How We “Outsource” Packing School Lunches

At the beginning of this school year, I mentioned on Instagram that we had decided to have both girls make their own school lunches this year, and received many, many requests for more details on what this REALLY looks like day-to-day. So, here we are, a few months later (but, still with a few months more of school for most of you, so definitely not too late!), with all of the details about how we outsource the packing of school lunches to the two people in the house who actually benefit from these lunches!

First of all, why did we decide to outsource the packing of school lunches to the girls? Previously, I had always been the one to pack any necessary school lunches. Inevitably, I’d scramble to do it just before I headed to bed at night, or I’d forget then and scramble to throw something together while the girls ate breakfast before school, and neither situation was ideal. Additionally, I’d work hard to pack a balanced, nutritious lunch, and inevitably, most of that lunch would come back home uneaten and get thrown away. Our older, however, had been packing her own water bottle and snack for a year, and had demonstrated that she could take on this responsibility. So then, we figured that if a six-year-old could pack her own lunch independently, then a 4-year-old could likely pack her own lunch mostly independently. And, spoiler alert– she can!


So, a few days before school started, we had a family meeting and let the girls know that packing their own lunches would be added to their nighttime checklists (a morning and bedtime system we’d had in place for a few years to help the girls find a little more independence in those somewhat chaotic times of the day). As a family, we discussed how a balanced lunch would have at least one thing from each of five different categories, and we brainstormed examples of foods that could fit into those categories. And then we practiced! The girls practiced packing lunches before school started, so that they were ready to roll when the first school night rolled around. That list was posted prominently on our refrigerator for a few months (until we started our Family Focus Traits work for 2020 and needed the fridge space) and now lives on the side of our kitchen island, where the girls can still easily reference it as needed.

Why five categories, you ask? In short, because the lunchboxes the girls use most often have 5 different sections! We have Yumbox, Bentgo, and PlanetBox (which we bought used on Ebay in case the price tag scares you!) lunchboxes, but we all have a strong preference for our Yumbox lunchboxes. In these lunchboxes, each compartment has a picture of the different category of food one might put there, so it is really easy for the girls to think through what food to pick next and what they’ve forgotten. They’re also leak-proof and very easy for our girls to open and close on their own!

So, on any given school night, the girls will pull out a lunchbox, set about filling it up, put it in their insulated lunchbox “cooler,” and put it in the refrigerator. Then, all they have to do the next morning is grab it and go!

What are the benefits of “outsourcing” the packing of lunches this way? Selfishly for me, I love not taking on a responsibility that isn’t for me and can easily be done by the beneficiaries. Though they do sometimes complain about the responsibility, they also enjoy being in charge of what goes in their lunchboxes each day. Yes, they tend to pick a lot of the same food over and over again (I think carrots have been the chosen vegetable 95% of the time this year), but they are actually eating what they’ve packed, unlike what might have happened if I packed a lunch and tried to choose a different vegetable each day in an attempt at making their diets more well-rounded. If they’re eating the carrots or frozen peas they packed, then at least they’re eating a veggie and we’re not wasting food!


Tell me — who packs school lunches in your house? Would you consider outsourcing this task in this way?

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