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Organizing School Lunches, Snacks and More (Back to School)

This week's back-to-school challenge is Meal Prep! If you missed our first week of the back-to-school series, read my last blog post to get all the info on Getting Your Kids' Clothing Organized. We also have a free back-to-school checklist you can download.


Life looks so different when kids are at school for the majority of the day. Having systems in place to help them eat a healthy breakfast and after-school snack and then independently prep a healthy lunch makes such a difference in both a parent's and a kid's day. Resetting an entire pantry can be a big undertaking if you have never done it before. If you haven't tackled your pantry organization yet, don't worry. Just focus on the areas of the pantry that affect your morning and after-school routines. Here are the 3 zones that should be looked at for a reset. As you analyze each space, keep your list handy for groceries - as well as baskets or bins that might help you better create zones.


Pantry Organization Organizing School Lunches Snacks Water Bottle Organization Kids Back To School Meal Prep


Creating a Breakfast Zone

There are so many systems that work for different people. Decide now what yours will be.

  • Do you want to have breakfast at a set time? Set a daily reminder and make it happen.

  • Do you want to make breakfast for your family each morning? Plan ahead with meal planning and schedule prep time into your morning routine.

  • Do you want your kids to independently prep their own breakfast? Talk with them about what they want to learn how to make and teach them. Have them give their feedback on your shopping list.

  • Are mornings super fast-paced and do you need the quickest approach? Plan quick meals (cold cereal, frozen waffles, yogurt and granola, toast, hard-boiled eggs, etc.) and organize zones in your freezer, fridge, and pantry so it is easy to grab what you need.


Pantry Organization Cereal Storage OXO Containers Organizing School Lunches Snacks Kids Back to School Meal Prep


This is an area where a little bit of planning and structure will save so much decision-making time and create healthier and happier mornings.


Pantry Organization Snack Zone Organizing Kids School Lunches Snacks Back to School Meal Prep


Snack Zone

I have found that having a snack drawer with easy-to-grab, healthy options makes a huge difference for my kids. We are usually running around from the second they get home from school, so grabbing a quick snack is super nice and convenient. I love having them in a drawer when possible because it is separate from the pantry. My kids know the snack drawer is only for lunch prep and after-school on-the-go situations. Wherever you end up putting it…creating a snack zone in your pantry, a drawer, or a cabinet will help your kids know what items are acceptable for after-school grabbing as well as lunch making. See this before and after we did on Shea McGee's snack drawer!


Pantry Organization Snack Zone Organizing Kids School Lunches Snacks Back to School Before


Pantry Organization Snack Drawer Zone Organizing Kids School Lunches Snacks Back to School After


Lunch Packing Zone

Plan healthy options kids will eat and place all meal prep items close to each other. I keep thermoses, paper bags, napkins, Ziploc baggies, little jokes and notes I like to sneak in their lunches, etc. all in one spot. If they use a reusable lunch bag, I like to have a lunchbox cleaning zone.


To help kids prep their own lunches, I like to teach my kids the elements of a healthy lunch. Whether it is baskets in the pantry or fridge with a label explaining how many of each item they can pack, a list reminding them of what constitutes a healthy lunch, or pre-packing our lunches together at the beginning of the week, there are many easy ways to help kids take ownership of prepping healthy lunches on their own.


Lunch Packing Tips Organizing School Lunches Snacks Kids Back To School


Separate by:

Proteins: Choose 1

Fruits and Vegetables: Choose 2

Dairy: Choose 1


Establish systems with your kids that will work for your family. Will it work best to make their lunch for the next day right when they get home from school and empty their lunch bag? Is right before bed a better time to prep for the following day? Will your kids be more successful if you prep for an entire week on Sunday by putting veggies and fruit in baggies and freezing PB&J sandwiches? Try to find a system that will work for your schedules and food preferences and make your space work for you.


Pantry Organization Snack Zone Organizing Kids School Lunches Snacks Back to School OXO Containers


Once you have reset these three zones and your grocery shopping list is full, plan your family feast for Sunday as well. We like to get Martinelli's and toast to the new school year. We also have a tradition of making fondue. Whatever it is, get that grocery order made and plan your trip to Costco or anywhere else you need to go.


Here are some of my favorite things I use to organize the food zones in my kitchen:


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Jen is the founder of Reset Your Nest, a Professional Home Organizing business in Utah (Salt Lake City, Park City, Ogden, Logan, Utah County, and St. George), California (Bay Area, Los Gatos, Hillsborough, Atherton, San Jose), Denver, CO, and Phoenix, AZ. She loves creating order and systems out of chaos. Her specialty is finding a way to continue the aesthetic of any home to every cupboard and drawer. She shares her tips and tricks on Instagram @reset_your_nest.


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