Jan 31 2012

Organized Chaos: Lunch Box Items

I found a great spot for lunch box items in our kitchen!

Since the majority of our family packs a lunch for school and work nearly everyday of the week it is important that the items for packing lunches are accessible as well as our time spent putting them together is used efficiently.  As I was brainstorming the different ways to make the lunch packing task more streamlined for our family I came up with a solution that has been really successful for our family.  I found a perfect location for all the non-perishable lunch box items in our kitchen and before long had a lunch box making system that has worked really well.

Even though these drawers are organized in our kitchen the kids do not get something from each drawer every day. The idea is to keep a small stockpile of items necessary for lunches handy so when I need something to put in their lunch I can get to it easily.  I purchase items for the drawers only when they go on sale so it stays within family’s grocery budget.

The majority of the week they get fresh fruits & vegetables, water bottles, and no dessert.  I do however try to give them one snack item every day in their lunch whether it be a granola bar or pretzels or something similar in their lunches.  Every day I make a lunch I use these drawers for something whether it is to grab a sandwich container, lunch bag, granola bar or another item!

Below are the labels I have for the drawers as well as  pictures to show you what I put in them:

  • Granola Bars / Snacks
  • Sandwich Containers / Bags
  • Cookies / Desserts
  • Fruit Snacks
  • Drinks
  • Miscellaneous Snacks

Granola Bar & Snack Drawer

I put all the sandwich containers and brown bags into the container drawer.  Even the two new ones I picked up fit well, we had the perfect number of sandwich containers for the drawer!

Toy Story brown lunch bags (picked up at the Dollar Tree) are  fun to occasionally use for your kids lunch plus they fit nicely beside the sandwich containers in the drawer.

Sandwich Containers & Bags Drawer

Cookies & Desserts Drawer

Placed the fruit in the drawer (applesauce, raisins, cup of fruit).

Fruit Snack Drawer

Placed lunch box drinks (with exception to their water bottles) in this drawer (Chocolate Milk, Gatorade, Juice Bags, Juice Bottles, etc…).

Drink Drawer

Miscellaneous Snacks Drawer (includes items like pudding or jello cups, teddy grahams, pretzels or other bagged snack item)

The last several months we have been using this system and it has been very beneficial for the entire family.  Plus if the kids want a snack they can grab a granola bar from the drawer instead of digging through the pantry trying to find a snack.  I do try to keep the drawers stocked and rotate (the newer items go in back so the older items get eaten first) the products in the drawers.

My best piece of advice is that you find a system that works well for you, if what you are doing is not going smoothly or you want to find a better way to do it try something different and you may be surprised at how more efficient it is for your family. I already had the items on hand all I did was pick up the two containers on clearance around the beginning of the school year.  I would love to hear your tips on keeping all your lunch box items organized and accessible. 

Share and Enjoy.

Comments

Siobhan @MoneyDearest 07-02-2012, 19:10

What a great idea, easy enough for the kids to go through and pick out one thing from each drawer as well, that way you know they are picking something they will actually eat and not just throw away or giveaway.

amber 08-02-2012, 09:52

I really like this idea. You did a good job!

Emaline 30-03-2012, 12:08

shouldn’t milk be refrigerated? I love you idea. I do something similar with my boyfriend so he takes his lunch to work everyday! :)

Bridgette Hayes 30-03-2012, 14:43

Thanks for your comment Emaline! Thankfully the Chocolate Nesquik Milk we have in the drawers does not need to be refrigerated until it is open so we can store it there until the girls put it in their lunch boxes.

linda 10-04-2012, 07:22

This is so appealing to me. I love how the drawers fit your space. That really elevates a se tof cheap plastic drawers.

Lydia 20-04-2012, 14:06

Love this! Just came across it on Pinterest. Great Idea, thanks!

DIY | Pearltrees 20-04-2012, 14:22

[...] Blessings Multiplied » Blog Archive » Organized Chaos: Lunch Box Items Miscellaneous Snacks Drawer (includes items like pudding or jello cups, teddy grahams, pretzels or other bagged snack item) Drink Drawer The last several months we have been using this system and it has been very beneficial for the entire family. Plus if the kids want a snack they can grab a granola bar from the drawer instead of digging through the pantry trying to find a snack. [...]

