If you get my weekly quick tip, then you know that a couple of weeks ago I shared the idea of expanding on the pantry lunch-making mini-zone that I’ve talked about before, by putting together a refrigerator mini-zone loaded with school lunch essentials. (If you don’t get my Quick Tip you can sign up here.) Here are some ideas and photos for creating your own lunch-making mini-zone so you can get organized and simplify the lunch-making process! Enjoy.

Start by purchasing (or re-purposing) a plastic storage bin sized to fit on one of the shelves in your refrigerator. I used an ITSO bin from Target…because I just happened to have some on hand, and because two of them fit perfectly side-by-side on the shelf in my refrigerator. (I love it when things like that happen.)

Refrigerator lunch bin

Load your bin with prepackaged lunch-making items such as cheese sticks, and/or small packages of yogurt, smoothies, juice or milk. Once a week stock your lunch bin with items such as grapes, baby carrots, celery sticks and dip, stored in small, reusable lunch containers. This is also a great place to store left-overs that would make good lunch items.

Lunch bin 2

I decided to store fruit and veggies in bulk instead of prepackaged to save space in my bin. My food storage containers are always on the counter when I make lunch…so I think this will work just fine. I used a small plastic cup to hold cheese sticks upright, making them easier to see and access.

Lunch bin 3

Keep unrefrigerated lunch-making items like napkins, cutlery, bread, chips, crackers and cookies in a second bin in your pantry. I’ve been using this pantry lunch making bin for years—and it works great for us! It takes a lot of steps out of the lunch-making process.

Lunch making mini zone

All that’s left to do is actually make lunch…and that’s where things can get a little dicey around here. One thing I’ve noticed in past years is that as the school year goes on…I tend to get into a lunch rut. I start running out of ideas and end up sending the same things for lunch day after day.

So I was really thrilled when I came across the Wendolonia blog and this blog post with a terrific list of lunch ideas. I printed out a copy of the list and gave it to my kids. They crossed off items that they don’t care for, added items they like that weren’t on the original list, and we put together a customized lunch idea list. I have it coded as to who likes what…so I can safely put together a lunch that I know is healthy and the kids will enjoy. (Here’s a link to our Lunch-Ideas-List…if you’d like to see it or even use it.)

List

My daughter came up with the idea of writing her lunch requests on her chalkboard the night before. Once we’ve used the lunch idea list for a little while and account for any additions or subtractions, I plan to laminate this list and then highlight what’s available for lunch each week. The kids can use the laminated list to write down their requests on the chalkboards. The best part is that I don’t have to ask half-awake kids what they want for lunch. (I’ve found the answers are never very helpful at that time of day.)

Either way, I think we’re all organized for lunch this school year. How about you? Any tips or ideas to share? I’d love to hear from you.

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Aby Garvey is a creative organizing expert and simplify 101’s founder. She has created 14 online organizing classes, which she has been teaching since 2007, helping thousands of people around the world get organized. Aby loves to help people create positive change in their lives through her online classes and organizing eBooks.

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