That’s a conservative estimate of how much time I spent making my children’s lunches each school year until 2011. I used 15 minutes a day for my estimate, because I am not at my best in the early morning. I spent a lot of time staring at the lunch boxes, trying to remember what was still needed — fruit group? dairy? protein?
After seeing my friend Stacey’s Facebook post, where she said she had “finished making lunches for the next two weeks,” I read further to see that she had made and frozen sandwiches. I remembered my mother doing the same thing when I was a kid. Mine were turkey and cheese on wheat, and they always were thawed and tasted great by lunch.
I had an epiphany. I’m a big proponent of teaching kids independence and responsibility, so why was I still packing my kids’ lunches? I think it was because I feared the choices a few of my kids would make if given free reign, and I wanted to make sure that they were getting the nutrients they needed to be healthy. I came up with a solution: I printed out Lunch Packing Instructions (see below) which my children could use to pack their own lunches — the night before or even several days at a time.
The timing was perfect for my new discovery. I was going to be out of town for — gasp — three school lunches! I went over the instructions and watched — giddily — as my sons, ages 7 & 10, packed three lunches each. Ta – da! Done!
I am sharing my Instructions with the caveat that my kids often are packing all that they will eat between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm, so it is definitely lunch plus snacks before sports, etc. You may need to edit according to your child’s schedule and size.
I had to organize my refrigerator and pantry a bit, but it was well worth the time. I put all of the dairy items in one area on the lowest shelf, and I made a lunch fruit and veggie drawer out of one of the produce drawers. Every week I put apples and other loose fruits in there, but also I bag up some baby carrots and grapes. I also created a “chip/extra” bin in the pantry with chips, granola bars, etc. and a “treat” plastic drawer with some pre-bagged cookies, fruit roll-ups, and other sweet items.
When I shared the story of my lunch-packing epiphany with my friend Julie, she said I had “changed her life.” I like that kind of positive reinforcement, so I was encouraged to share more! So, below, for all of your enjoyment (and hopefully use!) are Lunch Packing Instructions. I hope having your kids pack their own lunches changes your life and theirs!
Let me know if you have any fun ideas of good lunch items, or any suggestions for improvement. And, I’d love to hear what you plan to do with those extra 45 hours.
If you’d like me to email you the .doc form so you can edit with your own lunch packing instructions, send me an email!
Lunch Packing Instructions
Print it as instructions for your kids to use when packing their own lunches!
Main Entrée (Pack 1):
- Trader Joe’s Salad or Wrap
- Salami & Cheese + Crackers
- Bagel & Cream Cheese
- Tuna pack
- Other approved main entrée
Dairy (Pack 1-2):
- String cheese
- Milk or Chocolate milk
- Yogurt drink
Fruits/Veggies (Pack 2)
- Piece of fruit (any)
- Canned fruit (mandarin oranges, pineapple, etc.)
- Apple sauce
- Bagged veggies/fruits (baby carrots, grapes, red pepper slices)
- Dried fruit (raisins, apricots, etc.)
Chips/extra (Pack 1-2)
- Granola bar
- Almonds or other nuts
- Trail mix
Dessert/Treat (Pack 1)
- Oreos/other cookies (2-3 small, one large)
- Tigers Milk bar
- Caramel sauce with apple slices
- Small candy (if you have from an event)
- Chose any extra item from 2, 3, or 4
Don’t forget water bottle, napkin, and spoon/fork (as needed)!