Amanda 20-04-2012, 14:44

I love this idea, and I really love your sandwich containers. Where do you find them?

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Amy T. 22-05-2012, 13:33

I really like this idea. Have you tried it with bulk items (that you package individually yourself)? I try not to buy individually sized items because of the cost/waste.

Bridgette Hayes 22-05-2012, 14:16

Yes, Amy that is a great insight. Most of the items I get are very reasonably priced because we have bent-n-dent and clearance stores in our area. I do occasionally buy in bulk and pack items individually for them as well just not with every item. The system can be altered to fit your budget and style. It has been a wonderful system even with house guests because the they can help themselves to a granola bar out of the drawer and a yogurt out of the fridge without having to ask me where items are located. Hope it works well for you too! :)

Robin Poulin 29-05-2012, 09:58

I LOVE this idea. I have 5 girls though which would mean probably more space than that needed to be stocked for a week. My girls are all 10 and under and they make their own lunches so I could see this making the process a lot easier for them. I made up a chart with a list of ideas for different categories what they could possibly have. So a main part and at least 1 fruit/veggie, a water bottle, and 2 or 3 snacks from the different categories they could choose from. I don’t think I have space right now for a drawer system like that but I could probably use containers in my existing cupboards to divide things up like you’ve done. Even having my girls pre-pack crackers in containers to have stuff ready to go. So long as they will take them. I find their tastes change every day so it can be hard to keep up on it.
I like to be frugal and LOVE organizing my space and time so this was a great post for me. Thanks for the post and the images. They were very helpful to really get how you organized it all.

Michelle 29-05-2012, 23:53

What a wonderful idea!! I only have one daughter and she’s four so we’re not going to be using it anytime soon. But I do have two adults who need packed lunches… I might have to do this for them!

Anna 01-06-2012, 00:25

I was just wondering where you picked up those adorable sandwich containers? Thanks!

Bridgette Hayes 01-06-2012, 11:01

The white storage containers were purchased from Walmart. The sandwich containers like the pink one with birds, blue one with a rainbow and a purple one with cupcakes were bought at Dollar Tree (for $1 each). The best time to purchase either the storage containers or sandwich containers is in August / September at the beginning of the school year. I have found if you don’t get the items at Dollar Tree the first time you see them you probably won’t see them again, once they sale out you usually do not see them again until the following year. We have used the sandwich containers every week and they have held up great! I either hand wash them or put them in the top rack of the dishwasher. The plain colored sandwich containers I can’t remember where they were purchased (we’ve had them several years now) but the ones with birds, rainbows, hearts, cupcakes, etc… are all from Dollar Tree. Here are some pictures of the sandwich containers:
Pink Sandwich Container with Birds & Blue Sandwich Container with Rainbow
Orange Sandwich Container & Purple Sandwich Container with Cupcakes
Hot Pink Sandwich Container with Heart & Pink Sandwich Container
Plain Orange & Pink Sandwich Containers with Love Notes to the Kids Written on the container lid

Chaney 02-06-2012, 12:53

This is a great idea… I found sandwich containers last week in the $1 bin at Target.

Jeannie 02-06-2012, 23:53

OMG! I LOVE this idea and plan to start doing this for my kids for the next school year! Do you make the sandwhich’s ahead of time or do they do that? Great idea! Thanks!

Bridgette Hayes 03-06-2012, 01:46

Jeannie,

Thanks for your comment. Most days the girls make their sandwiches and pack their entire lunches the night before. Yes, they make a bigger mess and use more peanut butter when making a sandwich then I would but it is amazing how much they have learned over the past few months. After the lunches are packed we put them in the fridge until breakfast. At breakfast we stick an ice pack in them, zip, and their are ready to go. Sometimes I will make their lunches for them or if I am sending soup I will heat it up in the morning during breakfast but most days they do everything themselves. I will often go behind them and “spot” check to make sure they packed everything which occasionally I will discover something extra or not the correct items in their lunch. One time I found 2 packs of fruit chews in one of the girls lunches which resulted in her not being able to take fruit chews for the rest of the week. After a few times of random checks they for the most part are really good about following the rules. They have to pack one of each category:
1 Protein (Peanut Butter & Jelly, Soup, or Sandwich, etc)
1 Fruit
1 Vegetable
1 Dairy (yogurt or cheese stick)
1 Drink
1 Snack

Whatever they do not finish at lunch they eat as their snack after school. Once they have finished everything in their lunch they are able to have something else to eat. This helps me know that they are getting a balanced diet and cuts back on waste. It works well for our family. If you can do as much as possible the night before (make lunches, lay out clothes, baths, etc…) it makes the mornings go much more smoothly! My suggestion is find a system that works well for you and go with it (its okay to tweak it along the way too).

