3 School Lunch Brown-Bag Basics
Mastering Home-Packed School Lunches Your Kids Will Love
Let your child find the lunch box that he or she absolutely has to have or the world as he or she knows it will come to an end.
If you have the time to plan, shop and assemble, you could save lots of money by sending homemade lunches to school with your children. In addition, you would have more control over what your kids eat if you packed their lunches. Granted, they won't necessarily eat everything you pack all the time, but the foods you provide will set a healthy example. And the more healthy foods you send to school, the more chances your child will actually ingest them. Statistics are wonderfully reliable, even when it comes to carrots and hummus.
So, if you do want to pack lunches, but your kids are craving the school lunch line — peer pressure to fit in with the crowd and rectangular, greasy pizza topped with mini cubes of sausage can be hard to resist — I have three tips to help you win the battle.
1. The Lunch Box
Make a big deal out of selecting the lunch box. A mom or dad can take the supply list and pick up pencils, erasers, binders and paper without the kids tagging along. However, the lunch box must be mulled over and considered by the little person who will be dragging it back and forth to school, and back and forth to the cafeteria — every day. Let your child rummage through the lunch box displays. If he or she does not squeal with delight over the best lunch box ever, the one above all that he or she absolutely has to have or the world as he or she knows it will come to an end, then move on to the next store.
My boys had so much fun with this that the youngest actually reverted back to a lunch box for his junior and senior years of high school. I suppose I should note that around middle school, you'll have to switch to brown, nondescript lunch bags. However, like I said, my youngest actually started a little trend by bringing back the lunch box — and all the excitement and pride that comes with it — as an upperclassman.
2. The Buy-In
As with any great marketing plan, there must be a level of buy-in for you to realize success. To get the kids on board when it comes to brown-bagging the school lunches, have them help with the planning, shopping and prepping. What vegetables and fruits are their favorites? Do they prefer white wheat or honey wheat bread? Maybe they'd like to venture out this year and try a marble rye? When you get to the grocery store, let them choose their favorites in the healthy food categories you select.
At home, after supper (or before for younger kids), gather around the table and assemble the lunches for the next day. You can learn a lot about your children's likes and dislikes during this interactive family time.
And don't forget the treat when you're planning, buying and packing. The neighborhood kids loved it when our family was baking ahead for lunch "desserts," which often included my healthier versions of peanut butter cookies, oatmeal cookies or brownies.
Kids who have helped select the foods and prepare the lunches are more likely to not only remember the lunch box the next morning, but also eat what they packed, rather than trade it all for a cellophane-wrapped chocolate cupcake and leftover cafeteria fries.
3. The Note
Slipping a quick note into your kids' lunches is a simple way to stay connected to them while you are at home or work and they are in the middle of their school day. They will, in turn, look forward to opening their lunches to find surprise messages. I used to keep pens and sticky notes in my kitchen. After the boys were asleep, I'd scratch out a quick message for each and slip them into their lunches.
"Good luck on your spelling quiz."
"Have a great field trip."
Some notes were more personal than others, but all ended with, "Love, Mom."
These three little things can have a huge impact on tackling school lunches. They also seemed to help with family bonding as well as fostering healthy eating habits.