Life Hack: Make Ahead Lunches

I am all about anything that helps the daily routine more efficient. In the evenings, just before bed, I cycle through my appointments for the following day. I make sure my tote is packed with the essentials (notebooks, chargers, laptop, iPad, mid-morning snack, late morning snack, and water bottles). If I’ve got errands to run, like to the library or the post office or Target, I put those bags in the back of the car. I lay out my clothes. I pull out the non perishables so they are ready to go for breakfast when I come down. I derive a great sense of satisfaction from starting the next day already ahead of the game.

Can’t say the same thing about the girls.

Try as I might, they just can’t seem to wrap their minds around the concept of knocking out as much as you can before you call it a night. I’m not asking them to fulfill some Herculean task here. I’m asking for them to lay out their clothes for the next day so that we don’t waste precious morning minutes debating about what to wear, or wondering where something is, or (God forbid) whether or not something has already been worn thereby eliminating it from the rotation (Middle school daughter, I’m looking at you). My kingdom for a uniform.

The latest attempts at doing a little bit in advance have focused on lunch prep. The girls’ school does not have a cafeteria, but they do offer hot much options that you can order in advance. I did some fast math (well, it was more like eyeballing the bottom line) and realized the hot lunch option wasn’t the best plan for us. That’s a shame, too, because that means I’m making lunches.

annoyed, get your head right, nene leakes, prepare yourself

Me, getting ready to make lunches.

I know, I know. The girls are old enough to make their own lunches. We’ve tried that. Unsuccessfully. One was having a carbohydrate lovers special — chips, goldfish, peanut butter and nutella on white bread, and cookies for dessert. One was having a junk food lovers special — potato chips, tortilla chips, two different types of cookies, and two different types of popcorn. The last one, I have to believe she misunderstood the directions because her lunch box held a Hot Wheels, two Lego Friends, Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth from Halloween, and a rock.

So, I say all that to say, I make the lunches. Why it hasn’t occurred to me to prep their lunches while I do meal prep for myself is beyond me. This past weekend, however, my brain kicked on and said, “You know what would be a good idea? Sort out the lunch situation now!”

I took armfuls of supplies from the pantry to the counter tops. I had different sized baggies, I have peanut butter and almond butter. I had rice cakes, crackers, chips, and granola bars. I had cookies, apple sauce squeezers, and mandarin oranges in juice. Two loaves of bread sat beside jars of strawberry and grape jelly. I rolled up my sleeves and got down to work.

First things first: the kindergartener has to take a snack in a separate baggie every day. I whipped out five, quart sized bags, put her name and the date on them. I dropped an applesauce pouch in each and then dropped a snack sized baggie of popcorn in after it. I dug a mixing bowl from under the counter to use as my holding station and dumped the packets in.

Next, the kindergartener only eats PBJ. The middle schooler tells me that she only eats PBJ after I’d already made a turkey sandwich. The 4th grader has a delicate stomach (i.e. finicky), so salami and crackers it is. I make five PBJs and cut them in half, bag them up, and put them in another mixing bowl.

I make five salami and cracker packets and dump those into the mixing bowl as well. Into the fridge it goes. I grab the first bowl with the applesauce packets in it and dump in enough salty and sweet snacks for each kid for every day of the week. I take out three water bottles and line them up on the countertop where, in the morning, I will deposit the lunch bags.

Sunday night, I go to bed a little anxious and a little hopeful. Monday afternoon will be the real test of my plan.

Mondays are long days for us. Aside from just the punishment that comes with it being Monday, the girls have got school, field hockey practice, and tennis practice. I’ve got the post week-end clean up that includes laundry sorting, sheet changing, grocery listing, and meal prep. Oh, and I’ve got my own work in there, too. More often than not, mid morning Monday finds me making my lunch and the family dinner at the same time. Needless to say, Monday’s are a long haul. By the time we get home, everyone is well past hangry. This is when having that dinner on deck comes in handy.

The girls come in, books and papers, jackets and sports gear in their wake, clutching their tummies, they’re so hungry. Did I mention that I keep a Costco sized container of snacks and juice boxes in the car so that we avoid starvation? But, I digress. As I’m dishing up plates, I’m having them empty their backpacks and wash their hands.

While they belly up to the table, I pull out my mixing bowls of lunchtime goodness. In the time it takes them to bless the food, their lunches are made and in the fridge, ready for the next day.

Oh, snap! It worked!

 praise,yes, amen, thank you lord

I was like a cross between Oprah and Keebler Elf, dropping lunchtime treat bombs into the open mouths of their lunch bags. “You get a pack of E.L. Fudgesticks! You get a pack of E.L. Fudgesticks! You get a pack of E.L. Fudgesticks! You all get a pack of E.L. Fudgesticks!!”

Truth be told, I’d rather not spend an hour or so on a Sunday afternoon surrounded by sandwich bags and lunch trappings, but if that means not having to do it all Monday through Friday, sign me up.

What tricks help make the weekly routine move smoothly?

Tell me about it in the comments!

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Originally published at Hilary With One L.