Video: How I Set Up for School Lunch (and Breakfast)!

I am excited to invite you into my kitchen with our first ever professionally made video, or “vlog” as some call it! There was just no better way to show you how we set up for school lunch around here to ensure school mornings go as smoothly as possible. So enjoy (and be sure to check out the video notes just below).

P.S. In the video you’ll also get a sneak peak of our new logo coming soon!

How I Set Up for School Lunches

Planning ahead is key!

The Night Before…

  • Pack lunches: For loads of ideas check out our most recent “School Lunch Roundup” post.
  • Set out lunch bags: We love our “soft-sided” lunch bags from Lands End…they fit our divided containers perfectly. We also go ahead and put in a cloth napkin, any necessary silverware, and a Lunchbox Love card (use coupon code “100Days” for 20% off).
  • Fill drink bottles: Our girls get water every day.
  • Get out breakfast items: We keep it simple at our house – whole grain cereal!
  • Set out snack supplies: Another daily repeat…oatmeal kept warm in a thermos container, by request.

The Morning Of…

  • Serve breakfast: We just add fresh milk and berries to the cereal we set out the night before.
  • Make & pack snack: We add the finished oatmeal to little drawstring bags with a reusable napkin and spoon.
  • Add lunches to bags (with ice packs): With 3 to 4 ice packs everything stays plenty cold until lunch time!

How do you set up for school lunches?

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118 thoughts on “Video: How I Set Up for School Lunch (and Breakfast)!”

  1. Hi, this isn’t a question about this particular video, but I looked around and couldn’t find if there are any recommendations for cookware. It probably doesn’t do much good to eat real food if your cookware is leaching chemicals or coating into your food. Does Lisa have a recommendation? I need to buy a set of pots and pans.

  2. One way to save time with oatmeal is to use a rice cooker that has a setting for porridge. I put the ingredients in the night before and set the timer for the morning and it’s all ready to go.

  3. I was wondering if I heard wrong, but I thought that cutting the produce ahead of time causes it to lose some of its nutritional value. Is this true? Thanks.

  4. Lovin the videos! It’s so helpful and really makes me feel less intimidated!! We are on our journey but still have a few processed food items that we’re working on deleting. This also really helps my husband visualize how easy this can be! Thank you so much!

  5. That was awesome!! You did a great job with the video. I agree with you preparation is the key to eating well and to avoiding problems in the morning. What kind of dry cereals do you use? Like which brands and types.

  6. Your video was well done and the ideas were great. My concern is the PLASTIC lunch containers. They can leach toxins over time and some can’t be recycled. Even if they are recyclable, they still create demand for petroleum products (plastic are made from oil). Perhaps you could use glass, stainless steel, wax paper/parchment paper (can be composted), or just reusable cloth wraps for sandwiches.

    Good luck!

  7. Love the lunch help! I too, stuff the lunch bags with as much as can be preloaded the night before.

    I have a “stupid” question: how do you do cloth napkins? Use once and wash for lunch ones? Use at breakfast and leave on table through dinner then wash? Where do you get nice colorful cloth napkins that absorb? (and don’t cost a fortune) We fly through paper napkins and I would like to reduce paper usage.

    thanks!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi there. Here is a link to some of the napkins Lisa buys: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2013/04/22/earth-day-tips-less-wasteful/. Another thought: I use terry dish cloths which really absorb well and are very inexpensive. I have two boys who are not interested in flowery napkins even though I think they are lovely. We typically go with stripes and plaids. And, we typically have the same napkin on the table for breakfast and dinner but a different one in the lunch box. :) ~Amy

  8. Great job! Very information and quick video. I don’t know why most explanatory videos are so long and made to be overly complicated, but yours was straight to the point. Also, have never thought about using oatmeal as a snack. Easy, simple, SMART tips! Thanks!

  9. Random question, but I notice you offer two homemade cereals. What are they? I’ve used your recipe for homemade granola cereal and it’s now a favorite in my house.

  10. Great video. I have found that planning ahead does make such a huge difference, and it is helpful to see what that actually looks like…many of us out there desire to do it, but do not know where to begin. I look forward to more videos that will “hold my hand” as I journey towards a healthier menu and lifestyle for my family.

