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 / Updated  / Source: TODAY
By Sweet Potato Chronicles
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There’s no point in denying it, the school year is here (or about to be here depending on where you live). And while parents may be breathing a small sigh of relief that their kids are heading back to class, there’s one aspect to the school year that we dread: the school lunch. Which we must pack. Every day. We’re not going to lie, it’s a big job. But there are ways to set yourself up for success and the time to start is now. Ready? Here we go.

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1. Find a spot in your kitchen where all of your lunch-making gear is going to live. This will help to streamline your efforts when you don’t have to open five drawers and cupboards to find everything you need each day. Choose a spot that kids can get to easily. Small kids may not be able to make their own lunch but there’s no reason a ten-year old can’t.

2. Next, do an audit of your current lunch gear. Is last year’s lunch box a shell of its former self? Did the water bottle spend the summer in lost and found? See what kind of shape everything is in and decide what you’ll need to pick up. In an ideal world, you need a lunch box, a thermos, a water bottle and some small ice packs. Below is a list of some of our favorite items.

Bento-box style lunchbox from Pottery BarnPottery Barn

3. You need a solidly built lunch box that is easy for your kid to manage and easy for you (or them!) to clean. For little ones still in the grazing stage, we like a bento box style. This allows you to send a range of options. We love PlanetBox’s Rover and Pottery Barn Kids’ Spencer. Older kids might prefer bigger portions but fewer options, so bags are often better. The Solid Classmate from Land’s End is a roomy, insulated bag with a simple design that your tween won’t feel goofy carrying.

Lunchskins reusable sandwich bagsLunchskins

4. Even if you’ve got a great lunch box, you sometimes want to wrap up a sandwich. We’re big fans of the beautiful, reusable, easy-to-clean envelopes made by Lunchskins. They’re environmentally friendly and so cute you’ll want to borrow them for your own lunch.

Thermos

5. Having a great thermos opens up so many non-sandwich options, like our best friend, the leftover. Thermos makes many shapes and sizes but we like this Food Jar version that a kid or parent could use. It insulates hot or cold food.

Klean Kanteen

6. Water bottles remind kids to stay hydrated in a way the water fountain just doesn’t. You want a strong yet light bottle with a lid that’s simple to open and close. Klean Kanteen’s stainless steel Sport has a BPA-free spout and a wide enough opening to allow for ice so drinks stay cool.

Your kids will love these homemade chicken tenders with sweet and sour sauce

7. Particularly at the start and end of the year when it’s bound to be warm, you’ll want to keep your kid’s lunch cool. You can find lots of cute options out there, but honestly we like this basic Ice Blanket from Rubbermaid. You can cut it down to whatever size you need and it’s slim enough to tuck into any lunch.

8. It’s a nice idea to include napkins in lunch. Every time I get a takeout coffee or snack, I grab a couple of extra napkins and then tuck them into the cutlery drawer at home so they're within reach when I'm packing lunches.