09/17/2014 12:40 EDT | Updated 06/16/2017 00:54 EDT

7 Time-Saving Lunch Box Tips

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Let's face it -- back-to-school month is a lot like New Year's. Leading up to the first week, we are full of inspiration for a year of sending our kids to school perfectly coiffed in their new clothes, with their healthy-yet-creative lunches and not-yet-lost school supplies.

Then a week goes by, and the Stepford Mom urge gives way to reality. Imperfect, chaotic reality. After a few years of experiencing the inevitable back-to-school hangover, I've learned a thing or two about realistically packing lunches. Here are some of my top lunch box tips:

1. Pack what you're taking to work. This is an extension of my one-meal-three-ways philosophy, which involves creating one meal that can accommodate adults, kids and babies. It's a lot easier to pack school lunches while packing your own (especially when packing leftovers.)

2. When uninspired, use finger foods! Finger Food Friday is a huge hit with my kids and gives me a break at the end of a long week. It can be carrot sticks with hummus, celery with cream cheese, fruit with yogurt dip or salami and cheese with crackers. The idea is a snack tray for lunch.

3. Themes. I discovered the fun in themes while packing Sunday's leftover veggie quiche. I decided to go with a French theme and tore off a piece of baguette, added a slice of brie, a cluster of grapes and a piece of chocolate. Voila!

4. Breakfast for lunch. I'll pack an individual yogurt with granola, fruit and a hard-boiled egg. I've even scrambled eggs and bacon and put them in a Thermos.

5. Pack a Thermos. Leftovers are truly the easiest, no-brainer lunch to pack. I always try to make extras for lunch. If your kids are opposed to leftovers (some really do not want what they had the night before), freeze the leftovers in a container and use for another day. My freezer is stocked with single-serve leftovers, which I thaw the morning before school and pop in a Thermos.

6. Batch baking. Sunday mornings, I like to make a couple dozen of the kids' favourite muffins to put in the freezer for lunches. I put one in every other day for their morning snack.

7. More is more! While less is usually more, when it comes to packing my kids lunches, I am of the philosophy of "more is more." They go through sporadic growth spurts and I always ensure that they have enough food for the day. Throw in an extra apple, granola bar, milk or bag of cut veggies if you notice your child is demolishing their lunch every day.