  11. I would also love to know what cereal you feed them. My kids aren’t into homemade granola, and sometimes we (I) need a break from hot breakfasts. Thanks again for all the yummy food ideas!

  12. I love it! Can you let me know what cereal your children eat for breakfast? I would love to feed them easy cereal in the AM….our hot breakfast prep takes a lot of time and effort and energy.

  13. I always mean to do more the night before, but if I can’t (fall down exhausted), I make twice the lunches in the morning to use on that day and one for the next. Otherwise I do something crazy like make two strombolis on the weekend and freeze into individual packets to send in. I completely agree with setting out the packs ahead of time. And I don’t know why, but getting the drinks together the night before seems to save twice as much time as doing it the morning of (strange morning math…). YAY!! Love the vlog!! :D

  14. The video looks great, beautifully shot and lit, very professional. As usual your piece was informative, and I’m so looking forward to your cook book. I have to know, though, what gas cook top brand and size is that? It’s incredible!

  15. This is a great video Lisa! You look amazing on camera. I hope you’ll do more videos. And I love how simple you make the lunch and breakfast planning and prepping look. Thank you for sharing. Hugs!

  16. Hey Lisa! Thanks so much for the video! I have adopted so many of your ideas for school lunches, and have also learned so much about REAL food from your blogs! You are so inspiring! Thank you!!! P.s. I overheard my 4 year old boy say to my 3 Year old boy, “don’t get the red Gatorade or you will die!” Haha, I guess he overheard me weeks before teaching my husband about red 40! Of course he interpreted red dye as red makes you die! :)

  17. I love these tips. although i’m not at the point of packing school lunches just yet, I’ll be introducing solids soon. I find some of your tips hard for a full-time working Mom (as apposed to a SAHM). Do you have any tips for those that work full-time on reducing processed foods?

    Also, I notice your meals for yourself and husband aren’t very big meals. Do you find yourself hungry after dinner?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Melissa. Many of us juggling busy schedules find feeding our families a challenge. I think the biggest help is planning ahead, cooking big batches, using leftovers and freezing lots of meals and pieces of meals. Last night I pulled egg souffles, black bean soup, and pumpkin muffins out of my freezer and it made the morning breakfast and lunch packing go fairly smoothly. Regarding Lisa and Jason’s appetites, I assure you they never feel deprived or skimp on meals/snacks. We are conditioned in this country to expect large portions…far more than we need. :) ~Amy

  18. What kind of cereal do you eat? We have been avoiding it bc we haven’t found anything good but some mornings it’s so much easier!!!

  19. Where do the smaller containers that look like cupcake liners come from? What are they made of? I love that your lunches are visually appealing – I feel like that must make such a big difference in getting your kids to want to eat it!

  20. Do you purchase flour for your recipes? I was reading about sprouting red wheat and grinding flour after drying it…choices here in Upper MI are limited, in terms of what you can find, so I am looking around for options for when I cant find what I need :D.

  21. Where did you find the Ziploc divided containers? I’ve looked all over Charlotte and can’t find them in any store.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Janet. The Leake’s stick pretty closely to one ingredient cereals like shredded wheat or puffed whole grains. Arrowhead Mills is a popular brand for puffed organic grains. Oatmeal and granola round out the list. :) ~Amy

      1. Thank you! My four year old son ‘gags’ on granola, which is a bit of a dilemma. I think he wants to like it but cannot seem to overcome the texture issue. I am excited to have him try a cereal of the types you mention. His little brother could enjoy it too! In the meantime, I shall try to be patient with the lack of progress in the granola arena.

  22. PS I just now saw the link for the great containers you use. Glad is supposed to be phthalate-free, a real plus. *Nontoxic plastics have numbers 1, 2, 4, or 5 inside the “recycle” arrow logo. *I cook an egg dish every other day, reheating leftovers the next day in a toaster oven. Cereal is premade (soaked & boiled) oat groats with salt and coconut oil or butter, or else (rinsed frequently) soaked/sprouted buckwheat, cooked or not. It’s very cheap! Of course when I was teaching I couldn’t always do all this…

  23. I like your tips, but where is your food? Your fridge is empty compared to ours (3 kids), which is filled with lots of real food. Do you shop daily or do you have a 2nd fridge?

