Mommy confession time: Last year I did not have to pack a single lunch.
Throw your stones now, readers, because I know such a statement can make many a mother green with envy.
Want to know how I know? Because this year I DO have to pack lunches and I am none too thrilled about the idea.
First allow me to explain as to why there was no lunch packing last year. The children attended preschool two days a week, yet went to a program who did academics from 8:00am to Noon. Students could stay for lunch and rest time or parents could come retrieve their bundles of joy at noon. Last year, I scooped up the kids at noon and fed them at home. Our set of lunchboxes stayed neatly tucked away in a kitchen cabinet.
This year, E is eating at school one day a week, Isaac and I are eating at our learning community one day a week and then the whole family is eating at co-op one day a week. I know the extent of this lunch packing is incredibly mild compared to the mamas who are making lunches for multiple children five days a week. However, most mothers can attest to the fact that repeated lunch box preparation is a bit tiring, regardless of how many times a week one must do it.
I do not know what it is about the actual packing of lunch that makes mothers want to run screaming from the kitchen by mid-October. Obviously, parents want their children to eat and feed them lunch when children are home during the day. Perhaps it is the monotony of doing the same job of putting in a milk box, an apple and a sandwich in a cartoon-covered cloth box 180 days a year that does us moms in. Maybe it is the stress over packing a lunch that is both appealing to the child and the teacher (everyone knows the teachers always quietly “discuss” the child with the weird lunch…at least I did when I taught). It might even be the desire to be Martha Stewart-esque and provide some fun new lunchbox trick, such as writing on a banana with a toothpick, that makes moms completely over the whole lunchbox thing and perfectly willing to give kids the $2.75 to eat in the cafeteria each morning.
Whatever the reason, lunch packing can be a burden at times*
(*Know that I use the word “burden” for humor’s sake, as all of us moms know how fortunate we are to have food in the pantry to feed our children with on a daily basis. Recognizing the blessing of food to be prepared should never be taken for granted.)
As I prepare to re-enter the world of lunch box packing, I developed a few organizational tips for myself to make the process as painless as possible.
1. Know the rules
I have a child whose main source of protein is peanut butter. However, we live in a time when most schools/groups are nut-free zones. I have no issue with the “No-Nut” policies that are prevalent these days, contributing the rise of nut allergies to the ways to today’s society (read up on it and you will understand what I am talking about). Also, I do not want to be the parent that packed a PB&J sandwich that caused another kid to have to use an epi-pen. In packing lunches, know the rules of the school. If there are specific guidelines, observe them knowing you would want other parents to do the same for your child. As for my peanut butter obsessed girl, we are looking at other options for packed lunches this year and saving the peanut butter for home.
2.Make a checklist of lunch items
Make a master list of items needed for lunch boxes to consult when grocery shopping. This helps prevent the Sunday night panic when one realizes that she is both out of organic fruit snacks and juice boxes. A master list also helps mom remember what things she has packed in the past that went over well with the kiddos.
3. Take a poll
I love these lunch box polls, even if some of the feedback might hurt just a bit. 🙂
4. Create a lunchbox station.
I am a big fan of the station, simply because they cut down on wasted time and misplaced items. A lunchbox station houses all the needed items to assemble a quick, healthy lunch. Keep these items out of the normal daily rotation of snacks and foods so that when it comes time for the child to eat his packed lunch, all the food is exciting and slightly different than the fare at home. A lunchbox station houses reusable bags, prepacked snacks (either purchased that way or divided up when bought in bulk), lunchbox notes, plastic silverware, napkins and small containers. By housing all the non-perishables together, lunch box assembly is streamlined.
5. Assemble lunches the night before school.
The tip of preparing lunches the night before has been around since Ma on the farm was packing tin pails and sending her children off to the one room schoolhouse for the day. I really like the notion of preparing lunches the night before, yet I detest a soggy sandwich. When prepping the night before, I fix everything but the sandwich and then quickly add that in the morning. Being organized and on top of your game is great….until you bite into soggy bread and wilted lettuce.
What is your lunch box tip?