10 Brilliant Lunch-Box Hacks I Learned from Parents on TikTok

published Apr 14, 2023
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

Protein, fruits, veggies, snacks, maybe a sweet — if your kids don’t receive hot school lunches, you’ve probably mastered what to pack to get them through the day. The real challenge comes in when you want to ensure nothing spills, browns, mixes, or cools in between packing and lunch time — not to mention making sure your kids actually eat (almost) everything you pack for them!

I scoured my favorite source for parent hack inspo, TikTok (of course), and spotted some brilliant tips for keeping your children’s lunch boxes intact en route. Here are the 10 fabulous tricks and hacks from parents on TikTok that could make your kids’ lunches better (and easier to make).

1. Freeze a sponge to use as an ice pack.

Not all of us have the freezer space for bulky ice packs. Dampen an old sponge (or one you haven’t used yet), then freeze it overnight in a plastic bag. The next day put it in the bottom of the lunch box or bag for a DIY ice pack! You can do the same with a water bottle by freezing it overnight and storing it in kids’ lunch boxes, like this mom did here.

2. Rinse apples to keep them from browning.

Wasted food is a common problem when it comes to kids’ lunches. To make apples more enticing — and to give them a better chance of being eaten — this mom suggests rinsing and drying sliced apples before bagging them. You can also squeeze a bit of lemon, Sprite, honey water, or salt water on them to keep apples from browning. Other moms on TikTok cut apples with a slicer, then put a plastic band around it to keep it together, which also helps prevent browning.

3. Use a hanging shoe organizer as a snack prep station.

A clear shoe organizer in your pantry is an easy way for kids to pack their own lunches or grab something quick before sports practice. There’s no searching for snacks, and it takes minimal time to organize.

4. Fill Thermoses with hot water before packing to keep hot foods warm all day.

No more complaints about cold food! Packing leftovers, or another meal that needs to be kept warm? Simply fill the Thermos with hot water and let it sit for around 10 minutes before dumping the water and filling it with food. 

5. Use a small toolbox to satisfy even the pickiest eaters.

If your kids can’t stand it when foods touch, or they prefer more of a snacky lunch, this is the hack for them. A one-layer toolbox with smaller compartments gives kids a little more variety in their lunch, all while keeping everything separate. Just make sure it’s made from food-grade plastic! This one even has removable dividers so you can customize the toolbox to your liking.

6. Let the family choose their meals with build-your-own lunch stations.

If you’ve got a big family, or lots of miscellaneous snacks and veggies, follow this mom’s tip and dump each “course” in a bin to let each kid choose what they want. This method is first come, first served, so it might even entice kids to get out of bed in the morning! You can also do the same in the fridge, like this mom did.

7. Make your own juice boxes with reusable containers.

Cut down on single-use plastic and save on the rising costs of groceries by using refillable 5-ounce containers for juice, milk, or smoothies. They’re easy to clean, are meant to be used time and time again, and you can water down your kids’ favorite juices to stretch their lunch drink.  

8. Use travel tubes for squeezable snacks and condiments.

Say bye-bye to soggy foods and spills! Put jam, ketchup, honey, mustard, or anything else gel-like your kids might enjoy in these food-grade silicone travel tubes. Yes, they’re meant for toiletries, but because they’re for travel, they won’t spill, and are the perfect size for lunch boxes.

9. Use press-and-seal food wrap to prevent spills.

This tip is so simple, but so smart. Press-and-seal plastic food wrap around liquidy items in your kids’ bento boxes not only seals in the freshness, but also prevents them from spilling into neighboring compartments. 

10. Double your plastic baggies by splitting them in two.

Heating a knife blade and slicing a standard plastic baggie is a great way to make two smaller, snack-sized plastic baggies for fruit, nuts, or other snacks. Obviously, use caution with this one!

More TikTok Tips from Cubby