portions of chicken and tuna are healthy, packed full of protein, and perfect for making a sandwich or crackers with chicken or tuna salad. 

Nut Butter – Jars or individual containers of peanut or other nut butter are another protein-packed food that your kids can use for making lunches. 

Whole grain bread, bagels, tortillas, or crackers – The kids can use these to make sandwiches or wraps to pack inside their lunches. 

Unsweetened applesauce, fruit cups in juice – Cups or pouches of unsweetened applesauce, and fruit cups with juice are excellent ways for them to fill their lunchbox with important vitamins and minerals. 

Cups of soup – Individual cups of soup are a great option for kids who enjoy a hot lunch from time to time if they have the ability to warm things up at school. 

Additional lunch items that you might consider keeping in your pantry lunch station include jerky, freeze-dried fruit, popcorn, energy bars, trail mix, popcorn, whole-grain chips, nuts and seeds, granola bars, fruit leather, and fresh fruit like bananas, apples, or mandarins. 

Back To School Lunch Packing Station

Refrigerator Items for Your Lunch Packing Station

Now let’s talk about some items that you might include inside your refrigerator lunch packing station. 

Deli meat and cheese – The kids can use these to make sandwiches, pair them with crackers, or make a tasty wrap for lunch. 

Drinks – Chocolate milk, water, etc. Make sure your kiddos stay hydrated at school!

Individual containers of dips, hummus, or guacamole – You can purchase or make your own ranch dressing, hummus, and guacamole and then store them in individual dipping cups to dip vegetables or crackers in. 

Washed and Cut Fruits and Vegetables – Pre-wash and cut fruits and vegetables at the beginning of the week and then store them in containers so that they can be used in lunches throughout the week. Red bell peppers, strawberries, kiwi, melons, cucumbers, carrots, and cherry tomatoes are all great for snacking and packing in school lunches.  *Tomatoes are happiest when left on the kitchen counter, don’t keep them in the refrigerator they will lose flavor! But make sure they are a part of your school lunch packing station 😉

Leftovers from dinner – If your kids have a way to heat their food at school, leftovers can be a great healthy option for lunch, and it reduces food waste too. 

Pre-washed salad greens – This gives the kids the option to make a salad, or they can be added to a sandwich or wrap for some extra crunch plus vitamins and minerals. 

Additional items for your refrigerator lunch packing station might include string cheese or individually wrapped cheese, hard-boiled eggs, yogurt cups or pouches, washed grapes, and sugar snap peas. 

Helping kids pack their own lunches for school

Make sure that you refill your lunch box packing stations before the week begins, and again through the week if items begin to run low. You might also consider having a separate snacking station in the pantry and refrigerator. 

This way you won’t have to worry about hungry kids coming home after school and eating all of your lunch box food. Speaking of snacks, need some back to school snack inspiration? Here are 10+ Back To School Snacks your kids will love.

Lunch options for kids

Having the kids pack their lunches before school will take some preparation on your end, but it will save you at least a little time on those busy weekday mornings. It can also reduce the number of complaints that you might hear about what they found in their lunch box or reduce the number of things that come back home with them. Having a lunch box full of healthy food that they got to pick out makes it more likely that they will eat well and can focus on their studies and not what they are going to eat later. 

Want more tips on packing lunches?