Healthy KidsYMCA Child Care

4 brilliant lunch box hacks that make packing school lunches a breeze

01 September 2023 - by Sasha Smith

With updates from Tia Morrison on 09/01/2023

September marks the beginning of a fresh start for kids across the city as they embark on a new school year but for many parents, it’s the return of a task they dread: Preparing school lunches. Crafting a nutritious and delicious lunch — that won’t come home half-eaten — can be a difficult and time-consuming feat. Packing lunch becomes even trickier when you’re dealing with the chaos that comes with getting the kids up and out the door on time. 

To make your life a little easier, we’ve rounded up four time-saving lunch box hacks that make packing school lunches a cinch. 

1. Get a head start

Leaving all your meal-prep duties for the morning is a recipe for disaster. Instead, begin organizing meals and snacks the night before while making dinner.  

Smiling child and parent preparing food in kitchen. Child is assisting parent in cutting zucchini. They are at home.

As you chop veggies for dinner, set aside a few extras to make a healthy finger-food lunch like vegetable skewers or plan your meals with lunch-friendly leftovers in mind. The secret to winning the school lunch game isn’t creating culinary masterpieces on a daily basis; it’s about being practical and efficient with how you make wholesome eats. 

2. Think outside of the lunch box

Has the zero-waste policy at your child’s school got you in a tizzy? Stress not! The bento box will be your lifesaver this year. With its multiple compartments, this upgrade to the traditional lunch box eliminates the need for plastic sandwich bags or storage containers. A bento box is also a great solution for parents with kids who don’t like the different foods on their plate to touch and mix. 

6 years old child packing a lunch box into a backpack. Their parent is in the background.

3. Create your own ice packs

Keeping cold foods cold is extremely important because it helps prevent the growth of bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Health Canada recommends using an ice pack in your child’s lunch box to ensure that perishable foods (such as milk products, egg salads, and cold cuts) stay at an adequately safe level of coldness.  

Children are seen sitting around a table eating their lunch. They are dressed casually and have healthy eating choices on the table in front of them as they talk amongst themselves.

Don’t have an ice pack? You can toss a frozen juice box into their lunch box to keep things chilled. Or, better yet, create a couple DIY ice packs from clean, unused kitchen sponges. 

4. Make fruit appealing

Apple slices are a time-honoured school lunch tradition, but kids often complain about one thing: By lunchtime, the slices have gone brown. Fortunately, there’s an easy hack for such a problem that will, no doubt, come in handy during this year’s lunch box prep routine.  

A child sits at an outdoor picnic table with three other children. They eat a healthy lunch including apples, bananas, and sandwiches.

To prevent a crisp, juicy apple from browning, simply slice it into equal parts and use a rubber band to secure the pieces in place around the fruit’s core. 

Now your kid can reach into their bag and pull out an apple that not only tastes good but looks good, too. Pro tip: For days when you’re short on time, just pack the whole, unsliced apple. 

For information on nutritious lunch ideas to pack for your child, visit  Canada’s Food Guide: Healthy Eating Recommendations 


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