Bridgette Hayes 03-06-2012, 01:47

Chaney,

That’s awesome, thanks for the heads up! Target’s dollar spot is a great place to look for a lot of goodies! Glad you found some! :)

Lisa Williams 06-06-2012, 13:06

what a fabulous idea!!! I’m always looking for ways to simplify my life and you just added one more way to my list! I will be heading to Target and the Dollar Tree this weekend looking for sandwich containers! Now I have to find a place to put it!! thanks again and I found this on Pinterest by the way!

Bridgette Hayes 06-06-2012, 13:11

Lisa, thanks for your comment. Thrilled to hear these will help simplify your life! :)

Sarah M. 15-06-2012, 13:53

I like this idea a lot. My hubby and I sit down on Sunday evenings after the kids are in bed and pull together all the “dry” stuff for a weeks worth of lunches. We put each day and each childs in their own gallon ziploc bag and keep them in a drawer in the pantry. So, when we are ready to make lunch for school on Wednesday, we can pull the Wednesday bags and put all the stuff in their lunchboxes. All we have to “make” is their sandwiches. We are also able to buy in bulk and seperate everything out into individual portions. We have also dedicated a crisper drawer in the fridge for premade individual veggie bags so we can choose and toss into lunches too. Doing it together on Sunday evenings also gives hubby and I a little time to sit and catch up while we finish up a mindless chore that neither of us really likes to do.

Bridgette Hayes 16-06-2012, 01:11

Sarah,

Thanks for sharing! It sounds like you and your husband have a pretty good system in place! I love that you do it together and spend the time catching up with each other.

Michelle 20-06-2012, 14:33

I love this idea. The other day I was thinking about a similar system except have it in the fridge. My twist on it would be to have a 10 bags items ready for the week in pre-packed bags (in addition to her sandwich) and allow my daughter to choose between the items. The catch is that there are likely to be some highly desired items (fruit snacks) thrown in with the less desirable (like carrot sticks) but by the end of the week, what’s left is left and those are your lunch items for the day. This may help her to begin to make more balanced choices every day on her own. Or..she’ll be eating lots of carrot sticks on Fridays! :-)

Chelsea 26-06-2012, 23:23

I was just wondering, shouldn’t the applesauce, fruit cups and the drinks be refrigerated?

Bridgette Hayes 27-06-2012, 10:51

Chelsea,

Thanks for your question! The applesauce and fruit cups you see in the drawers can be found on the grocery shelves next to the canned fruit and do not need refrigeration until opened (which my kids typically eat the entire fruit or applesauce cup so they rarely make it to the fridge after opening). You can often found them on sale or with a coupon for a great price too. None of the food or drinks stored in the drawers need to be refrigerated prior to opening. Do they taste better cold? – probably and that is why we pack our lunches the night before and stick them in the refrigerator so all we have to do in the morning is add the ice pack and go. If you make homemade applesauce or fruit cups or have items that must be refrigerated then yes they should go in the refrigerator. It’s important to check all products for proper storing. My general rule is – if it is stored at the grocery store on the shelf it goes in the drawer, if it is in the refrigerated section at the grocery store it goes in the fridge, and when in doubt (stores have been known to make mistakes) check the product label.

