Five Tips For The Total Nightmare That Is Packing School Lunches


There’s a lot of good info out there, but I feel like something is missing because nobody is talking about packing school lunches.

And that’s a problem because I was woefully unprepared. The stakes have changed since we were kids and it’s important that we talk about the nightmare that is packing school lunches. 


Be warned I make no claims to be an expert here, but I’ve compiled a list of tips to help you maintain your sanity when packing school lunches:

A mother of three little children preparing breakfast in kitchen at home.

Accept That Ninety Percent of the Time Your Lunches Will Be “Gross”

It’s important to come to terms with this now. School lunches are no joke and it’s a losing game.

When we were kids we survived off a steady diet of PB and jelly sandwiches and deli meats were a luxury item, but not anymore.

Peanut butter is poison now, and ham and salami are essential, but also “gross”.

See kids today don’t like ham, but they also don’t like salami, and don’t even think about roast beef!

Condiments are tricky, because “eww mustard”, and butter is also iffy, but sometimes great, so prepare to be flexible.

Also, if they insist on dry bread prepare for some negative feedback, because condiments make the meat slimy, but also meat makes dry bed soggy.

I’ve been workshopping solutions for this, but I’ve yet to find any.

Always Add A Token Fruit Or Veggie When Packing School Lunches (Bonus Points If You Add Both)

A balanced diet is important and fiber is key to keeping things running smoothly, but mostly, teachers and lunch monitors are watching and fruits and veggies show you’re on your A game.

This is your time to shine and show you care about nutrition and stuff with some freshly cut exotic fruits.

As for your children, flexibility is a must here, because kids have very “refined” palates and they change faster than fashion trends.

Blueberries were all the rage for a hot second, then raspberries, now berries are out all together.

Lunch box with tasty creative food for kid on table

Hot lunch Is Always A Hot Item

Mama’s on a budget, but kids today don’t want sandwiches, they want a piping hot thermos.

Taquitos, pizza pockets, and pre-approved leftovers are all potentially good options.

No, you don’t have to serve it everyday (again, the budget), but you might make your kids happy if you throw the occasional hot meal into their bag.

I’m not making any promises here, but speaking from experience, if you want to get on your kids good side, serve them breakfast sausages and syrup smothered pancakes.

If you can make that happen there’s a seventy five percent chance that may not think that specific lunch is gross. Those are good odds in the school lunch game. 

Never Assume They Like Something Because They Said They Like It

Children are fickle creatures with rapidly changing palates and if you have more than one, prepare to take notes, because things get complicated real fast.

Case in point, last year my kids only wanted ham, but then ham got boring, so I switched to salami, but did you know that there are A LOT of different kinds of salami?

There’s summer sausage, German salami, and various spicy options.

This is where things got dicey, one son didn’t like salami or ham, the other only liked summer sausage, and my daughter loved spicy salami.

Then there was my youngest son, if I served him spicy salami, I was being cruel, because why would I set his mouth on fire like that?

It was a real predicament, and it turns out you can’t just buy a salami trio to appease everyone, because by the time you drop cash on the big Costco pack, nobody will like salami anyways.

Which brings me to my final point.

Prepare To Throw Perfectly Good Food Away

Basically there are no guarantees.

You can carefully shop and handpick all the best foods.

You’ll make your own snacks with love.

Your heart and soul will go into those sandwiches or you will pack them a thermos with their favorite foods.

Chances are they still aren’t going to like something and you are going to end up throwing it away. It sucks, I’m not going to sugar coat it, but they’re kids and kids are crazy that way.

Each one is a food critic who wants to subsist on fruit snacks and potato chips. What can you do?

So I guess the point is, school lunches suck. It’s nearly impossible to keep kids happy and well fed at the same time.

The important part is that you give those kids food, and the rest is in their hands.

Pack it all up, send them on their merry way, and let it all go!

They may not eat it, but you can say you’ve tried your best.

Some days (or most days) that’s all you can do!


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