How to Find More Time with Homeschool Lunchboxes

Homeschooling moms need a 30 hour day–don’t you agree? Since that’s never going to happen, we have to find ways to use the 24 hours we already have. One better way to use the time we are allotted is with homeschool lunchboxes.

“But Sherry, packing a lunch seems silly when you’re already parked right next to a kitchen, or even in the kitchen itself.”

I hear you. Traditionally, packing lunches means early morning scrambles to get on a bus to end up in an institution to be rushed through a lunch period to be carried back home and on and on and on. In that sort of setting it makes sense to go to all that trouble.

However, just think about what an interruption lunch is to your homeschool day:

  1. You have to figure out what you will eat (you are usually making this decision while helping with spelling and algebra–how is that efficient?).
  2. You have to fix the lunch (or assign someone to fix it, which means potential attitude, directing, conflict).
  3. You have to get the table set, which means clearing away everything that you are currently working on.
  4. You have to clean up after (more attitude, directing, correcting, and on and on).

When this exercise in futility is finally completed, you will have LOST at least an hour, maybe more.

I was up against this recently. Besides homeschooling, I have the privilege of being transportation for grown children with jobs. While this has an added benefit of helping me connect with the “olders,” it also takes another bite of time out of my day. Too often I have to take off right in the middle of the morning. Adding in a complicated lunch ritual was just too much!

Then I remembered that we had done lunchboxes in the past and decided it was time to try them again. The results were AMAZING!

Here are some of the benefits:

  • I no longer have to scramble to decide what to fix.
  • No more clearing and setting the table–each person can grab a water bottle or sippy cup and be on their way. Since it is warm we can even eat outside.
  • No big clean up because there is no prep and each person is responsible to wash out her own box (littles can be assigned an older “helper” sibling).
  • If someone wants to eat earlier or later (within reason) it is perfectly fine!

“Wait a minute, Sherry, these meals don’t fix themselves!”

Of course not! They are assembled the night before, just during or after dinner, meaning:

  • There is only one prep mess to clean up after, instead of two.
  • You can easily incorporate leftovers to save on waste and help lessen the grocery bill.
  • You can pack lunches for work at the same time.

And, when you rotate the responsibility (don’t forget to include yourself in the roster), no one feels burnt out or runs out of creative ideas.


“How do I get started?”

Well, first of all, you need some containers.

  • If you are just starting out and don’t want to go to any huge expense, consider brown-bagging it for a little while to see if it works for you.
  • Or, you could gather all those little plastic containers you have stuffed in your bottom cupboard and put them to good use.
  • Or, you could get real “official” and buy some new, compartmented containers just for this purpose.

We have used these from Ziploc and they have lasted a long time. I love how the lid snaps tight over each compartment. We also have a few of these “Take Alongs.”


Of course, you’ll need some smaller containers for sauces or little bits that you don’t want mixed in. Silicone cupcake cups are great.

And, if you are concerned about BPA you can find lunch boxes that are free of it for a very nice price (if you really, really don’t like plastic, you can always find boxes that are stainless steel, or wood even!).

Second of all, you need some ingredients.

There are about a kazillion ideas out there on the Net. Some are outrageous! I mean, there are cutters that turn sliced cheese into Mickey Mouse, and on and on. Since you don’t have to worry about impressing other children, or parents, or teachers, you can relax and concentrate on what is nutritious, delicious, and frugal.

Here is my Pinterest board where I have been collecting some ideas:

Prepackaged foods are certainly the most time-saving, but they are also the most expensive and sometimes contain dubious ingredients. On the other hand, preparing everything from scratch defeats the purpose of the exercise: to save time.

I like to travel down the middle of the road. Some things will be more convenient, such as string cheese. Others will be more of the scratch or self-assemble variety, such as fruit that is doled out from a #10 can or cookies baked in my very own oven.

The typical suggestions for lunchbox foods include all cold items, since most children do not have access to a kitchen during lunchtime. We have a clear advantage at home, however, in that we can include items that need to be heated up. This is actually a great way to use up the bits and pieces of leftovers in the fridge instead of letting them turn into science experiments.

Here are some illustrations to explain further:

Hot dog dinner: assemble a hot dog (pre-boiled or grilled from a previous dinner time and frozen) in a bun on a napkin and place in lunch box. Add in a few sides. When it’s lunch time the child can heat the hot dog up, squirt on a condiment or two, and you’re in business!

Hot soup and goodies: For those days when it’s chilly and you need something to warm up your insides, you can put some canned soup on the stove and have lunchboxes filled with things such as garlic bread, some salad, fruit, etc. as sides.

Nachos: You can bulk-buy cheese sauce from Sam’s Club and have it in a separate container that can be heated up and drizzled on corn chips in the lunch box. You can add sides such as salsa, meat, and veggies in the other compartments to create a complete meal.

As an added bonus…

If you struggle with special diet needs, such as gluten sensitivity and food allergies, this could help you in so many ways! It is so easy to personalize these meals by stockpiling the special ingredients and creating a “station” for putting them together. You can also color-code the different lunchboxes so there is no cross-contamination.