    1. Marg – I was just due for a run to the grocery store when we made this video…we had been out of town and were a little low on food as a result :)

  24. I freeze some grassfed milk in ice cube or egg trays while it’s very fresh. I use it to “feed” my ongoing yogurt in quart jars so it doesn’t sour, but also to put into lunch with berries, coffee, or cereal (if we are out of milk). I freeze homemade yogurt too, since most live cultures survive if it’s short-term. Cubes in bags or containers fit nicely into the freezer. I use “Lunch Cubes” from Target for my husband’s lunches, or any container plus a bowl to heat it in and a spoon. I hope your blog helps a lot of people; our nutrition really needs help.

  25. Thanks for the video. We have really been focusing on “ground to mouth” eating for the past year and your web-site was a great recent find for us! I never thought about sending oatmeal for snack. Great idea! As a teacher, watching the fruit gushers come into our building makes me cringe! Your kitchen was very pretty and your video was simple and easy. Thanks for the difference you are making in people’s lives!!
    PS My son’s 4th grade class has been reading and discussing the food dye article all week and reading labels. They are writing companies to find out Why its in certain products!!

  26. Hi Lisa,

    What a beautiful kitchen and such a lovely video! You are an inspiration!
    I need help with one thing. Any idea where I could get containers like that in the UK ? I have bent backwards trying to find them, to no avail.
    Than you for all your help!

    1. Mythri, have you tried Amazon? I don’t know if they’d be available to ship to the UK, but it’s worth a look. I ordered the Ziploc containers and thermoses from Amazon because the stores in my area (Minnesota) couldn’t keep them in stock. HTH!

  27. Hi Lisa! I’m loving your blog, I follow you on fb. It takes me about 10 minutes to get my son’s lunch together in the morning. I always know ahead of time what he might be having. I’m very organised by nature, the hardest part for me is finding food that I know he will DEFINITELY eat! He’s so picky, but we’re getting there, little by little. I made whole wheat cherry muffins last week, and he didn’t like them, so now I have about 20 in my freezer! haha. Should have used a half and half combination with the flours until he gets used to the taste. Trying to make all of our meals healthier, one day at a time. Thank you for your inspiration!!!!

  28. Love your blog and posts … for some of us, though, this is just not realistic. Maybe it’s the third kid that puts you over. :) For example, I’ve got one in high school and with her club sports, sometimes we don’t get home from practice and carpool until 9:30pm. I’ve been driving, shuttling, making dinner and cleaning up for 7 hours by that point – no kidding! There’s just no way I have the energy to do all that at night — I am so done by that hour. I get up extra early to pack fresh *real* food …. but it’s the morning when I have the renewed energy to do it all. Whatever works!

  29. I pack everything the night before— I have switched from plastic to glass containers- inside those I put veggies- usually carrots and snap peas- and fruit. In addition to that I pack yogurt, lunchmeat, and water. I write a little note on the napkin and ready to go!!! All I have to do the next morning is throw in the ice packs. I must be doing something right because today some of the kids at her table asked her what was up with all the healthy food- and told her she ate like a teacher. Haha! She’s in 7th grade. They wanted to know “what was up with the green beans that weren’t even boiled.” lol!

  30. The divided containers are they ziplock? I saw you had apple saude in one of the compartments. Do you have to keep that container flat to avoid it getting into the other foods? Or can you put it in their lunch bags then hold the bag upright by it’s handle?
    thanks
    gail

  31. Great Video…
    I have to find those Large glass containers. We have the extra large ball jars but I can’t seem to find them with the lock tight lid!!
    Where did you find those?

