Lunch fuels the school day and the National School Lunch Program fills gap when packing food isn't an option.
Packing lunches for yourself and your kiddos is a great way to save money on food, but it also can wear on you as the days and weeks go by throughout the school year. In order to simplify things and set yourself up for lunchbox packing success, we recommend you take a few important steps before the lunch packing kicks back into high gear.
Start At the Source – Ask Your Kids
First things first, sit down and have a chat with your family about what kinds of food they want in their lunch. Talk about the importance of a balanced, healthy lunch with one fun treat.
If they are the ones eating it, ensure they will enjoy all your efforts by making a list of things you know they like. If you have very little ones, let them choose a few pictures of different foods.
Also, make an effort to ask for new ideas every once in a while so they don’t get bored.
Consider Options Beyond Prepackaged Snacks
The extra cost of prepackaged snacks in your grocery cart adds up so quickly, and they probably don’t save you as much time as you think. Pick a few to start pre-packing on your own, and have the kids help too! This process can help your budget and help you stay organized, and usually only takes a few minutes once a week to complete when you work together.
Pick a Time…
Third, are you a night before or morning of lunch-packer? This needs to work for you, so choose the time you know will be most successful. If the routine starts to feel boring or monotonous, switch it up for a few weeks and start packing in the evening if you’re normally a morning packer, or vice versa.
…And Get Packing!
Finally, don’t underestimate your kids and their ability to make their own lunches. Kids are far more capable than we think - usually because we don’t slow down enough to teach them what to do and how to pack their own lunches.
While they sometimes take a little more time and guidance to complete tasks, the routine of kids helping with lunches will be extra beneficial to you in the long run. A little guidance now will likely lead to them taking over the job - sooner than you think. And if you feel like you don't have a ton of time to pack a lunch after making dinner every night, check out this back to school freezer meals list to free up some time and to kick your lunch packing routine into high gear.
Some kids and their parents need a little extra help packing a lunch for school. That's why the National School Lunch Program, Feeding America and its network of food banks are ready to help kids have the food they need to learn and grow. Learn more about how we help kids during school and on the weekends.
Erin Chase is a mom of four boys and the founder of $5 Dinners, a food blog dedicated to sharing inexpensive, easy meal plans and recipes, as well as other tips and tricks to save money on food.