Packed school lunches are a great way to feed your little monsters during the long school day. Not only can you better control what the little darlings eat when you send a packed lunch, but you can also save oodles of cash each school year by brown bagging it! However, it’s not hard or unusual for packed school lunches to turn from win to fail. And nobody likes a fail!
If you’re stuck in a rut or getting frustrated with packed school lunches already, you might be committing a few packed lunch cardinal sins. Here are a few don’s and don’ts to keep you on track, even during an insane school year!
DO let the kids have a say.
Kids won’t eat what they don’t like. Period. You might think that they should be eating quinoa and rice cakes, but they may have something just a tad different in mind for their school lunches. Always take into consideration what they actually want for lunch, and compromise if necessary. We usually take the time to discuss different ideas for school lunches every few weeks, which seems to work well. You might just be surprised what your kids will actually come up with!
DON’T pack too much.
Unless your kid is in a massive growth spurt with an insatiable hunger, you might be packing too much. If you or your child is throwing away foods that he actually likes, it may be time to reconsider how much food you’re actually packing. Also, even if your child eats like a horse at home, he may not have enough time to scarf down all of his lunch goodies at school, so time could also be a factor.
DO pack a little variety.
Nothing is more boring than the same items in packed lunches every single day. Most people love a PB&J sandwich, but every day? That would get gross and boring real quick! Sales change every week at the grocery stores, so you should be able to find a different affordable option each week to change things up a bit. Incorporating leftovers into packed school lunches is also a great way to add variety, reduce food waste, and save some money.
DON’T pack stinky or weird foods.
Stinky foods are just a no-no! What kid wants to open a lunchbox and bowl over his fellow lunch mates with the odrific aroma of tuna or eggs. Think twice before you toss in those stinky foods. The same is true for super weird foods as well. Kids can be mean and may possibly pick on the kid with the “weird” lunch, even if it is a delicacy in some cultures or a super healthy power food.
DO pay attention to temperature.
One of the first rules of packing school lunches is to keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Invest in an insulated lunch bag for cold foods or insulated soup container if you’ll be packing hot foods. Some foods can spoil if not kept at the proper temperature, and others can get just plain gross, especially to kids! You can skip the ice packs and simply freeze a bottle of water to toss in the lunchbag. The frozen water will keep the food cold, but it should also be thawed enough to drink in time for lunch.
DON’T pack messy foods.
Most kids are messy—plain and simple. If you want to keep those school clothes neat and tidy for the majority of the year, skip the super messy foods.
DO pack easy-open foods.
Field test all packaged foods before adding them to packed school lunches. If your child can’t open them easily, consider alternatives. Teachers and lunch room monitors won’t always have time to open everyone’s lunch goodies. Pack lunch items in easy to open containers and bags instead.
DON’T pack banned foods.
Schools these days are becoming more aware of and sensitive to children with food allergies. While this is good news, it can make packing school lunches a little more difficult. If you send your child to school with a banned food in their lunchbox, there’s a good chance that it will get taken away. When the school year starts, be sure to ask for a list of any banned foods to avoid this.
DO pack everything carefully.
Squashed sandwiches, spilled drinks, and crushed chips are no fun, and neither is a lunchbox leaking salad dressing! Take the time to carefully pack the items into the lunchbox or bag to avoid crushed or smushed food and a big mess! Invest in shallow plastic containers or a bento box to keep food in good shape until lunchtime.