School Lunch or Home Lunch?

Halle is going through a “home lunch” phase right now and that has got me thinking…

-Remember 15 years ago when I took 30+ kindergarteners to school lunch every day and after watching what they chose for school lunch and how much they threw away I vowed my children would never have school lunch?

-Remember when I read this book and vowed that my children would never have school lunch?

-Remember when I had four children and was so tired and decided that school lunch was okay maybe once a week?

-Remember when I had all four children in four different school and decided that school lunch might be fine every day?

I do…I remember every last guilt-filled moment of debate in my mind. I remember it like it was today…because sometimes it is still today or yesterday or tomorrow. And I remember that as guilty as I feel, sometimes my physical and mental exhaustion overpowers my guilt and I give in! Really! For example, here is my children’s lunch menu for today:

Halle—home lunch
Lainey—school lunch
Riley—no lunch or show up with her entourage for lunch at home

Obviously, I’m not entirely opposed to school lunch even though I have done enough reading and listening to know that it isn’t the best choice. But sometimes I have to choose between sanity and the best choice and in the heat of the moment, sanity seems like the best choice. I have to admit, though, I feel like I’m a better mom when I send my child with a home lunch. They are healthier, cheaper, and good for the environment if you send reusable containers. But, I am often lazy and the lazy way for me is writing a check and knowing that my child will be fed that day…just don’t tell me what it was.

For now, though, I am back to packing daily home lunches because Halle is my baby and in a few years I won’t be packing lunch for anyone so I’m a bit more willing to do it right now. As I revisit this phase in my life, I’m remembering a few things I’ve learned along the way and yes, I’ll share:

1. Plan ahead. Remember to pick up lunch items at the grocery store when you are using your well-planned out shopping list…or run to the store the night before and get what you need.

2. Decide what your lunch box staple are. These are ours:
-sandwich fixings: bread, bagel or tortilla; lunch meat and cheese or pb&j; mayo or cream cheese; lettuce and tomato
-veggies: usually carrots and celery, but raw broccoli works too if you sprinkle a bit of salt on it
-fruit: I hardly ever pack bananas because I don’t like banana-flavored sandwiches; when I pack oranges I double wrap everything else because I don’t like orange-flavored sandwiches either
-crunchy food: pretzels, crackers, chips (rare treat)
-treat: pudding cups, fruit snacks, leftover baked goods, yogurt
-$ to buy milk

3. Try some fun ideas like these from Family Fun.

4. Warning: fun ideas can be time-consuming and may keep you from making those healthier and cheaper home lunches. You are not making art, just food for hungry tummies.

5. Assemble lunches the night before and/or have kids help put them together.

6. Include any needed utensils and a napkin with a loving note from you.

7. Put in a super cute lunchbox that has their name written on it in Sharpie so that no one decides to take that super cute lunchbox home with them. This is Halle’s current lunchbox.

Look at these fun lunch bags from

…and this cute lunchbox from My Sweet Muffin

…and a fun Bento Box.

Now, do not feel guilty if you feed your child school lunch. I know plenty of ultra-healthy people that do, and most of the time I do as well. I do have a few thoughts on this, too, and I’ll share these, too:

1. Make sure the meals you fix at home are healthy and include lots and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.

2. Make sure you talk with your kids about healthy food choices so that they know what choices to make and so that you can cross it off the parent guilt list.

3. Ask them what they ate for lunch so that you can try and balance out their nutrition for the day.

4. Let your kids choose a few days a week or a month for school lunch and then send home lunch on the other days. As an alternative, you choose what days you feel like making home lunch and tell them “too bad” on the other days.

5. Get involved at the school, community, state, and national level in education and try to make a difference in school lunches. Lots of people are blazing trails in this area.

As a final note and something fun to do with your school-aged children, view these school lunches from around the world at the Tripbase Travel Blog.


One thought on “School Lunch or Home Lunch?

  1. My problem is, when I send a lunch from home, the next day I find the healthy components in the garbage. Sandwich, fruit, etc. Sometimes the only guarantee I have that they eat is if they eat at school. However, I still don't let them everyday. I have to fight the guilt also.

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