Today’s post is sponsored by MightyNest, a service that lets you support your school while purchasing healthier products for your kitchen, your home, and your kids’ backpacks.
If you’ve been reading here long, you know that for the last few years I’ve been making a concerted effort to consistently pack lunches for my kids to take to school.
I’m not always perfect – I fall off the wagon at some point most years, and I definitely rely a lot on repetition to simplify the process – but this year I’ve strengthened my commitment to making a home-packed lunch for every kid, every single day, for three major reasons:
- It’s just better food. Yes, school officials and outside organizations are making a big effort to make school lunches better, and I’ve seen some improvement. But Clara is a picky eater, and I know she would not be taking advantage of the salad bar or eating the green beans on her tray. And my teenagers? They both have a la carte lunch lines, and I know only too well how easy it is to fill up on nothing but (expensive) junk at that age. By packing lunches myself, I can make sure the kids all have access to healthy food they actually like and will eat.
- Less waste. One of the things that irks me the most about school lunch is all the throwaway packaging and trays, not to mention the wasted food! Packing our own lunches at home lets us cut down on waste by using mostly reusable containers and only packing food I know they’ll eat. Plus, the kids can bring home any leftovers, which often becomes their after-school snack. I’m not militant about it – we do pack the occasional pre-packaged snacks and juice boxes, and I often use those ultra-thin sandwich bags, (150 fit in a small box so I’m not as concerned about the plastic waste as I would be with the bigger, beefier zip-style bags.) Nobody is perfect, but small changes add up over the course of a year…particularly when you’re multiplying several lunches by 180+ school days.
- The expense. Wow. To buy all five of my kids school lunch every day would cost us $65 per week (over the course of the school year, that adds up to about $2600!) That’s a big chunk of our grocery bill – and I know I can make healthy lunches at home for about half that.
So that’s the “why.” What about the “how” part of the equation?
This has been the biggest challenge for us – fall out of the habit and it can take a lot to get back in the swing of things.
Here is what’s helped me stay on track:
- Create a routine. I used to make the mistake of trying to pack lunches late at night, when I was tired, grumpy, and only too eager to come up with some excuse to get out of it. Or first thing in the morning, when I was sleepy and trying to keep all the kids moving. Now I pack lunches as soon as all the kids are home from school. We line up all the lunch boxes on the counter and one or two of the kids help me pack, assembly-line style while we chat about their day. And yes, I even pack for my big kids and teens, because with five kids the last thing I want is everyone wandering in and out of the kitchen opening the fridge and taking stuff out all evening. It may seem counterintuitive, but doing all the lunches, all at once, makes it much simpler and more manageable for me. Takeaway: do what works for you!
- Be consistent. A few years ago, I let my kids have one day “off” from home packed lunches every week. The problem was that I found one day “off” often led to two or three, because as soon as we fell out of our usual routine, it was that much harder to get back into it. This year I’m taking a much more hard-line approach: the kids must take a lunch, every single day. There is no money in their lunch account. No easy fallback if they forget it or I don’t feel like making it. The truth is, sometimes it’s just easier to do something every day than it is to do it every day except one. Now I try to surprise them with a weekly treat like potato chips, cookies, or nachos. Again: do what works to help YOU stay on track, and be willing to experiment or change things up.
- Use the right products. This is a huge part of the equation. Like any other task, it’s much more fun to pack lunches if I have attractive, easy-to-use, easy-to-clean containers to work with.
And that’s why I’m so excited to bring you this awesome giveaway from MightyNest!Using the widget above, pledge to pack your child a healthy lunch and you’ll be entered to win $100 of lunch supplies including:
- Double Decker Lunch Box
- Duo Stainless Steel Food Container
- Write-On Labels
- 8oz Stainless Steel Round Containers with Lids
- Glass Wean Tub with Lid
- Ice Pack With Washable Sweat-Proof Cover
- Snack Taxi Sandwich Bag
- Organic Cotton Sandwich Wrap
- Reusable Bamboo Utensil Set
Click the link above for official rules, but please note that the contest ends on October 6 and is open to US residents only. (Apologies to my international friends!)
MightyNest carries a wide selection of healthy, toxin-free products, but it’s more than just an online store. Every time you make a purchase from MightyNest, 15% of that purchase is donated back to your school of choice. You can also get involved with larger initiatives, like the Mighty School Challenge which will award $25,000 to one mighty school. (If you’re involved in your PTO or PTA, definitely check it out!)
After you enter the contest, I’d love for you to tell me how the lunch process is going for you this year.
Do you have any strategies to share, or do you need help staying consistent or coming up with a workable routine? Let us know in the comments below!