I took pictures of my son's packed lunches every morning for a week. Behold: a week of real life, totally doable packed lunches.
My three-year-old, Darrol, is in daycare five mornings a week. That means I pack five lunches for him every week. And during summer, when his regular school (who provides snack) is out, I also pack him a snack every day.
Coming up with lunches to pack used to stress me out, and I thought that sharing a week's worth of my kid's lunches might make this lunch thing easier for other folks.
There are some things you should know about my lunch-packing style:
- I don't feel the need to give Darrol a beautiful and unique lunch every day. I used to try to really mix up his lunches, and it would just stress me out. There are so many more serious things that I can stress over. Let him eat sandwiches!
- I aim for food that he likes and try throw in an "aspirational item" whenever I can, like cucumber slices or kale salad. Sometimes he tries that stuff, sometimes he doesn't. The point is to get him used to the idea that these foods are part of a regular meal.
- I don't go for elaborate snacks. I used to pack him more exciting snacks, but when I did that I would get half of his lunch back uneaten. I switched to whole fruit, and it's been great! It's enough to tide him over, but it's not so much food that he isn't hungry at lunch time. Also, throwing an apple or an orange into a lunch bag is the easiest thing you can do.
- I pack his lunch the night before. Packing lunches in the morning is the pits. Usually, I throw Darrol's lunch together while cleaning up supper, since I'm in the fridge already.
- I embrace the double lunch. Sometimes, I pack two lunches at once, and he eats the exact same thing two days in a row. I didn't do that for this week, so you could see more examples, but most weeks he has at least one lunch that is 100% identical to the one from day before.
You're looking at:
- MONDAY: leftover beans and rice, blueberries, sweet potato, and avocado with a squeeze of lime (with aspirational cucumber slices). Sliced mango for snack
- TUESDAY: avocado sandwich with mustard (he loves this sandwich!), blueberries, edamame (aspirational). Tangerine for snack
- WEDNESDAY: sweet potato, corn, tangerine, and cubed tofu. Apple for snack (no aspirational item today)
- THURSDAY: avocado and mustard sandwich, corn, cubed tofu. Banana for snack. (no aspirational item today)
- FRIDAY: sweet potato, kale salad (aspirational), blueberries, crackers with Follow Your Heart Provolone. Apple for snack.
I shared a test lunch photo on Instagram, and folks have asked what kind of lunch box is in the photo. It's this Lock & Lock, and I love it. We have five of them, and as you can see, I use it every day. It's easy for Darrol to open and close, and those little inner square containers come out, so you can configure the box to accommodate whatever you're packing. It's BPA free and dishwasher safe, too!
This week of meals might feel a little bit repetitive, and that's no accident. As parents, I really feel like we push ourselves way too hard. When Darrol first started preschool, I really worked to pack him interesting, unique lunches every single day. When something came back untouched or barely touched, my heart would break a little.
Since changing my lunch philosophy, we've all been happier. Darrol eats, which means he's in a good mood, and I'm no longer throwing away half of his lunch in the afternoons. A little repetition also makes it easier for me. I can throw a lunch like this together without thinking about it at this point, and that's nice, especially on a hectic morning where I realize I didn't pack him a lunch the night before.