  32. Hi Lisa! I just want to say thanks for sharing your blog and all the great ideas that go along with it. I read your blog at least once a day, and it has been so helpful with school lunch ideas and wonderful recipes. I just finished making my 3rd batch of homemade granola in 3 weeks(my husband can’t get enough), and have a freezer full of muffins and smoothies, thanks to you:) I am so very grateful for the time, effort and research you put into all of this! Thank you so much…the video was great!:)

  33. Thank you Lisa! I love this! My girls are only 1 and 4, and the older one only needs a snack for half-day pre-k. But the breakfast planning definitely helps, and the lunch tips will help me out in the future. Thank you for being so down to earth too!

  34. Hi Lisa,

    Great video! This pretty much looks like me the night before school. :) You said whole grain cereal for breakfast? What kind do your girls like? Also, where did you buy the cereal canisters?
    Love all your great food ideas. Your hard work and dedication has changed the way we eat in our home…
    Thanks!
    Christine

  35. Thanks so much for sharing this! Just wanted to say I love the idea of oatmeal for a snack. My children are only allowed to have dry snacks, and I’m constantly looking for ideas that will keep them full and not zap all of their energy. Might try shredded wheat – I know at least one of them will like it! ;)

  36. That was great! I am a very visual person and would love if you could post more videos in regards to products. I have read things on your blog before about “ingredients” in both foods and other products such as soaps and shampoos, that are the “bad ones” but I can never remember what to really look for when shopping, if there were more videos along these lines, it might make it easier to remember the things to avoid:)Thanks

  37. Sorry, maybe a silly question. I try to pack my kids lunches the night before as well but always worry about it being mushy, so I tend to pack half or wrap everything in plastic wrap – like in the video you had carrots in with the bread- does it not mix flavor or the bread get “mushy” because of the moisture?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Lauren. Lisa mentioned to another reader above that these were frozen homemade “uncrustables” and that her girls have never complained about their sandwiches being soggy. Also, the containers have divided sections and the lid seal tightly around each. :) ~Amy

  38. Love your blog & helpful posts! We use the ziploc three compartment containers also & I have similiar lunch boxes from LLBean but they have no drink holder so I am hard pressed to fit a waterbottle inside them. Do your ones that you link to hold the water bottles inside or will those thermos bottles fit in the mesh holder on the outside? Thanks so much!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Kristin. Yes, the small thermos bottles will fit in the mesh holder of the Lands End lunchbag. ~Amy

  39. I love your blog and wish I could be half as vigilant as you! Just curious, what kind of oatmeal do you buy? Do you just buy organic to avoid GMO’s?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Karen. Lisa buys her oats from Earth Fare. And yes, besides avoiding chemicals the organic oats are non-GMO. ~Amy

  40. I prefer to wake 1/2 earlier so the food is fresh. I ask myself, “Do I like food that by the time I open it, it’s been sitting for 15 hours instead of 3 hours”? The acid in the fruit, the moisture in the breads, all blends even in the best containers. So it’s a 1/2 hour earlier to bed and a 1/2 earlier to rise for us.

  41. Loved the video! Even though I “know” some of this stuff, there is something that makes it even easier to duplicate in my own home after getting to watch it being done. I look forward to future videos of yours!

  42. Loved the video. A few quick questions: What little pot do you use for making the oatmeal? Also, where did you get all of those large glass containers for holding cereal? Thank you!!

  43. Lisa, I made a big change in eating habits a few years ago after quite a major health issue. The problem is that up until then my kids (aged 8 and 11) ate a lot of sugar and processed food. I’m still finding a lot of difficulty in getting them to follow me on a healthier eating regimen, any ideas?

    1. I had a similar situation with my husband when we married. I grew up in a somewhat health-conscious family and he grew up on fast food. To add insult to injury, I have a nutrition degree. How difficult it was to move him from a familiar diet to one that eliminates the most appealing flavor – sugar. The changes needed to be slow and subtle. We had pizza night or special food on special occasions/accomplishments so it was/is actually a treat. My children never knew the difference, but after years of cooking from scratch and no sodas or junk food (well, minimal), my husband claims I ruined him because he no longer has a desire for most things that were a staple in his diet;-) Honor the body you have and keep up the good fight.