Lanette 29-06-2012, 01:14

I have a scaled-down version of this as well. I buy the “snack time” items (ie pretzels, chex mix, goldfish crackers) in bulk, then once a week put them in reusable small, one serving glad containers. I also buy items like baby carrots and sugar snap peas in bulk and put them in the refrigerator in small bags. Periodically I also cut up apples into kid friendly small slices and preserve them in small batches as well. (“Fresh Fruit” preservative works great). The non-refrigerated items are located on a lower kitchen shelf with assorted pre-packaged granola bars and fruit snacks, and the refrigerated items are stored towards the front of the top shelf in the fridge-easy for kids to find. I have found this extremely helpful for the ease of packing lunches, but even MORE helpful when the kids are antsy before dinner and need a controlled portion of a healthy snack to tide them over until dinner. Having healthy snacks readily available is a great way to encourage eating healthy without nagging the kids!

busy kids=happy mom 21-08-2012, 21:47

This is awesome! I just added this to the Life Skills for Kids board. I can’t wait to try it! http://pinterest.com/kedesigns/life-skills-for-kids/

Kathy M 23-08-2012, 20:09

Just saw this on Pinterest. I know you won’t believe this but I did this in the 80′s with our 4 children. I was a teacher at the small Christian school that our children attended. Lunches had to be packed every evening, so I came up with this system. I only had a 3 drawer cabinet but included the juice boxes, the fruit, chips, etc. taught the children to make choices and I still did their main sandwich or warm-up. I was just reminding my daughter about this earlier this week when she had to start packing lunches for her daughter. Still love this idea!

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Deann 16-09-2012, 23:55

This is just awesome!!!!

Renee 25-09-2012, 11:41

Found this via Pinterest & love it!!
Could you share what size/brand your drawer unit is? I would like to set up something similar in my pantry for my Preschooler.

Bridgette Hayes 28-09-2012, 21:55

Renee,

Thanks for your comment! I purchased the white storage containers (drawers) at Walmart. The ones pictured above are two separate sets with 3 drawers. Each drawer measures 8″ high x 8″ wide X 13″ deep and one set measures 24 inches high so it fits well in pantries.

Bridgette Hayes 28-09-2012, 21:57

Kathy M,

That’s awesome! I am sure it will be a huge help to your daughter too!

Bridgette Hayes 28-09-2012, 21:58

Lanette,

Sounds like a great system! Having a healthy snack is a huge help with hungry kids around!

Bridgette Hayes 28-09-2012, 22:03

Michelle,

I am sure your daughter will love having choices for her lunch!

J Rossetti 06-10-2012, 11:44

Would love to see the refrigerator version of this…. a grab and go of prepared vege, meats, cheeses etc.

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Jacqueline 12-10-2012, 13:13

I love this found it on pinterest…. I have 5 kids 13 and under who all take packed lunches to school everyday…. I find myself making there lunches in a rush in the mornings. We are moving to a much bigger home in 2 weeks so I plan on putting this system to work at our new house. It will be good for them and give me a lil break :)

I usually pick up everything for all 5 of there lunches in bulk at Sams Club (crackers, cookies, pudding, chips, juices’, etc.) everything except sandwich items for around 100 for the entire month.

Thanks so much for sharing!

Bridgette Hayes 12-10-2012, 17:31

Jacqueline,

Congratulations on your new home! :) Glad that you like the lunch box system our family uses and hope it works well for your family too!

Ketrah Sunkel 02-02-2013, 09:24

I just Love this idea, my little girl is still too small, but I have saved this as something “I Must Do” when she is of age!! I love the idea of her being able to choose in this organized way. I think it will give her a real sense of independence. Thanks Much! :-)

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Amanda Watson 21-08-2013, 10:56

I’m doing this today! I have a 3 drawer cabinet like yours that my 2 boys used in the play room and I am just OUT OF SPACE in the cabinets and counters for fruit, snacks, cereals, etc.. This is going to make the lunch making chore so much easier. BTW – I’ve always bought a big box of cereal like Trix or fruit loops and seperated it out into snack size ziploc bags for my kids when they were smaller and we still do it! They love to eat dry cereal for a snack. As far as the refrigerated items, we designated the bottom shelf for the lunch drinks, sliced fruit, chicken salad, etc… I may even label the refrigerator this year “This shelf for lunch items only!” to keep them from grabbing and going when playing outside. Thanks for the great idea!

Katie 24-08-2013, 09:05

I have something like this but I also portion out snacks from larger bags at the beginning of the week. I also have a container in the fridge with things like cut up carrots, slices of cheese, grapes, and things like that.

Amy 07-02-2014, 08:33

Genius!!!!!!!

Sheena 31-08-2014, 15:02

Thanks for sharing! I love this idea! I decided to do this for my family as well.

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