Real Food Whole Life

How to Pack a Real Food LunchBox: 10 Tips + Printable Grocery List

FamilyRobyn Downs4 Comments

Need some inspiration to make packing lunches easy?

To make the process easier, I'm sharing my go-to tips and tricks for packing a real food lunchbox. Read on for the tips, tricks, and customizable grocery list!

How to Pack a Real Food Lunch Box: 10 Stress-Free Tips + Printable Grocery List


1 | Lunch in Fours

Think about packing a lunch in four groups: veggies, fruits, whole grains, and protein & healthy fats.

Then make sure you pack at least one item from each group and feel free to double up on fruits and veggies.

If you're family doesn't do grains, skip that group and double up on the others. 

2 | Create a Master Grocery List

Sit down with your child and brainstorm his or her favorite foods in each four groups.

Then, create a master list of his or her favorite fruits, veggies, whole grains, and proteins & healthy fats.

Keep and reference the list during grocery shopping trips and while packing lunches. Use the grocery list printable at the bottom of this post as a jumping off point, adding your favorites to the list.



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3 | Stock Up

Use your Master Grocery List to stock up on lunch staples at the grocery store.

Stocking your pantry and fridge with staples will ensure you have food on hand to make lunches quickly and easily.

4 | Grocery Shop Together

Prior to or after writing the Master Grocery List, take your child grocery shopping.

Particularly in the produce aisle, allow your child to pick out his or her favorite fruits and veggies, then add them to the list.


5 | Institute a 30-Minute Lunch Prep

Once a week set aside 30 minutes for lunch prep.

Boil a dozen eggs, chop veggies, and pre-pack pantry items. A small amount of time once a week will save valuable minutes on school and lunch days.

6 | Check your Nut and Seed Policy

Every school and classroom is different when it comes to its nut and seed policy. Check first before packing nuts or nut butters.

Seeds and seed butter like sunflower, pumpkin, and sesame are usually okay, but be sure to check first.

7 | Don’t Be Afraid to Repeat.

When it comes to healthy school lunches don’t feel like you need to pack an entirely unique lunch each day. I certainly don't! 

If you’re creatively challenged in the lunch department, try following the one-week rule.

Help your child select one or two items from each category on the Master Grocery List, then pack those items each day for one week. Repeat the process weekly.


8 | Keep Lunch Items Together

Store lunch ingredients together in the fridge and pantry. When it’s time to pack lunch everything will be in one place so you’ll be able to grab and pack easily.

9 | Pack at Night

Add lunch packing into your evening routine so you don’t forget and run out of time in the morning.

We like to pack right after dinner when the kitchen's still a mess. That way we only have to clean up once.

10| Use the Right Containers

Select containers that your child can open, yet sturdy enough to stay closed in a book bag or backpack. I like metal bento containers, because they keep food separate and provide a visual reminder to pack a variety of foods.

This four section metal bento box is our current favorite for preschool lunches.

I also like these leak proof condiment and dip containers for sauces and hummus, and these larger leak proof stainless steel containers for apple sauce, yogurt, and anything else that might leak.

Once the bento box is packed, I send it to school in an insulated lunchbox, along with a small ice pack to keep everything cool until lunch.

What are your favorite real food lunchbox tips? Please share them below, and don't forget to download your grocery list!

Free Grocery List Printable


Download your Grocery List to inspire and shop for real food lunches!

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