Tips and Tricks For Packing School Lunches
By Emily Ip
Now that we are a couple months into the school year, I’m sure the morning frenzy of rushing out the door for school is back in motion. Allocating time to pack a lunch can seem like a chore, but I believe in the importance of packing a nourishing, delicious bite to eat to help carry you through the school day. The extra time you spend packing a nice lunch could potentially boost your mood and energy levels. But of course, who has the time? Keep reading for some tried and true tips on saving time during the food prep process.
1) Meal prep...in a way that works for you
Cooking a week’s worth of meals in one day can certainly be a daunting task. However, meal prepping doesn’t have to mean pulling out copious amounts of containers and giant pots. This process can be as simple as washing extra fruits and vegetables for the next few days, pre-chopping carrot sticks, apple slices, etc.
2) Prevent browning
As mentioned above, pre-cutting your produce may allow you to gain back a few precious minutes on those weekday mornings. Unfortunately, some produce - like apples and avocados - love to brown and ruin your prep work. Not to worry — there is a solution for this!
← apple slices after 1 week in the fridge
Slice up an apple and set aside. Pour about 1 cup of cold water into a bowl or wide pitcher.
Dissolve ¼ teaspoon of salt in the water (it’s a very small amount - you won’t taste any of the salt)
Place your apple slices into the bowl of salt water and let them sit for 5 minutes.
Once the time is up, drain your apples - don’t rinse them - and place the fruit slices in a container. Shake off excess water as needed.
Place the container of apple slices in the refrigerator and eat whenever you’d like. They’ll last for about a week. Throw an extra container in your backpack for after school sports or activities!
*If you’re cutting up more than one apple, simply double the water and salt measurements.
Slice up your desired amount of avocado the day-of, and squeeze lemon or lime juice on top. Before the avocado has a chance to oxidize, place it in your container or on top of your food and close the lid right away.
Place any extras (unsliced) in an airtight container with the avocado pit in-place. This will stay fresh for around 2-3 days.
3) Pre-cooking pasta:
This may seem a bit obvious, but a couple servings of pre-cooked pasta in the fridge can really go a long way. Pasta salads are an easy, quick lunch idea that stays fresh in the refrigerator for about a week. But if you’re not into cold pasta, it can take as little as 5 minutes to heat up some jarred pasta sauce and toss in your pre-cooked pasta. Next time you have pasta for dinner, consider cooking a couple extra servings and popping it into the fridge once it’s cooled.
4) Breakfast for snack...or lunch:
Whenever you feel like making breakfast, cook up some extra waffles, pancakes, french toast, or whatever you like, and cool the extras on a wire rack. Alternatively, you can place them on a baking sheet in the oven and pop the oven door open. Once your breakfast has cooled, place them in freezer safe bags/containers, and pop them in the freezer where they’ll stay fresh for a few months. If you ever find yourself with extra bread or muffins about to go stale, you can also pop them in the freezer. Pull your food straight from the freezer and reheat at 325°F - 350°F for about 5-15 minutes (depending on your oven, and which item you’re reheating). I often don’t have time to eat breakfast before school, but I do have time to heat a slice of banana bread in the toaster oven and eat it during brunch at school. For an even quicker breakfast, you can always reheat in the microwave.
Here are some of my favorite freezer-friendly breakfast recipes:
P.S. Since the plastic bags are already clear, the reason behind labeling them is to reuse the bags for another batch of breakfast items.
5) Pre-made salads:
Buying pre-packaged salads is a great, fast option, but isn’t always the most cost-effective. A whole head of lettuce at a farmer's market or at a grocery store usually costs around $2-$3 and will yield many more salads. In an effort to combat the tedious process of washing and drying lettuce, you can do a larger batch at one time and place the leaves in a bag, leaving the top unzipped. I find that romaine has the longest shelf life, but leaving some air for the lettuce helps prevent wilting. Once you’ve taken the time to wash and dry the veggies, you’ve got a blank canvas to pair the lettuce with whatever you’d like.
Side note: if your dressing is leaking, try placing it in a container inside the bigger salad container. This way, if the dressing does leak, it’ll flow onto your food anyways.
I hope you find some of these tips helpful. Thanks for reading along — happy lunch packing !