Organizing a Lunch Station for Easy Meal Prepration

Last March I started packing a lunch daily for myself, Cady, and David. By April I knew that I needed to come up with a plan to make the process easier. Let me tell you something, if you’ve never packed three lunches while trying to get everyone dressed and out the door in the morning, it isn’t easy. I decided to organize a “lunch station” to make meal prep easier and speed up my morning routine.

My kitchen cabinet was completely disorganized, which was slowing me down. Every morning I had to dig through this to find containers for our food:

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No fun. Plus, all of the other supplies I needed were spread out between the pantry and other cabinets. I decided to reorganize my cabinets so that all of the things I needed to prepare lunch were in one spot. Thus the lunch station was born.

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The first thing I did was take everything out of that messy cabinet. I threw away the bowls with no lids and the lids with no bowls. The small containers that could be used for lunch items were placed in an upper cabinet next to where I prepare lunches. Everything else traded places with my baking pans in a new, smaller cabinet where they are less likely to fall over and spread out.

Also in my “lunch station”, I added thermoses for hot food days, and I moved the sandwich bags from the pantry to the cabinet. In addition to those supplies, I keep a small grater for cheese and eggs, a cutting board for slicing fruits, tortilla roll-ups, and sandwiches, and a food scale. Lunch kits are returned to the counter when we get home so that they are easy to find in the mornings.

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In the pantry, I keep all of the lunch items like bread, pretzels, crackers, fruit cups, etc. on one shelf. I walk in once, grab everything I need, and take it back to the counter to work. I do the same thing with cold items that are stored in the refrigerator. All drinks are kept in the outside frig.

Another thing I noticed when I started preparing daily lunches for all of us was the number of storage bags and other disposable items that were being thrown in the garbage every day (or making their way home for me to toss). I’m not terribly environmentally friendly, but even I was offended by the waste.

I purchased a set of Easy Lunchboxes (affiliate link) for Cady to use. I really like them, but they are not spill proof, and sometimes I pack something that leaks. This year I also ordered a couple of these Laptop Lunches bento boxes (affiliate link).

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I like that they come in a container that can be pre-packed the night before and placed in the refrigerator. The next morning I just have to slide it into their lunch kits and add an ice pack. If you decide to purchase either of these, I recommend that you verify the measurements for the lunch kits you are using. Last year, the fit for the Easy Lunchboxes was a little snug for the lunch kit Cady used.

The mad rush of busy back to school mornings will be on us soon. This year I will be packing four lunches. I’m going to try to do some meal preparation at night, but in the past I haven’t been great with keeping up with that. I’m thankful I came up with this idea for a lunch station last year and have had a chance to put it into use and even make some improvements. I know it preparing a healthy lunch will be a lot easier than when I started in March.

Do you pack lunches for your family? What ideas have you put in place to make the process easier? Any other time saving back to school tips you can offer would also be appreciated.

Comments

  1. My biggest problem is finding the right size easy open bento box to fit into the lunch box. I get so paranoid, my son’s class has to leave their lunch outside all day on a hook. I think that is plain silly. My paranoid mom self imagines evil fifth graders doing yucky things to my poor little guys lunch!
    Pam recently posted…Back to School- Mom’s Family DinerMy Profile

  2. I’m jealous of your lunch station.

    … before becoming a Mom and a homeowner, I never thought those words would come out of my mouth.
    Laura recently posted…My Next BIG ThingMy Profile

  3. I love it, Jennifer! I got a bit more organized last year – but this is even better.
    I love that idea of putting the Thermos, the storage bags and containers all together. My container cupboard looks like your before picture. I rally have to organize before school starts in a couple of weeks – thank you for the inspiration. :)
    Kim recently posted…Slipping AwayMy Profile

  4. This is actually a great idea. I might need to reorganize my kitchen so I have a little lunch station.
    Roxanne recently posted…Dancing robotsMy Profile

  5. Jennifer,
    What’s been a life saver for me is making things ahead and putting them in the freezer for the kids to grab. This would also work with your lunch station/packing. Every few weeks, grab an extra loaf of bread and use the entire loaf to make PB&J sandwiches. Wrap each one in a baggie or saran wrap and use a few large ziplocs to store them in for extra protection. Put them in the freezer and then each morning, pull one out for each lunch and by lunch time they will be thawed. I also make Ham & Cheese Hot Pockets and Egg, sausage, and potato breakfast tacos.

