Someday my kids will pack their own lunches

I’m already tired of packing lunches and we’re only a few weeks into the school year.

fancy lunch

My kids’ lunches never look like this one posted on the 100 Days of Real Food blog.

Unlike the bloggers who post daily pictures of the works of art they send to school with their children, I actually I encourage my kids to buy the school lunch. In the Vancouver schools, the lunches are made in-house and seem nutritionally balanced.

When the new monthly lunch menu comes out, my sons, ages 6 and 8, and I sit down together to mark the days they will buy hot lunch. It can get confusing. One son will eat pizza and but not pizza pockets. The other will eat orange popcorn chicken but not the teriyaki.lunch menu photo

If I’m lucky, I can convince them to buy the school lunch two or three days a week. Then I just have to pack lunch for a couple of days. Even that feels daunting, despite all the tips available online.

My husband and I pack our lunches for work, and always have, so why is it so hard to pack my kids’ lunches? Maybe because it’s just that many more lunches to pack, but probably because anything involving your children is bound to be more fraught.

At dinner, I fix whatever is healthy and frugal, and my kids take it or leave it. If they leave it, they’re hungry and cranky, but somehow survive until the next meal.

When it comes to lunch at school, however, I feel pressure to pack something I know they will eat because I worry about them getting through the school day. I’m well aware that recess begins whenever they’re done with lunch, so they rush through the eating part of their midday break.

I know the long-term solution is to teach my boys to pack their own school lunches. That effort goes by the wayside on harried mornings. I’ve heard some parents have found success getting their kids to make the next day’s sandwiches the night before, but that’s just when my kids are at their most tired and cranky.

These days my kids don’t want sandwiches, anyway. That might have something to do with a tip I tried that failed terribly.

Last school year, I made a bunch of sandwiches ahead of time and froze them. The idea: I would pull one out in the morning for each kid’s lunch box and it would thaw by lunchtime. The reality: My sons complained they were cold and crunchy.

The freeze-ahead approach didn’t work, but other tips have helped:

  • I ask my kids to bring home any unfinished food so I can assess what they’re consuming and make adjustments.
  • I pack only one or two things, along with water. They don’t have time for more.
  • I never pack goodies, because that would be all they would eat, setting them up for an afternoon sugar crash.
  • I try to make extra servings of my kids’ favorite dinners, and then warm up leftovers to pack in a thermos.

These methods are working for now. Once I no longer have to hassle my boys to get dressed, eat breakfast and brush their teeth each morning, maybe then I’ll renew my effort to get them to make their own lunches.

Which is to say, it will be a while.

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