Tips for Packing School Lunches
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Originally Published August 9, 2021. Republished on August 1, 2022.
Summer is ending, and school is about to start. That, of course, means it’s time to get back into a school year routine. Part of that routine in many households is packing school lunches. Packed lunches are a great option when your child isn’t too fond of what the school has to offer or you want a little more control over what your child is eating.
Of course, if your child has dietary restrictions or food allergies, packing lunches is a must. Frankly, packing a lunch allows you to include healthy foods your child will actually eat, and it doesn’t have to cost any more than what you would be paying for lunch at school.
The Magic Question: How Do I Do This?
Packing a lunch every day doesn’t do any good if your child doesn’t eat it or ends up trading most of it away for junk food. The key then is to find things that your child loves and enjoys eating.
Get Kids Involved
The best place to start is to get your child involved. Have a discussion with your kids to see how they feel about the opportunity. Depending on the age of your kids, you could even put them in charge of making their own lunches. Not only do you know that they’ll pack something they will eat, but being in charge of packing lunch will teach them responsibility.
Younger children can help. Even your kindergartener can wash grapes and put them into a container, or pick a snack for his lunch box. This alone will help make sure they eat what they’ve packed. After all, it’s the lunch they made. Along the way, you’re teaching them independence and important life skills.
Strike a Balance
You obviously want to encourage your kids to pack and eat healthy foods. Insisting on all healthy, organic food options all the time may not be your best strategy, though. Strike a balance and make compromises. If your kids pack and eat a healthy wrap or salad, for example, let them have some cookies for dessert. Teach them to make good choices, but don’t freak out if they decide to pack some Cheetos or a pack of Oreo cookies. Your goal is to get them to eat fairly healthy and make smart food choices, not restrict all access to junk food, causing them to trade with friends for forbidden Twinkies.
Get Organized for Lunch Preparation
Now, you have a plan with your child to prepare their school lunches. You need to get the food to put your plan in motion. Take a look at the tips below. They will help you get organized, so fixing lunches becomes quick and easy.
Start With A List And Go Shopping
Start by sitting down with your kids and come up with a list of lunches they like. This could include sandwiches and wraps, or even homemade lunch-ables, but it doesn’t have to stop there. If you add a thermos to the mix, you can suddenly pack reheated leftovers, homemade soup, and more. The key is to find lunch foods and snacks that your kids will eat that are also easy to pack.
Make sure you have appropriate containers, and then head to the grocery store to pick up everything you need for the week. Don’t forget about snacks and drinks as needed. The list should make this much easier. Once you have several different lunch ideas your kids like and will actually eat, you can simply rotate through them and make the ingredients part of your weekly shopping trips.
Prep What You Can As Soon As You Get Home
When you get home from the store, keep lunch foods out and see what you can do to prep things ahead of time. Instead of putting that bag of grapes away, go ahead and wash and store them in little bags you can grab and toss in the lunch box. The same goes for things like carrots and even salads. Slice cheese as needed and just think about what you can prep as soon as you get home.
Pack Lunches The Night Before
Mornings are busy and not always the perfect time to have to worry about packing lunches. Try making them the night before. Try packing them after dinner at night. Get the kids involved and have them help with lunch prep and clean-up after. You can store cold items in the fridge and have everything else sitting in the lunch box ready to go. It won’t take you long to get into a rhythm of preparing lunches while you’re cleaning up after dinner. You’ll appreciate this new habit in the mornings when all you need to do is grab a couple of things from the fridge and toss them in the lunch boxes.
Get In The Habit Of Cleaning Lunch Boxes As Soon As The Kids Get Home
To make lunch prep even easier, get the kids into the habit of cleaning out their lunch boxes as soon as they get back from school. Even the youngest can help with this. Have them toss any uneaten food and bring the containers to the sink to be washed. Older children can easily clean their own containers, while you’ll probably have to do the washing for your youngest. Having everything clean and ready to go will make it easier to pack the new lunches later on in the day.
Stick to these tips and it won’t take you long to get into an efficient lunch packing routine that will make it a snap. Don’t forget to get the kids involved and put them in charge of many of the preparations. Not only will this make your life easier in the long run, but it will also give them a sense of ownership over their lunch.
Loving Life — The Reboot!
Roy A Ackerman, PhD, EA
I taught my kids at an early age that I was not running a diner. I prepared what I prepared (thankfully tasteful and nutritious) and that’s what they got. (It doesn’t hurt that we keep kosher, so trading with friends was a problematic concept.)
I dont yet have to pack school lunches but will come back to this post when I do have to.
Great tips get the kids invovled. My son always packed his own lunch and it helped teach him healthy eating habits.
Great tips for lunches! I don’t have any children or G-grands in school yet that are near me but when Lia goes out with us she loves to pack her lunchbox with snacks. My new oven has a dehydrator setting so I’ve been drying apples since Lia loves them for snacks. They are also easy to pack in her lunch box!
Some great tips to pack lunch smart.As you said we want them to eat and make good choices. Not trade for worse.
Crickette, The Things I Have to Say
I was just talking to my assistant about this, for her child. He doesn’t finish his food, so I told her she needs to make the food a little fun to eat. These are awesome tips!
It is nice to have the children help out with their lunches. They can see exactly what they will have for lunch before hand.
Risa Quejada Lopez
I love your tips. Now I know what to do and how to organize preparing school packs for my niece. Thanks for sharing.
A good school lunch is not only an important energy source but also a lovely greeting from home. My favorites are Japanese bentos – simply pieces of art.
I hate making school lunches. I’m just being honest. I’m so excited I found this post, I think it will really help me this year
These are some absolutely amazing tips. I especially like the tip about packing the lunch the night before. It makes things so much easier in life.
Yes it is important that kid also involved with the preparation. So that they know how the process. It is an exciting activity too. Thank you for this wonderful sharing.❤️
Looking at those photos and your share here brought back memories when my teens were still young with all the lunch boxes we make for them. Now, they are adults? They are not into this anymore. Sad, but hey! Let me share these tips for you to friends we know who can find this useful.
Packing lunch the night before is such a time saver. And yes, involving the kids in the preparation sounds fun too