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How to Teach Kids to Pack Lunch

Back to school means packing school lunch.  Honestly, they overwhelm me.  If you get as stressed about school lunches as I do, I’ve found an easy way to simplify the entire process and eliminate tons of anxiety in the morning. My six-year-old daughter now packs her own lunch.  Here’s how to teach kids how to pack their own lunch.


Whenever I hop on Pinterest, I find a bazillion school lunch ideas.  Each one holds its own promise like, “Food your Kids will Eat!” and “No Repeats”.  Each also holds it own pressure to pack this perfect lunch for you child that (a) is healthy and nutritious and (b) won’t get thrown out at the end of lunch.  Because if your kid doesn’t eat the lunch, what’s the point, yes?

For the past two years, my daughter has bought school lunches.  When she got home, I always asked her, “What did you have to eat today?” She would reply, “Pizza, Fruit juice, chocolate milk, chocolate chip cookie… oh and broccoli”

“Yes!” I responded, “Broccoli was a really good choice”

“Oh, I didn’t actually eat the broccoli”

And I pounded my head on the table.  Now, I’ve figured out a way to send her to school with lunches she likes, ensure they are balanced so she still gets some sweet treats and eliminate my stress by having her pack them herself.

Here it is! Your step-by-step plan on how to teach your kids to pack their own lunches.

Read: 50 Healthy Snacks for Kids After School that require NO prep

List the options of school lunch ideas

My daughter and I created a list of school lunch options together.   We listed proteins that she likes, grains, fruits, vegetables and treats.  I wanted a very small list so that I could keep these food items stocked each week and she could easily make a decision.  Choosing-lunch

My issue with having a different lunch each day was that I would always have food spoilage because there was no way my daughter could finish an entire pack of chicken nuggets, pack of turkey and whatever else we decided to pack each week.

Her lunch list is full of simple goods that are eaten by the rest of the family and yet are also perfect to pack for school lunches.  Having a system like this provides the opportunity to mix and match so that your child will really never have the same lunch each day.

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You can find a printable version of our lunch list by clicking the image above.

Read: How to Stop the Dinner Time Power Struggle

Have tons of easy healthy snacks on hand

One of my huge lunch packing troubles was that I would always run out of a variety of foods at the end of the week.  Now, we have a ton of easy non-perishable snacks on hand.abound-snacks-cabinet
As you see, it is a sea of CVS Gold Emblem Abound.  I can not portray my enthusiasm for this brand enough!  Not only is every snack delicious, but they also contain no artificial preservatives or flavors.  Our favorites our:

  • Gold Emblem Abound Mango & Strawberry Fruit and Veggie Snack Bars
  • Gold Emblem Abound Cherry Almond Crunch (OMG!  I devour these!)
  • Gold Emblem Abound Breakfast Biscuits
  • Gold Emblem Abound Greek Yogurt Covered Raisins

Many of these snacks also provide the sweet treat that my daughter loves but in a very healthy way.

Teach Kids to Pack Their Own Lunch

Since our list is very simple, my six-year-old daughter is now packing her own lunch.  Each night, she chooses one item from each category to pack.  I help with some decision making.  The first night she wanted to pack pizza sauce & mozzarella with baked salt & vinegar rice chips.  I asked her if she was planing to dip her rice chips in pizza sauce and she told me, “No way,” I helped guide her to another option.  She chose the tortilla instead to make a pizza roll up.

Some things to think about when teaching kids to pack their own lunch:

  • How to put things back properly
  • What to do if you use the last of something
  • How to clean up after you finish packing
  • how to spread peanut butter on toast

making-sandwichWith any new task, expect a little bit of kickback from your child.  Although I know my daughter feels proud of packing her own lunch, its not without struggle.  She complains if making a particular item is too hard and gives up easily.  I just stick with her, help her out and she eventually embraces it.

Read: You Can Stop Rewarding Kids for Chores

Buy a lunch kit with separate compartmentslunch-kits

Disposable Tupperware works as well.  I like the lunch kit because it creates less waste and I don’t have to keep restocking plastic sandwich bags.  It also has the extra benefit of being a bit of a puzzle solving exercise.  She needs to examine and decide which items would fit the best in which compartments and how to organize it all.

Choose ONLY 2 perishable items per category per week

Due to my daughter’s food preferences, there really aren’t that many perishable items in her list.  I can keep most of that list on hand each week for her to pick and choose.  With fruit however, I ask her to choose two fruits that she would like to eat for the week.  That way, I go grocery shopping once and little spoils.

Also, we keep the CVS Gold Emblem Abound Strawberry Crisps on hand which both my daughter and son devour.  Freeze dried fruit is awesome because its not made with any added sugar like dried fruit is.  It also retains most of its nutritional value and doesn’t spoil.


Teaching my daughter to pack her own easy lunch is such a stress relief for me and it’s fun for her too.  Her lunch box is coming home nearly empty at the end of the day because she is eating all the food!  That is huge in our house!  She eats it because she is in charge of what goes in it.  I’m happy because now I know she is eating a balanced lunch every day with the little bit of sweetness she likes and the nutrition I know she needs.  Having kids pack their own lunch is the way to go!

JoAnn Crohn

CEO/Founder at No Guilt Mom
JoAnn Crohn, M. Ed is a parenting educator and life coach who helps moms feel confident in raising empowered, self-sufficient kid while pursuing their own goals & passions.

She’s an accomplished writer, author, podcast host of the No Guilt Mom podcast, and speaker who appears in national media. Work with her personally in Balance VIP

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  1. JoAnn!! This is a wonderfully written post on packing school lunches! Not having children , I never gave thought to the challenges a parent faces in terms of providing the most nutritious, yet “fun” way to enjoy eating lunch at school! Key operative words, nutritious and fun! Your article was perfect and I love the “empowering” proactive approach that I’ve noticed is always apart of your writing!!Way to go,JoAnn!! Thank you for your helpful, ingenious ideas!!❤️, Cindy

  2. I absolutely love this idea! Now maybe this will get the kids helping out and bringing lunch. Thank you

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