I eagerly checked the weather from our local news station, looking for any possibility of a snow day. It’s not so much that I enjoy snow (I don’t). And while I adore my kids, I wasn’t missing them so much that I craved a day being snowed inside with them.
But a snow day means a couple of things. No alarm clock. (Hallelujah!) No worry about whether all the kids have the right clothes clean for picture day, or gym day, or red and gray day. (Yahoo!) But, best of all…
no lunches to pack.
Ugh! Packing lunches is the worst. You have to make sure you have everything on hand. Then trying to make sure this kid gets their daily PB&J made just so without the crusts, while that kid gets anything at all but a sandwich is a headache.
Not that I am the type of parent that caters to their child’s every whim. I’ve already written on my feelings about kids learning to deal with disappointment. Still, some days there are enough battles to fight. Amirite?
But you know another parenting technique I’m a fan of? Teaching the kids to do things themselves.
It’s only partly a cop out. Sure, I love the fact that I remove myself from the equation. But aside from the fact that my main job is to make sure they have food available to them (not the perfect food to their little taste buds, mind you, but healthy choices), it’s also my job to make sure that they can one day care for themselves.
And elementary school is not too young to get started on this.
I promise. If your child can throw packages into the grocery cart when you aren’t looking, they can toss together a lunch, too. Be sure to print the free lunch menu ideas I’ve included here to make it easier on everyone.
Now, here’s the method I’ve used to make easy lunch packing happen in our home.
Easy Lunch Menu Ideas
Get the Kids Involved
Like I said, if the kids are eating, they should be involved in the packing. We expect our kids to pack their own lunches starting in kindergarten. But that doesn’t mean the same thing for our 5-year-old as it does for the 11-year-old.
Now that the older kids have years of practice under their belts, they don’t need much help anymore. My job is to have the groceries around here to simplify their packing.
We’ll teach our five-year-old daughter to pack her own lunch this year. By the end of the year, she’ll know how to make a sandwich. She’ll also know how to choose options from the other food groups to complete her meal.
Remember, parents, that we’re trying to work ourselves out of a job!
Simplify the Choices
A lunch in our home consists of a main course such as a sandwich, salad, leftovers, or other items. Then they choose a fruit, a dairy, a junk food (or treat), and a drink.
There’s no reason for them to eat a fancy 4 course meal. Besides, they spend a lot of their lunch period socializing with friends. How much food do you think they throw away each day? Don’t add to the waste.
Do it the Night Before.
A common complaint about making sandwiches the night before is that they would get soggy. But my kids have never complained.
If you know complaints or wasted food are inevitable, pack everything except for sandwiches. Pulling together just a sandwich in the morning is much easier than figuring out the entire lunch. Bag up snacky foods (or put them into a container)the night before. Choose and wash up your fruits.
Select your dairy and bag it up as needed. I like to buy big containers of yogurt and portion them out into smaller containers. I’ll add a bag of cereal for them to sprinkle over the top when I’m feeling fancy.
A Place for Everything
When we pack the night before, I don’t mean stick everything in the lunchbox. Sure, if you have items that won’t go bad (like a box of raisins), you can toss those in the lunchbox ahead of time.
Otherwise, I give each child their own basket (like this one) labeled with their name for less confusion. They put cold lunch items into that basket and leave it in the fridge overnight.
The next morning, they just dump their basket into their lunchbox and grab a thermos of ice water. (I put together thermoses while they eat breakfast and leave them on the counter for easy grab and go.)
Make a List
I’ve printed off my list of lunchtime ideas along with a copy of the school lunch menu. They’re hung next to our lunch making supplies. When they’re tired of sandwiches, they can make a different choice. (Although some of them would eat PB&J for every meal!)
Click this picture to print a PDF copy of the menu. Totally free for your personal use!
Click here to download a free MS Word copy of this list that you can customize yourself! Totally free for your own personal use!
These tips for packing school lunches should help your family dread this chore a bit less.
Prayers for a snow day not necessary!
Did I miss a great tip? Let me know!