2018 Update: We still stand by this advice on working moms and kids lunches — but you may also want to check out our more recent roundup of tips for packing school lunches.
Whether you’re packing a daycare lunch, a school lunch, or your own lunch in the post-baby-budget world, having kids introduces many of us to a new competitive sport: lunches. I kid — but only a bit. It seems like there’s suddenly pressure to pack the healthiest, non-chokiest, variety-filled, visually appealing lunch box — with as little waste as possible, of COURSE. How much do you feel the pressure (am I alone here, ladies?), how do you save time, and what are your favorite products for lunch boxes (either in terms of foods or packing supplies), and your favorite sources for finding out about new products and foods?
For my $.02, we loved the Thinkbaby bento boxes when we were packing J’ daycare boxes. I bought a ton of silicone cupcake liners, which I liked at the time because they were colorful, durable, dishwasher safe, and microwave safe — I could nuke the frozen peas, carrots, or broccoli in the little cup, drain it, and pack it. We packed a TON of sliced grilled cheese sandwiches for poor Jack at the time — I suspect we overdid it because he doesn’t eat them at all anymore. I bought a few proper bento supplies from All Things for Sale (inspired by this post on HelloBee), but to be honest rarely use them. I try to only go grocery shopping once every ten days or so, so frozen veggies and dried fruits have always been key for us! (I’ll be honest, he also eats a ton of Annie’s bunny snacks, granola bars, and so forth.) Beyond purchasing the supplies, I’ve usually outsourced most of the actual making of the lunches to my husband.
Ladies, what are your thoughts — how do you balance the desire to pack the “perfect” lunch with the time/energy required for making it? What supplies or packaged foods are your favorite? Any great tips to share (for keeping things hot, cold, or the like)?