I let my three elementary school aged kids make their own lunches for a week and here’s what happened.
Everyone packed a fresh and healthy lunch–and everyone ATE that fresh and healthy lunch.
They felt totally proud of themselves.
It wasn’t no-work on my end but I can see how this will eventually get them doing it entirely themselves.
They’re learning how to make good food choices as they go.
Here’s how it worked for my kindergartener, first grader and third grader.
2 simple strategies for setting it up
- Focus on 2 ingredients for the main each week. This week we picked peanut butter and tortillas (and next week will be something different.) That way you can repeat with a little variation throughout the week without anyone getting bored, or wasting food.
- Prep 2 platters. Cut up tons of fresh fruit and veggies and let the kids mix and match as they like. Our veggie tray would’ve JUST lasted through the week but it got dropped all over the garage floor on Thursday so we had to improvise for Friday. So, yep.
The rules were simple, fill up your lunch box any way you like as long as you have some combination of these:
- 1 main (sandwich, roll-up, etc.)
- 2 fruits
- 1 veggie
- 1 special
Each day I provided the main and the special. They got to pick from a few kinds of fruit and veggies for the rest.
Monday: Turkey & Cheese on Sandwich Thins
Wednesday: Turkey & Cheese on Sandwich Thins
Thursday: Cheese Quesadillas on Whole-Wheat Tortillas
Friday: Peanut Butter & Fruit Spread on Sandwich Thins
Tip: I made all of the turkey & cheese sandwiches on Sunday night and stored the extras in the fridge for Wednesday. Because the bread is whole-wheat it doesn’t seem to get soggy at all. Even with mayo and mustard.
The shopping list
Adjust quantities to the number of lunches you’re making but the idea is to focus on a couple of main ingredients for the week (peanut butter and tortillas) and use them in a few different ways.
- Whole-wheat sandwich thins
- Whole-wheat tortillas
- Turkey (I like nitrate-free)
- Sharp cheddar cheese slices
- Peanut butter (look for ingredients that include only peanuts and salt)
- Strawberry fruit spread
I simplified by making a giant tray of fruit and a second tray of veggies then just let the kids mix and match all week. You could pare this down to 3-4 things (and I will going forward) but for the first week of school I liked giving them the freedom to choose exactly what they’d eat.
FRUIT & VEGGIES:
- Cuties oranges
- Bell peppers
- Baby carrots
- Cherry tomatoes
You probably don’t really even need to shop for these but if you do, just get two and rotate through the week. Otherwise, I just find a little something in the pantry that will be a tiny treat for an otherwise fresh and satisfying lunch. Here’s what we used this week:
- Dried cranberries
- Chocolate covered almonds
- Chocolate chips
- Smoked almonds
- White chocolate
- Boom Chicka Pop popcorn
The lunch boxes we use every day are from PlanetBox. These are the Rover design and we have the bags too. They’ve held up to every single day use for three years and counting!