Last year we had a lot of “firsts” as we adjusted to life after our cross-country move. One of the “firsts” was attending public school and the iconic school lunch. I’ll admit, I was nervous.
What do kids take for lunch?
Will I send enough food?
What if she doesn’t like what I sent?
The first couple of weeks of school were awesome! I got up before the kids, made her lunch, fixed breakfast, and got everyone to school on time. I was feeling awesome about myself, wondering what all the other moms were stressing about when it comes to packing lunches.
As they say, “Pride comes before a fall.”
Then my motivation vanished. The honeymoon was over. But she still needed a lunch to take to school. What was I going to do?
As I was preparing dinner one night, it hit me. She’s seven years old, why can’t she make her own lunch?! Of course, she can make her own lunch!
As moms, one of our primary responsibilities is to make sure they can survive in the world by teaching them life skills. Making their own lunch without mama’s help is most definitely a life skill.
So how did we accomplish this packing their lunch magic? It’s not as hard as it sounds!
Teach Your Kids to Pack Their Lunch in 5 Easy Steps
1. Let them have input on what you buy.
Let me be clear, you are the parent. If they say they only want to eat cookies and chips for lunch every day, that’s probably not a wise decision. We give them choices. They can either have a sandwich, hard-boiled egg, salad, soup, pepperoni with cheese slices, or hummus and veggies as their main part of the lunch.
Having a say in the grocery list makes them more likely to eat lunch and enjoy making it themselves. It will give them ownership as they help make the list, and then go to the store to put those items in the cart.
King Sooper’s is a great place to start the process of teaching kids to pack their own lunches. They have little carts that are perfect for kids to push around the store while checking items off the list.
The Natural Foods sections are clearly labeled throughout the store. There isn’t just one section at our location, but the areas are clearly labeled with signs that say “Live Better” and “Live Naturally”, promoting their Simple Truth brand.
I love it because all the brands we usually buy are within their reach.
2. Have everything prepared and ready to go.
When we get home from the grocery store, this part of the process starts. Veggies are washed and cut up, the snack crackers and cookies are put in individual baggies, the applesauce pouches are taken out of their cardboard container and put in the glass cookie jar, and the fruit is washed and divided. Everything has a place, and everyone knows where to find each food item. It also helps with meal planning at home too.
3. Pack the night before.
While we’ve both packed at night and the morning of, the stress level of packing lunches the night before is lower. If we happen to run out of something mid-week and realize it while packing the night before, we can run to King Sooper’s quickly and remedy the situation. If we’re packing the lunch in the morning, well, they get what they get and they don’t get upset.
4. Create a Lunchbox Packing Station.
This might be my favorite part. In the pantry, we have bins and containers that hold everything they will need for their lunches that don’t have to be refrigerated. The applesauce pouches are in a small glass cookie jar. The snack crackers and cookies are in baggies in either their original box or in a bin. There’s another bin for applesauce cups when we buy those instead of pouches, and one with napkins, baggies, plastic spoons, and forks, and their water bottles are nearby because we live in Colorado and everyone takes their water bottles everywhere.
This is what helped make packing their own lunches successful. It’s set up so they basically grab-and-go. They still might have to prepare their salad or make a sandwich, but most of the work was done during prep time.
5. Sit back and relax.
I’ll admit that every morning I would double-check the lunch to make sure nothing was snuck in that I didn’t notice while she was packing her lunch the night before. Only once did I find candy that wasn’t approved of. Sometimes I would sneak in a note written on a banana, a little card of encouragement, or a special treat.
The Five Food Groups of Packing a Lunch
Starting new things can be overwhelming sometimes and you really just want someone to tell you what to do, so that’s what I’m going to do. Instead of trying to list all the things they could take, break it down into groups and let them choose one thing out of each group. If they come home saying they are starving, adjust the amounts. It’s flexible.
1. The Main Meal is usually a protein. This includes hard-boiled eggs, meat and cheese roll-ups, sandwiches, quesadillas, soup, salad, hummus, pepperoni, and whatever you feel is the most filling.
2. Fruit. Some of our favorite fruits to pack are apples, bananas, blueberries, cut-up frozen grapes, strawberries, applesauce, fruit cups, and occasionally a star fruit for the fun of it.
3. Vegetables. The possibilities are endless. Cucumbers are great, carrot sticks, edamame, snow peas, snap peas, cherry tomatoes, and even zucchini or another veggie they love.
4. Grain. Snack crackers fall into this category. Horizon has a great selection of crackers that we love. Pita to go with the hummus would also be included.
5. Other. This is the extra category. Cheese sticks, yogurt, cottage cheese, cookies, popcorn, and whatever didn’t fit in the above categories would go here.
Sit down together and make a list for each category. It will make lunch packing easier by taking out the decision fatigue that can occur.
Thankfully, last year there was only one school lunch to make. This year there will be two. But I’m not worried. We’ve already gone over what to pack and where to find everything. Of course, I’ll check to make sure there aren’t two sandwiches or only cookies. But I think they’ve got it.
What are your best tips and tricks for helping teach kids how to pack their own lunches?
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Horizon Organic. The opinions and text are all mine.