Hey mamas! Lauren here. I'm excited to share a quick "mom tip" with you today, highlighting how I utilize a few hours on Sunday (and a clever lunch box product) to save time during busy weeknights.
Being a working mom, my 3 kiddos go to school during the week. My oldest is in preschool while the twins are in a nursery daycare program at the same school. Home-packed lunches are required which means I need to come up with 3 lunches per day, times 5 days a week. That's 15 lunches I'm packing on a weekly basis!
In an effort to minimize the time commitment and stress of packing lunches every morning (or evening before), I began applying meal-prepping strategies to my lunch packing routine. On Sundays I take time to grocery shop for the week (this includes ingredients for 4 dinners for weeknights and enough ingredients for the 15 lunches).
As soon as I get home I begin prepping both lunches our weeknight meals. I start by chopping any veggies and divide them among Tupperware containers or plastic baggies. We do a lot of sheet-pan meals or one-pot recipes during the week so the clean up is light. I love prepping on Sundays because it makes it super easy to just spread my pre-cut veggies on a baking sheet, add a protein (chicken, steak or fish), and pop it in the oven for 30-40 minutes. Plus, while the meal bakes it gives me the freedom to spend some quality time with my kids.
Getting back to lunch prep... As I chop veggies and prep our meals for the week, I also pack the first 3 days of lunches. In my mind 3 days in advance is the longest food will stay fresh and tasty. I'm sure there are exceptions but for the foods I pack I've set my max at 3 days. In order to pre-pack 9 lunches without taking up a ton of room in our fridge, I use the Yumbox lunch boxes and tray inserts.
It may start to sound like this is a sponsored post but I promise you it's not. I found Yumbox through an extensive Google search. To date our family has used fabric lunch boxes (the pricey ones from Pottery Barn) and ruined every single one of them. Without fail each lunch box would get liquids or food spilled inside causing stains and a foul smell. After more than one lunchbox bit the dust I decided I'd had enough. I searched high and low for a plastic or hard-shell lunch box that could be fully cleaned in the dishwasher.
Enter Yumbox. They offer a compact plastic (BPA and Phthalate free!) lunch box with an inner removable tray. Yumbox comes in a few different models, each with a uniqely designed inner tray. I opted for the "original" model with a 6-compartment tray. The 6 tray compartments include cute pictures and categories for food packing options. I adore this feature because it helps me plan a well balanced meal without putting much thought into it.
Here's what's in my kids' standard Yumbox lunch:
- Dairy – yogurt tube or cheese stick
- Protein – lunch meat, sausage, or tofu
- Grains – sandwich, pasta, or crackers
- Vegetables – mix of fresh veggies (think carrots, peppers, cucumber) or roasted veggies
- Fruit – berries, melon, or banana
- Dip – guacamole or hummus
Most of these items require little prep (like the cheese stick, fruit, veggies and dips) while the remaining may take some advanced planning. If I plan to offer pasta as the grain, I will cook the pasta on Sunday as I prep and distribute it evenly among the lunch boxes after it's cooled. My pastas are pretty simple and consist of cooked pasta tossed with olive oil, sea salt and a little parmesan cheese. If I plan to pack roasted veggies, I'll do the same and roast them ahead of time on Sunday.
All in all I spend about 1-2 hours prepping, cooking and packing lunches on Sunday. It may seem like a drag to do this on your last day of the weekend, but I find it to be so helpful and time-saving during the week that I actually look forward to it.
Now I bet you're thinking, "there's no way I'm buying a Yumbox for every day of the week just so I can save some time on weeknights!". You're so right, and I didn't either. I have 3 Yumbox hard cases (one for each of my kids) and 9 tray inserts (3 per child). Yes, this is still an investment but one that I find to be completely worth it. I prep lunches inside the trays, then store them in the fridge until the day they're used. To keep the food fresh, I use a layer of plastic wrap between each tray. At the end of each school day, I wash out the hard case, pop the tray insert in the dishwasher and let the hard case air dry to be used the next morning. At the end of the week I wash all hard cases in the dishwasher to keep them looking and smelling great.
Now getting back to the prep... the 3 days of pre-packed lunches gets me through Wednesday. On Wednesday evening after my cuties are in bed, I follow the same steps as Sunday night (though spending much less time) and prep the remaining two days of lunches. This time I tend to fill their Yumboxes with leftovers from dinner or even frozen chicken nuggets if we're getting to the last of our groceries. The kids love them and I think eating frozen nuggets once a week is perfectly fine! We can't expect to plan a home-cooked meal ALL the time 😉
For fun I decided to film a quick pic-video to highlight the Yumbox (seriously love them!) and how it fits inside ToteSavvy's exterior velcro pocket while transporting to school. So convenient!
What do you think mamas?! Will Yumbox and my lunch-packing-hack save you some time? I sure hope so! 😀