It is back to school time, which means once again taking on my least favorite task….school lunches! Since I’ve been packing a lunchbox for each of my six kids for years, it was time to share all my tips and ideas on how to make it a success.
Now, these tips may make you think I have lost my mind, but stick with me until the end. I promise you success!
#1 – Shut down your child’s school lunch account – Now, don’t yell and throw things at me just yet. I know from personal experience that when I have the option for my kids to buy their lunch at school, I will fall back on that lousy choice of a lunch when life get crazy busy. Over three years ago I called my school to shut down all our lunch accounts and they told me it couldn’t be done. When I asked them why, their response was because it had never been done before. HA! Well, the 6 Jones children were the first without a lunch account in our school district and that decision has been the biggest positive influence. When you don’t have ANY other option but for them to pack a lunch, a lunch magically gets packed every single day!
#2 – Be willing to pack what your child wants to eat, within reason – The school lunchroom is not the time or the place to try to force your child to eat something you think they should eat, but they hate….just ask Michelle Obama 🙂 In no way am I telling you to pack them all the junk food that they desire! Pack them a well balanced lunch, but use those healthy items that they already eat, otherwise it will just end up in the garbage can. If the only thing your teenager will eat in his lunch is PB&J, then go for it! (I speak from experience on that one folks!)
If you want your kids eating healthier at lunch time, introduce those new foods at breakfast or dinner. Allow enough time for them to grow to appreciate these new healthier foods and then start tossing them in their lunch boxes. Make those needed changes at home first, then allow them to take those new skills out on the road!
#3 – Get yourself all the necessary hardware, with your child’s approval – There are so many options to choose from but don’t make the costly mistake of picking out a lunch box, container, thermos or other paraphernalia without your child’s pre-approval, especially if they are over the age of 10! I’ve had many awesome products go completely unused because a child refused to be seen with them at school. For instance, my high schooler must have his lunch in an inconspicuous brown paper bag to make the cut. And three years ago, I bought these awesome (and expensive) bento boxes which no one liked and they are currently in my basement collecting dust.
I do have some must-haves when it comes to lunch boxes, but again, clear them first with your kid! These three products are all ones I have had for years in my house and recommend to everyone who asks me!
These 3 Compartment Lunch Box Containers are used on every school day in our house. Portion sizes are perfect and I love having one container to wash instead of 3 when they get home from school!
When it comes to something to drink, it doesn’t get any better than these reusable bottles. I’ve had mine for 3 years and they are still going strong. Dishwasher safe and they have never leaked for me! They fit perfectly inside the lunchbox and hold 10 ounces.
My last must-have is this amazing little thermos which is stainless steel and comes in all kinds of fun colors! Lunch would get pretty boring without these gems because my kids love dinner leftovers in their lunches. I wish our schools offered microwaves, but they don’t so we need a great thermos so the food is still be hot at lunch time.
#4 – Have your child pack their own lunch – Who knows better what will get eaten and what will get thrown out than your own child? Let them be the decision makers as to what is in their lunch box that day. Now, this requires you to facilitate their success by having the necessary, healthy food choices for them on hand but once you do, let them do it themselves! Yes, even your adorable little Kindergartener can pack her own lunch. She might leave a bit more of a mess after making her own PB&J than you do, but who cares? Empower your children to be independent in this one thing and it begins to rub off in other areas of their life. Plus, you are allowing them to learn some amazing food skills that will last the rest of their lives.
For my kids, I use a three item system: one serving of some type of protein, one serving of fruits or vegetables, and one “special” item that they consider a treat like trail mix, crackers, granola bar, or the occasional cookie. My job is to make sure my fridge has options from each category and then they are on their own. To be honest, there are some mornings when the pickings are a little sparse because I need to get to the store, but that only builds appreciation for when the cupboards are full again 🙂
So what do you do to keep those school lunches going strong all year long? I would love to hear your great ideas so please leave me a comment below!
**My friend, this post contains Amazon affiliate links which means I receive a small compensation, at no additional cost to you, if you make a purchase using my link. If you decide to give these products a try, I will be your bestie if you would use the links from this post. And no worries….I only link to products that I both use and love! ~Carole