Getting organized for school lunch and snack time.

I'm surprised at how many kids are already back to school!  When I was growing up school always started after Labor Day, but it seems that many parts of the country start a lot earlier now.  I'm very happy that our school district still follows the after Labor Day schedule - I'm not ready for summer to be over just yet!  But, we only have two weeks left, so I do need to start getting ready.  So, this morning's project, while two are at camp and two are playing with their brother's toys: organizing my snack and lunch supplies, which have gotten a little out of hand during the summer. My kitchen is small and I have very limited storage space.  So I have to make the most of the space I've got.  I try to really think through what I need most often, and prioritize what gets the prime real estate in the kitchen. We have created more food & kitchen supply storage space in our basement and in our garage, I'll try to write a post about that some day, but I try to keep the things I need on a daily basis handy in the kitchen.


In my one pantry cabinet, I have two snack drawers for the kids down at a level that they can reach (actually, they are pull out shelves that I put a plastic bin on), that I try to keep filled with (mostly) healthy snacks that the kids are allowed to help themselves to. This also makes it easy for me to grab things as I'm filling lunch boxes or if we're headed out for an afternoon.  One drawer has nuts, dried fruits, cereals, granola. The other has crackers, seaweed snacks, apple sauce, granola bars, sometimes a few cookies, etc.  I do try to use re-usable containers a lot, but sometimes with snacks using plastic bags just makes my life a lot easier.  So, there is balance to be found - sometimes I have to prioritize what I need to do to get through the day, and with that in mind, little plastic snack bags are a very handy invention.  In both drawers I try to keep some containers or bags with single servings of things - a cup or so of cheerios or other cereal, mixed nuts and dried fruit, a few cookies, etc.


Up at my level I have a drawer with all of my lunch packing containers.  We use mostly these Easy Lunchboxes containers, I've tried quite a few different reusable lunch containers and these work the best for us.  I love the size, with something in each section it makes for just the right amount of lunch.  And I love having the three sections - it serves as a good reminder for me to make sure that I give them a protein, a fruit and/or vegetable, and a carb.  I love that the set of 4 come with 4 colors of lids, so each of my kids has their own color. And I love that they are very easy for the kids to open and close.  I keep two sets, so 8 total, so I can always have a clean set (although I've somehow lost one container, so I need to get some more).   I also have a few of the Glad containers that are similar size and shape, but these are used mostly for my lunch when we go out, as they are not as easy for the kids to open, and not as sturdy (but, they contain liquids, which the Easy Lunchboxes do not).  I've tried some other systems that are several small containers that all fit into a box, and I realized that having all those separate containers to keep together and wash is too much work.  I love that our containers are simple - 1 container, 1 lid.

Also in my drawer - a few different shapes & sizes of silicone baking cups.  These make great little dividers in the lunch containers, for days when I want to do something like a homemade lunchable, these containers help keep all the little things separate.   I also have a couple different kinds of little sauce cups, some are disposable, some are re-usable, which I have found in the container aisles of either Target or my local grocery store.  There is a set of little re-usable sauce bottles, for when I send some soy sauce or salad dressing, and some mini spoons and forks - all also from the aisle at Target with the containers and picnic supplies.  We have a couple of fabric lunch bags that also have some fabric sandwich wrappers and snack bags, these were given to the kids as a gift a few years ago and we use them more for picnics or when we're just taking a smaller snack, but I generally don't send them to school.  There are a few re-usable squeezie containers, for sending homemade applesauce or yogurt or smoothies.  These are the ones pictured, but here is a link to the brand I prefer, although all of ours have gotten lost and I need to get more.   Finally - there are some thermos containers, like these, and these.  I don't send soup to school, my kids are just too messy with it still. But I use these a lot for sending leftover pasta, or rice and beans, or warm oatmeal.


So there you have it, a first pass at showing you some of my organization.  I'll try to do a few more posts like these in the coming weeks, so you can see more of how I organize.