It’s been a year and a half since we had to worry about packing our kid’s lunch for school (or reload their meal card–let’s be honest). Either way, I don’t fucking miss it. On the other hand, I can’t say I’ve been a fan of running a 24-hour kitchen during the pandemic, either. What’s a Mom to do? All I know is school starts September 1st, and I’ve got to figure something out ASAPITY. Not gonna lie, kind of freaking out over here.
It’s not my first time in this rodeo. Between my husband and both daughters, I’ve been packing lunches for a solid decade. If you’re a parent who’s stressing out about packing lunches, never fear. For starters, you definitely aren’t alone. According to a survey of 2,000 parents, nearly 60% of parents are stressed out even thinking about what back-to-school meal planning will mean.
Coordinating schedules, grocery runs, and planning out the week’s meals is enough to overwhelm anyone. Not to mention the ever-rising prices of groceries. Plus, knowing our little darlings are most likely to toss out fruit and veggies they so desperately need to keep their immune system strong. Deep breath. Wooohsahhh. Let’s take the overwhelm out of lunch packing by planning.
KISS: Keep It Simple, Sister
I have to admit, I’m totally a dork when it comes to writing out menus. I used to do mine biweekly, but in the past few months, that’s come to feel overwhelming as well. Once a week, sit down with your calendar and see what you’ve got going on. School is back in session for many families. So what does this mean for your family? Whether the kids are back in person or adhering to a virtual schedule, lunch 5 days a week is something we need to plan for. My eaters are incredibly picky. So 4 out of those 5 days, I’ll be packing them a lunch. When it comes to planning and preparing lunches, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with Pinterest-perfect photos of other’s meal ideas.
For example, my girls don’t like kale (hell, I don’t like kale), point being, I could dress it up in the most creative way, and it’s still going to come home uneaten. Do what works for your kids. I don’t care if Karen sent little Suzie to school with veal, cooked medium-well, drizzled with a cranberry hand-mashed puree of sorts. If your kids won’t eat it, don’t waste your time or energy putting work into something that comes back untouched.
Ease your stress, and stop yourself from being overwhelmed by offering a few different options, but ones the kiddos pick out in advance. My girls like salads and sandwiches, so each week they know they have their pick of a deli sandwich, PB & J, or a salad. Yeah, it’s not fancy, but trust me, it’s edible. Any of these options will only take a few minutes to put together, or better yet, put them together the night before.
Many Things About Life Are Hard, Lunch Doesn’t Have To Be One Of Them
Take it easy on yourself. There is no parent of the year award for how Pintrest-worthy you make your kids lunch. The most important thing is that your kids are fulled and ready to take on the day ahead. Pair their main course with a bag of chips and a scoop of that fruit salad you cut up on Sunday before the chaos of the week began. It takes a toll on Moms being the primary person to worry about what’s for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a million snacks in between. Don’t forget most schools also have the option for a hot lunch. There’s nothing wrong with substituting that on the days you were running late or simply just didn’t have the energy to put something together.
In fact, there’s nothing wrong with your kids having hot lunch at school 5 days a week. As long as they’re being fed, Mom, you’re doing a great job. Something important to acknowledge is that all of this is coming from a place of immense privilege. My children have never been food insecure, which is a very real problem facing many people. If you are someone experiencing this, there are federal and state resources available to your child.
During the past year and a half, everything about the schedule we knew changed. It will take us and our littles time to get back into the swing of things, and that is okay. Maybe you’re lucky and have really great eaters who will basically eat anything you throw in their lunch bag. As for the rest of us, keep calm, and pack on. Trust me, if they’re hangry enough, they’ll find something edible in the lunch you so lovingly packed. Even if they don’t ever tell you that secretly they really love that celery you gave them. What? A Mom can wish.