Monday, August 26, 2013

The "Packing a School Lunch" Conundrum

For 7 years, packing school lunches was daily source of stress for me.  I know #suburbanmomproblems ...whaaa!  It was taking forever, there was always a fight, and nobody would know what they wanted.  There was also the issue of running out of things for school lunches and they would end up with things like "trail mix" made up from the bits of cereal left in the bottom of each cereal bag,  the protein bars from my gym bag, or even Halloween candy. Last year I finally got smart and came up with a way that made everyone happy, gave the kids choices, and made me feel better that they had at least one healthy item in their lunch box.

For their "main course" I have them make their own sandwich.  I lay out the bread, meats, veggies, and condiments before they wake up, and they make the sandwich to their liking.  I also make a big batch of a pasta salad filled with a protein and vegetables that they can choose instead of a sandwich.

For their snacks I fill three rubbermaid type bins with lids. I fill one bin for salty foods, one for sweets, and one for fruits.  I try to make it a mix between healthy and what the kids would consider 'fun' foods. I trust them to make good choices, and they always seem to balance healthy and fun in the same lunch. I can live with that. They pick one item from each bin and put it into their lunch box.  Easy.
  Sometimes, I make a big trip to Costco and fill it with pre-packaged foods and other times I will put large containers of foods and have them fill their reusable lunchbox each morning.  Other times I have foods like popcorn, muffins, and protein bars that I made at home...but that's only when I'm feeling super motivated.  It does not happen often.

These 3 bins are only for school and only get taken out in the mornings while they pack their lunch.  They have other snacks to choose from in the pantry.  This keeps us from realizing we are out of snacks during the morning rush and prevents me from adding cereal, Halloween candy, or a candy cane for their snack...not that they would mind.  Each bin lasts about 4 weeks between my three kids.

Here is what is in the bins this month:

Fruit bin: Go-go Squeeze Apple Sauce, Crunchy Pak Organic Apple slices from Costco (the fresh fruit changes weekly), and Clif Kid Z Fruit Rope.

Salty Bin: Quaker Popped Rice Crackers (in 3 flavors), Annie's Cheddar Bunnies, and Pringles

Sweet Bin:  Annie's Chocolate Bunnies,  Annie's Graham Bunnies, , Nature Valley Trail Mix bar,  Rice Krispie Treat, Fudge Stripes.

The bins vary depending what is on sale at Costco or what is on sale in bulk at our local grocery store HEB.  It also depends on my schedule and what I have time to make.

Since starting this way of packing lunches, the kids and I are much happier in the mornings.  They get choices that they like, they learn the responsibility of packing their own lunches,  we don't run out of snacks last minute because they ate them for an after school snack, and I'm not putting random crap in their lunches anymore.  If you do something like this, I'd love to see a link to your ideas! Please post your ideas here on on my FB page :


  1. Such a cool idea! My little guy isn't old enough for this yet (well, he's not even old enough for school either, lol) but if he was we would implement this for lunch packing.

    Pinning this to help my other mom friends :)

  2. Great snack choices. Our problem is that the kids want to eat all the snacks while at home! and leaves nothing for school lunches.

  3. I've read something similar done... glad to know that it works! I can't wait to try this for my own kiddos this school year! Thanks!

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    Hello Lovely Awards and Conference