There are few things your kid can't leave the house without and one of them is lunch. But shoving a ham-and-cheese sandwich and whatever bag of chips you grab into a lunch box isn't exactly ideal ... for either of you. To think outside the box (get it?) when it comes to lunchtime, these five game-changing tricks will make it easy for you to get through the morning rush faster.
1. DIY Freezer Packs
Here's an easy backup to your ice packs, especially if you're packing a lot of lunchboxes or filling a big cooler. The idea is simple: Wet individual sponges, squeeze out excess water, drop them in a sealed baggie and freeze. These packs are less bulky than traditional ones, making them perfect for even the littlest of lunch boxes. Another keep-cool trick: Freeze bottles of water and pack them alongside all your other goodies. The water will thaw by lunchtime and will keep your fresh food cool all morning.
2. Low-Cal, Fruit-Infused Drink Boxes
If you're having a hard time weaning your kid off the sugary stuff, use frozen berries or melons to sweeten water naturally — and keep the drink cool. We love how these reusable juice box containers make this idea even easier.
What you'll need: reusable juice box container, $12, amazon.com
3. Keep Sliced Apples Fresh
Sliced apples in a plastic baggie — even with a squeeze of lemon juice — will only last so long. The moment they turn brown, your kid isn't going anywhere near them. What a waste! Instead, cut the apple into eighths, put the pieces back together and slip a rubber band around the whole thing to everything in place. This keeps the pieces side by side, so less air will get in and, in return, less browning.
What you'll need: thick rubber bands, $5 for 30, amazon.com
4. Grab-and-Go Fridge Stations
This idea gives your kids more independence. Simply place your choice of snacks and sandwiches in a few fridge organizers, label how many of each food to take and all they have to do is open the fridge, grab and go.
5. Fruit Cup-Mason Jar Snack Packs
Tell your kid not to throw away that fruit cup she had today ... it's going to come in handy for tomorrow's lunch. Buy some small, wide-mouth Mason jars and fill them with crackers or veggie sticks. Then fill the recycled cup with dip or cheese and add your dippers to the Mason jar — combine the two pieces via the lid and you've made yourself a "Masonable" (a.k.a. a Mason jar Lunchable!).
What you'll need: wide-mouth Mason jars, $6 for 4, amazon.com; used (but cleaned!) fruit cup containers
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