Raise your hand if you dread making school lunches. 🙋🏽 Dreading to make school lunches goes all the way back to when I was a young girl going to school. I remember that once I got old enough my mom happily passed the job on to me. I was never one for sandwiches, so I had to get a little creative about what to bring. Yes, I was one of those that threw my lunch away. 😬 Sorry, mom.
Fast forward many years later and I’m still in the same boat, but the tables have turned. I’m making lunches for my own children. I don’t like it any more than I did when I was younger. This year, however, I have passed the job on to my older girls as my mom did to me. So far, no complaints. They just do it (thank goodness). I still have the younger girls’ lunches to make, and I like to double-check the other lunches to be sure they have enough and that it’s healthy.
This year my younger two have a strict policy on what can be brought in their lunch. They can’t even bring in a snack-size bag of chips. For my picky eaters, that is a big deal! On a positive note, that means no more begging for Nutella sandwiches. That’s out except on treat Fridays. Smaller school equals more control which I guess is a sure way to make the kids choose healthier options. For parents of picky children, like myself, it makes things a little harder. Sometimes I just want them to eat something!
What can you do to make sure your children are eating their lunch?
So what can you do to make sure that lunch doesn’t get thrown away or returned the same way you sent it? You hate to think of good food being thrown away. I’m sure you’ve given the speech at some time about all the starving children in the world. No matter how true it might be, out of sight, out of mind, so starving children doesn’t make a difference to my kids. If they don’t want it, they won’t eat it!
Then, there’s the lunch that comes back hardly touched. Either way, you know your kid has to be starving by the end of the day. And as a teacher, I know children can’t focus on an empty stomach. As I was driving around the other day, this very issue was brought up on the radio. It got me thinking about how it’d be nice to have a few ideas in place so that making lunches can be done with ease.
One thing, the guest speaker on the radio mentioned was how stressed parents can get trying to make the perfect lunch. I had a laugh when they mentioned how food bloggers have ruined it for parents, and to remember that only food bloggers worry about making the perfect lunches. In other words, don’t worry about what the lunch looks like or what others’ opinions are about what’s in it. Everyone else most likely has a normal looking lunch. The most important thing is that your child is eating it, it’s what they like, and it’s somewhat healthy. My house needs to work on the healthy side of things.
7 Ways to Make School Lunches Easier and Take Less Thought
1. Don’t pressure your child to eat it all
Just thinking about that makes things feel a whole lot easier. Why do we expect them to eat it all? Everyone’s appetite is different. I tend to pack a little more in case they feel a little hungrier and need more to eat. Also, some foods are less filling than others. For instance, chips don’t really fill me up. If I eat chips then I might need a little something extra. We have to resort to the fact that we hope that if they’re hungry they’ll eat. All we can do is present the opportunity to eat. If it becomes a problem and your child is not eating, then teachers and staff will probably notice or figure it out and let you know.
2. Make a list of what they like or don’t like.
It’s good to keep a running list of what your children do like and probably what they don’t. However, taste buds change and something that they don’t like now could change in a few months. I’d suggest trying it again at a later time. Making a list helps us decide what to buy when we’re at the grocery store. When you’re trying to manage morning or evening routines and throw in making lunches you can easily forget what it is that they like and are willing to eat.
3. Throw in something they haven’t eaten in a while.
My girls tend to want the same thing every day. As time passes, they get tired of the same old thing but give you no other options. They don’t like anything else that you present. It’s a good idea to rotate in different food items that they like. Or, if they haven’t had something they like in a while then throw it in. It’ll be like a little surprise.
4. Make a list they can choose from.
While you might have a running list of what your children like, you may want to have a list that they choose what food they’d like you to buy. My kids would ask for Nutella sandwiches all day, every day. So I might not include that on my list for them to choose from if I don’t want them to have that for lunch. But, I might keep it on a separate list of foods they like if I decide to buy it at some point like for that Friday treat.
5. Let them choose
Years ago, I used to watch that show on TLC where the parents had about 20 kids. One episode stuck with me. I remembered that I wanted to tuck that idea away for when I had my own children. Or maybe it just stuck with me because I hated preparing lunches and wish my parents would have thought of this. This mom of 20 was not going to stand there and make all of those lunches. They solved their problem with a combination of an assembly line/cafeteria-style setup.
What does that mean? The kids made the sandwiches in an assembly line. There were shelves that held all of the other choices that could be added to the lunch. For example, chip choices were on one shelf, fruit on another, drinks on another, and so on. That way the kids knew exactly what their choices were. You could stock a shelf, drawer, or basket at the beginning of each week. This way kids can easily help to prepare some of their lunch. There’d be no excuse for not liking what’s in their lunch.
6. Train them to make their own lunch.
This year I’ve had the older girls start making their own lunches. I assist, but they do most of it. I haven’t had any complaints yet, but I think it’s because they feel like they get to choose what they want. The other day my three-year-old grabbed her little stool and to help make her own sandwich. It was so cute. She’s learning at an early age.
7. Take them shopping with you.
My husband and I prefer to do the shopping without kids. You can probably understand why. Everything goes so much faster, and there isn’t the endless begging down every aisle. If I spent the whole time in the veggie aisle, then maybe the begging would stop. But in this case, it might be helpful to have them along, especially when it comes to choosing healthier options. If they pick it and see you pay for it, they might be more willing to eat it. At least that is what I hope for. It could also open their eyes to trying something new. They may find something they’d like to try that you might not have thought about.
Well, it looks like I should try some of these ideas myself because lunch can be tough. It’s so easy to run out of ideas. The past few weeks we haven’t been able to take the girls with us when we go shopping, so we’ve asked them to add to our list foods that they’d like us to try and get. You see how I said, “try.” It has to be approved by us and available at the store. They’ve added a few things that I’ve forgotten that they like to eat.
If you want a hand in making those lunch lists I’ve mentioned above, then download my FREE Lunch Menu Plan. I hope that it helps add a little ease to lunch making. If you have any other ideas add them in the comments below. I’d love to hear them!