Solving Your Back-to-School Lunchbox Challenges

By Jenn Fowler
August 26, 2014

I love packing my kids’ lunches. I can take into account any special dietary needs, have complete control over the nutritional content and save money. However, there can be issues with keeping bread fresh, and making sure cool food stays cool and hot food stays hot. Here are three lunchbox challenges and how to beat them.

Soggy Bread Blues
Sandwiches are a lunchbox classic for a reason: simple to make, easy to eat, relatively neat. But without the right technique, your fillings can leak through your bread, creating a soggy mess. Don’t worry; we can solve this problem.  

1.      Create a barrier between wet fillings and the bread. For peanut butter and jelly, try putting a thin layer of peanut butter on both slices of bread and then sandwiching the jelly in between.   For other sandwiches, use a trick your grandmother probably knew. Butter on both slices of bread will keep the moisture from your “wet” ingredients away from the bread.

2.      Keep ‘em separate! This works well for moist fillings like tuna salad. Just pack two slices of bread and then use a small container for the filling. Your student can combine them at the lunch table to make the perfect “sog-free” sandwich.

Keeping Your Cool
Unless your child eats PB&J every day, you are eventually going to wind up packing something that needs to be kept cool until lunchtime.  Luncheon meat, mayonnaise, cheese, yogurt – all these items are favorites that should be kept cool until it’s time to consume them. Follow these tips, and you won’t have to worry!

1.      Buy an insulated lunch bag. Walmart has tons of different types of lunchboxes available.

2.      Use ice packs. Concerned that your kids won’t bring them home? Try this trick instead! Freeze a juice box or pouch and send that instead. It will keep things cool as it defrosts – then by lunchtime, they can drink it and then toss it out.


Heating Things Up

Like many of you, the only way I can pack a meal that needs to be eaten warm is to send it to school in a thermos. Here are a few things you can do to make sure your child’s food is actually hot when they’re ready to eat it.

1.      Use the best thermos you can. Some of the plastic ones are cute, but nothing beats a good old Thermos wide mouth food jar.

2.      Preheat your thermos by filling it with hot water and closing it. Just the length of time it takes for you to warm up whatever you are putting inside is fine.

3.      Get the food as hot as you possibly can. It’s only going to get cooler from there, so if you start with lukewarm, you’ll wind up with cold by mealtime.

4.      Don’t mix hot and cold – if you are sending lunch in a thermos, leave the items that require an ice block at home that day.

Now you are ready to pack your kids’ lunches like a pro! 

Jenn Fowler is an upstate New York wife, mom, blogger and veteran. She loves to talk about the frugal lifestyle, “Village Homesteading,” living a more sustainable lifestyle and being prepared for all the curves life throws at you.