    I think your cabinet/lunch station looks amazing!

  6. I use the same container for G’s lunch sack every day, I just wash it every night before-hand and I use those little silicone cupcake liners for his lunch too. For B I use too many baggies but he’s weird about containers. I know, strange. I also use the same container for K’s but she only takes lunch twice a week.

    Your lunch station looks great! I am IMPRESSED!
    Elaine A. recently posted…School DaysMy Profile

  7. I love this, Jennifer!
    I don’t have to pack lunches yet. But….
    I might set up a baking station – all my baking stuff is all over the place.
    Alison recently posted…Old School Blogging: The Fridge Edition aka ACK!My Profile

  8. Your lunch station is impressive. This gives me so many good ideas about functional organization and potential stations we could create.

    Could someone else take over the task in the evening? Or could you begin to do it as a team? I know sometimes that’s not feasible, but Cady is a super like E&M. With a couple of weeks of training, shouldn’t you be able to sit at the counter and supervise while she does the legwork and learns to love feeding others?
    Maggie S. recently posted…Excuse Me, Can I Get Another Drag on that ScriptMy Profile

  9. Great tips! I love the easy lunch boxes. They have a tip on their site that if you place Saran wrap over it and then out the lid on, it won’t leak. Never tried it though.
    Leigh Ann recently posted…Embrace itMy Profile

  10. It makes so much sense!! This will be great when I have kids, or those days I’m watching my nieces and nephews (I have several!). Love it.
    Bailey K. recently posted…A TINY PEEK INTO BAVARIA, GERMANYMy Profile

  11. I totally squeed and had giggles at how lovely this is. I LOVE ORGANIZATION!!! Pinned the mother out of this one too!
    Katie Sluiter recently posted…being forwardMy Profile

  12. I do something similar, but only because I organized the container cabinet one time a while ago, and it’s miraculously pretty much stayed that way. Again, not as neat, though!
    Greta recently posted…Album Review: Court Yard Hounds #CYHAmelitaMy Profile

  13. This is awesome! My kids started packing their lunches last year as I’m just so over it…so our lunch making area is a pit because I just cannot deal with it. lol
    tracy recently posted…Ode To The Little Toilet Paper PiecesMy Profile

  14. This is a great idea. My daughter is starting school after Labor Day and lunch station is going to be perfect for helping us get her lunch packed quickly.
    K. Elizabeth recently posted…Thankful ThursdayMy Profile

  15. I love this idea but haven’t quite got enough children at school to warrant it yet. However, I’ve been doing packed lunches for my eldest for a year now and finally decided to make it easier for myself by creating a ziplock bag for each day of the week (with it clearly written on the front) which I reuse. I pack them on sunday night with a drink, yoghurt, fruit and veg etc and put them in the fridge so the only thing I have to add is a frozen sandwich (I make ham and cheese ones and keep them in the freezer. I like to think they also contribute to keeping his lunch cool for longer!). It also means I can vary his lunch because I can see in advance what he’s getting. It does tend to mean fruit is often dried towards the end of the week rather than a fresh apple but raisins or a fruit bar work for him. I also make cucumber/carrot sticks in advance in little containers and add a bit of water to keep them fresh. I just have to remember to tip that out otherwise he ends up with a slightly wet lunch bag…

    • This has made my life SO much easier this week since we’ve started back to school. I really recommend it for anyone that is preparing lunches. I’m always afraid to do sandwiches ahead of time. I have no idea why.
      Jennifer recently posted…The First Day of SchoolMy Profile

  16. I don’t have the space right by the counter, so all containers, baggies, and such go in a small see through tote on the top shelf of the pantry. All I need to do is pull it down and have everything at my finger tips. To keep my cherubs from eating everything set aside for lunches I also have a similar container in the fridge.

  17. Hi Jennifer!
    I found this on Bon Bon Break, would love to have you take a look at my website and let me know what you think! (Not about the website, but the product!) My kids are now 16-21, and all work at the restaurant now, but it was born out of the same frustration of trying to get meals together. I’d love to talk to some of you Moms about this. Thanks, Marj

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