    2. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Sam. I think it helps to talk with them about why food choices matter (without talking at them, of course). My boys both really responding to Jamie Oliver’s Ted Talk as well as Robyn O’Brien’s: http://www.ted.com/talks/jamie_oliver.html and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWXrRftyOMY. That might be a good strategy for you, as well. You can also be sure that your cabinets and pantry are full of things that are better choices while allowing for some treats. It is harder to control what happens outside of your home…but just keep leading by example. Best of luck. ~Amy

      1. Hi Amy,

        Thank-you so much for the inspiring Ted Talks. They made e feel quite good about myself because my children are not obese and because they do do know what the various fruits and vegetables are and can even cook some simple meals on their own.. however I know I can do better.. this evening they are seeing the Jamie Oliver video with me! Have a great day :-)

  44. I love your blog. I think this is my favorite post ever. I am such a visual person, and you gave me some great ideas for making the morning smoother. 2 questions– what are your 2 cereals? I am assuming one is your homemade granola? Also, the snack bag! I have been trying to figure that out for our lunches. Did you get it on Etsy? Would love some assistance. Thanks so much!

    1. I am so glad you liked it! :) Yes, one cereal is homemade granola. The other is a 1-ingredient “shredded wheat” type cereal that is Barbara’s brand. For the girls we usually mix the two together. For the little drawstring snack bags I actually sewed those with some scrap fabric and ribbon. If you have a machine it is a pretty easy/quick project or I am sure you could order something similar off etsy!

  45. To avoid soggy sandwiches I put the dry ingredients next to the bread and the wetter stuff in the middle. For PBJ I coat both pieces of bread with peanut butter and put the jelly between so it doesn’t touch the bread. This way I can make lunch the night before and not run into soggy bread. Lettuce/raw spinach also makes a nice barrier. I really enjoyed the vlog. Thanks for posing it!

  46. Hi Lisa,

    I folow your blog regulary. Thanks for the great tips on school lunches. My kids are in Preschool so I dont have to send them any lunches. But I send them one time a week when thier preschool offers beef. As we dont eat beef or pork, I give them home lunch. But these tips are great t prepare myself when my older one starts to go to kindergarten next year. Thanks again!

    Off the subject can you please provide tips or make a video on organizing the kitchen with real food. Just a thought, as I have been juggling how to organize it as I started to move to real foods.

    1. Angie the sandwiches in the video were actually frozen – like a homemade uncrustable. I’ve never had the kids complain about the bread being soggy, and they usually eat it all so I don’t worry about it I guess :)

      1. That is great to hear. I’d never considered freezing sandwiches. we’ll have to give that a try. Thanks!

  47. Awesome video, neat new logo, and more inspiration/motivation for me to keep switching over to earth-friendly items in my kitchen, house, and life – thank you, Lisa and team!

  48. Thank you Lisa for your inspiration.
    I am following you from the Netherlands (europe) and love your blog!
    Keep up the good work. :-)

  49. Quick question for you

    I just picked up the divided container for my son to bring to kindergarten, but he can’t get them open by himself. Did you run into this problem when you first bought them? not sure if I should keep them or return…

    1. Meredith – We didn’t have that problem last year when my younger daughter was in kindergarten, but check out the divided containers by Easy Lunchboxes – they aren’t leak-proof, but easier to open for that reason.

    2. They can be a bit tricky to open. I recommend practicing with your kiddo at home. Fill it first with something that won’t make a mess if they get a little over-zealous with opening. Demonstrate for your kiddo the best way to open and let them try. I promise you, if my son can do it, yours can. They just need a little guiding.

  50. Thanks Lisa! I love your workstation and kitchen setup (especially the spacious cooktop and extra prep sink)! And of course the massive, clutter free island. Kitchen. Envy.

    And of course the subject of the video is great too :) I love the oatmeal as a snack, hopefully by the time my daughter is in 1st grade she won’t snub it like she does (almost everything) now. For now I’ll be trying to emulate your routine while packing my (and my coworker’s) lunch! :)

    1. Thank you Laura – I am super anal about not having a lot of clutter on the kitchen counters…that wasn’t just for the video! :) Good luck with your daughter.

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