Back to School Lunch Planning, Getting Kids to Help!

I don’t know what it is about making school lunches that seems like such a chore, but some days I just dread doing it. Once they are made and in the fridge (always the night before) I feel so accomplished. My kids are not big on left overs, so I have learned, and they prefer a bunch of small things rather than a few main food items. They call it a “snacky lunch”… So then I found myself  trying  to pack a million different Tupperware containers to hold it all in a zipper lunch bag that needed to be the size of their back packs.

My First Good Decision

I did myself a favor and purchased lunch boxes that would make my job easier. YUMBOX lunch box containers are amazing.

I did a little research and ended up choosing YUMBOX mainly because of their leakproof bento style compartments. By leak proof, I mean the contents of one compartment will not leak into the next. My kids like dip so this was a big win for me. At first I was worried the containers were too small, but once you fill them up, they are actually perfect. You can purchase different inserts with 3-6 compartments per box. I use the 6 compartment style, because my kids prefer more variety and smaller portions.

YUMBOX kids making their own lunch

I am not affiliated with or getting any compensation from YUMBOX for this post, I truly like this product and like to share things that work for me with other parents.

Staying Balanced

The compartments have helped me be a supermom and make a balanced lunch because they are each marked with a different food group. Dairy, Protein, Veggies, Fruit and Grain. Brilliant! Even if I don’t use every compartment, it’s a reminder for me to pack different food groups.

The other thing I love about YUMBOX is they keep me from sending pre-packaged foods. Unlike a zipper lunch bag, you can’t just toss in things from the cupboard because they won’t fit! The odd time I send a granola bar or fruit snacks I need to open the package and take out the food, and often even cut it up so it fits in the compartments. So if I’m having to do this extra prep anyway it defeats the benefits of pre-packaged or at least makes me think twice.

So I start thinking to myself, wow, this is really easy…so easy in fact that my kids could do it. It’s basically already laid out for them, all they have to do is follow the marked compartments and put in the different food groups.

food group compartments, kids lunches

Setting up for Success

I decided to make my dream of my kids packing their own lunches a reality and start setting up a system to make this work.

Step 1

I wanted to have at least 2-3 choices for each food group available so they could choose and have some variety throughout the week. Here is an example of one weeks food choices. I try to switch it up a bit every week while keeping a few of their favorites.

Dairy – Yogurt tube, Mini Go, cheese string or milk ticket (my eldest has a milk program at his school)

Grain – crackers, mini muffin or home-made granola bar

Fruit – grapes, raisins or dried cranberries, pineapple, apple sauce

Veggies – cucumbers, carrots, cherry tomatoes

Protein –  pepperoni sticks, farmer sausage or hard-boiled egg

I also offer them a main food like a sandwich, wrap, bagel and cream cheese or quesadilla, just as a few examples. I would either prepare this for them or help them do it on their own.

Make sure the food is accessible: That they can find it in the kitchen, reach it on their own and its stored in easy to open containers. I also store food pre cut, like fruit, veggies and cheese.

Step 2

Teach your kids about different food groups and help them place common foods they would eat in the right category. My son had been using his YUMBOX for a year and had not noticed that each compartment was marked with a different food group….he thought this was very exciting. Once those dots were connected he was ready to make his lunch!

kids making own lunch, balanced meal, food compartments

These series of photos were actually taken while he made his whole lunch for the first time. It didn’t take much time at all and I honestly did not physically help him with anything.  It went really smoothly because all he had to do was followed the food groups written on the compartments. He surprising spent very little time deciding what he wanted and just moved from compartment to compartment filling them up.

kids making own lunch, balanced meal, food compartments

I would give him the list of options for a particular compartment, (so for example for fruit he was able to choose from grapes, pineapple or strawberries),  he would make his selection and I only gave verbal instructions to help him get the food. This also gave me an opportunity to talk about the importance of washing fruits and vegetables before eating them. Coincidentally, I had a new bag of grapes in the fridge and washed and dried them on his own as well.

kids making own lunch, balanced meal, food compartments

I wanted him to feel in control and as independent as possible and let him decided how much of each food he wanted. When we got to the Dairy compartment he realized that he had already put cream cheese on the bagel so thought it would be alright to include a treat instead. I typically add a “treat” to my kids lunches each day, for example fruit snacks, Teddy Grahams, baking or a chocolate Kiss, so I was fine with his decision to do the same.

kids making own lunch, balanced meal, food compartments

The end result was this pretty great lunch! The best part was that he felt really good about himself and agreed this could be something he would be able to do all the time.

I typically make lunches at the very end of my day, right before I head off to bed, probably because I procrastinate…Now I am looking forward to watching my kids pack their own lunch.

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Ashlyn Bohonos

In order of priority, (preference depends on the day) she is a mom, a wife and an Occupational Therapist. Just like any other working parent, she is busy, tired and overwhelmed but also happy and thankful. She is looking forward to sharing her family’s journey and the success and challenges that go along with that from a personal and professional perspective.

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