It’s so strange to me now. I sit and delve deeply into Genesis, algebra, the life of D.L. Moody, or Archimedes and simple machines and get lost in the fun of learning until I catch myself thinking we should get lunch going…

…but wait! Lunch is already fixed and ready to be eaten. Such a great blessing out of one simple idea.

I hope this gives you more time and less stress!

And if you would like to be blessed even more, make sure and look for the resources included in this week’s email!


29 thoughts on “How to Find More Time with Homeschool Lunchboxes”

  1. I like this idea and have saved many lists on Pinterest for lunches. I find myself resistant to another thing for me to manage. I know boxes lunches need to be considered because i am buying fast food here and there. Thanks for the why and the how to for box lunches

    • I know it looks like one more thing, and it is one more thing at dinner time, but the peace you experience during the day will get you hooked! Seriously, I did the boxes last night in just 15 minutes (our 10yo helped a little). Just try it with pbj’s and brown bags and see if it isn’t just a bit fun and worth the extra effort.

    • That’s a good point! I remember well that feeding the littles would leave me no time for eating myself. I lost so much weight as a young mom–got down to 103 pounds until an older mom told me to keep snacks on hand just for myself. A lunchbox would have helped solved my problem.

  2. We have done this before because of one of your earlier posts and it made the day so much easier for everyone. I think especially for the little ones who still nap. They don’t have to wait for lunch to be made! We have gotten away from it due to 2 kids having food allergies. We will start up again thanks to this post. BTW: the dollar tree is a great place to find fun finger foods for these. Also, if you save the individual pb cups from there, they are great for dips and the like.

  3. Thank you for sharing this! After reading your post, I got some of those containers, and we’ve been doing this for the past week or so. It has saved me so much time!

    • That’s so great to hear, Michelle! It’s amazing how much more smoothly our “table time” goes when we don’t have to worry about meal prep.

  4. Our big boys just finished a week of day camp and on the last day, I went ahead and made lunch for our 4 year-old who would be at home and was thinking, “Why haven’t I thought of this before?!” They eat PB&J nearly everyday and having these ready to go could really simplify (and shorten) our midday break. I’m already making breakfast and working in the kitchen. Plus, if someone is hungry at 11:00, they can eat! Down the road, I can see an older child taking over. Win-win!

    • Absolutely! My daughter (with 4 children of her own) makes her pbj’s in bulk, cuts off the crusts with a special cutter-thingie, and freezes them 🙂 (she then makes the bread crusts into baked French toast).

  5. Loooove this idea and starting next week after I buy a few cheap containers 🙂 Lunch time has long been too crazy around here. And I swear it seems to drag out FOREVER most days! Making a bunch of different things for different people, eating it, packing up what wasn’t eaten and clean up totally wastes half the day-my mom & I both agree this is genius :). ( Sadly she’s seen our ridiculous lunch time over here too many times-ha!)

    • I can really relate! It was so great this evening (our daddy works second shift so we homeschool in the evenings) to know that we didn’t have to interrupt everything to make a meal 🙂

  6. This is EXACTLY what I do when I know we will be spending the day running errands/attending appointments. It began to grate on me how much we were spending on eating out due to having to be out and about when we had a pantry and fridge full of food at home. We aren’t at the point yet where this method would be an at home necessity, but I am definitely keeping it in mind for the future! Thanks!

    • Yes, it’s so great to have this as an option on those “errands” days, Reggie! Certainly beats the plastic hamburgers from McD’s 🙂

  7. I absolutely love this idea, and you make so many good points about how helpful it can be. Do you find it easy to estimate how much food each person will eat? I find that sometimes my children will eat tons, but not every time, and so I worry that I’ll end up scrambling to find more food or wasting a lot. Have you had any trouble with that, or do you have any tips for me?

    • It’s so true, our kids’ appetites can change from day-to-day! All I can think of is to make a moderate amount and have a few extra snacks on hand (such as more cheese sticks, etc.) just in case!

  8. Hallelujah! I have been toying with whether or not I should do this. I’ve had their water bottles ready for the morning before, but have been wanting to have lunch ready. I find as soon as they are finished w breakfast, they are asking for lunch. It’s too much time in the kitchen! I’m not talking cereal either, 3 eggs & toast (min sometimes)! 50% weight growth spurt? ….. That just never ends???? I can not imagine 15! Maybe this way I won’t have to beg, “let’s just get something accomplished first”! . The husband usually gets the left over lunch from dinner. However, I love the frozen PB&J / frenchtoast bake idea!

  9. Why haven’t I thought of this?! It’s my first year homeschooling and this is the best idea! Thank you so much for sharing! Love it!

  10. I’ve tried doing this several times. Mornings are chaotic and I need to do my stretches and there’s always a baby crying or needing my attention. At night we’re always busy and there aren’t always leftovers. When I double the food my kids eat twice as much and say “I’m not even hungry but it’s just so good!” Haha! Anyway I’ve been praying about what to do to make easier days and the Lord told me to take Sherry’s idea of homeschool lunchboxes but make a week’s worth at a time. Whew! I felt instantly calm after that! 🙂


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