5 Ways To Make Packing School Lunches Less Stressful

Getting ready to send daily lunches doesn't need to be as daunting as it sounds

Kids and packed lunch don't always go hand in hand; even when they set off with it clutched in their mitts as you wave them goodbye. And if you're sending your Kindergartener off for the first time this September it can be even more overwhelming to plan for. So, to spare you the minefield of knowing what to give them, Leslie Kennedy gives you some tips for making the transition from home lunches to packed lunches easier for your little one. 

1. K.I.S.S - keeping it simple

You can make the fancy bentos. I’m not poopooing the idea of kabobs and mini muffins and neatly sectioned foods and snacks. But the reality is, those can be a lot of work and it really might not be necessary. You probably didn’t have fancy fun looking lunches as a kid. Chances are you had a brown bag with a mushed sandwich, a granola bar, and an apple pretty much daily. You likely finished that lunch just the same. School lunches should not require that much thought and effort.

 2. The Balanced Day 

Back in our day, we had two 15 minute recesses and a lunch. And many schools still do. But there is a movement towards a "balanced day," whereby children get 2 nutrition breaks rather than recesses and lunch. My daughter’s school has a balanced day and that just added to my stress about how to put together her lunches. Two food breaks? How do I organize that?!?

I wavered between the "balanced day lunch bag" with two pockets, one marked with a "1" and the other with a "2" to indicate to my child what food to eat when, and a traditional bag. I opted instead for a sharpie. I used that marker to write 1s and 2s on what food was meant for which nutrition break. I painstakingly selected what combination and what specific foods I felt should be eaten at the first break and what to eat at the second.

It took about 3 days to find out my daughter was eating whatever she wanted whenever she wanted. And so did the kids in her class. Even the ones with the "balanced day" lunch bag. She’d often have her lunch at her first break and her snack at lunch time. I had no control over it anyway. So I stopped trying. Save yourself the trouble. Just put it all in there. 

3. The container isn’t as important as what’s inside of it.

Long gone are the days of the brown bag. There are a million and one types, designs and configuration of lunch bags these days. And as more and more schools are moving to litterless lunches (which means no wrappers, baggies or containers going into the trash at school) the variety of options for containers in which to send food are getting fancier, with more parts to fulfill the need for non-disposable items.

I stressed over the balanced day versus regular bag. The metal bento versus the insulated bag. The rectangle versus the kind that has a sandwich compartment separated.

Ultimately I realized it didn’t really matter what I chose. As long as it transported the food, it was doing its job.

4. Variety is not always the spice of life

Figure out what your kid likes and just stick with it. You don’t NEED to ensure a variety to keep them interested. I had a PB&J with an apple every day for probably 15 years. The old adage "variety is the spice of life" doesn’t hold true for 4 and 5-year-olds, at least not all 4 and 5-year-olds. If you want to come up with a bunch of creative and fun lunches, or if your kid is the kind of child that needs it to keep them interested, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. But if you’re like me and not a huge fan of coming up with something new and exciting every day, and if you have a kid like mine where some configuration of a cheese sandwich is enough to keep them interested, there is nothing wrong with discovering a short list of foods your child eats and rotating it. It doesn’t have to be a lot of work coming up with ideas for lunches.

5. Now is not the time to experiment if you have a picky eater

If your kid is picky, school lunches are not the time to try to get them to broaden their horizons. At least not in the early days of school. When my daughter started school I figured Kindie would be like daycare, where the limited food options would mean she’d magically eat whatever was there. It worked in daycare! Not so much in kindergarten. I suppose the group of peers eating all the same foods in daycare meant she’d eat foods she’d refuse at home. In school, everyone has something different and, as it turns out, my kid is a picky creature of habit. If she didn’t like it before, she won’t like it now. Don’t get me wrong, if your kid is an adventurous eater, go nuts with fun new food ideas. But for the picky kids, save yourself the time and energy. That said, as you all settle into the year and into your new routines, there's no harm in throwing something new and unusual into the mix to see what happens. Maybe your child will surprise you.

 This is a repost. This article was originally published on Baby Post.

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