Why I Don't Make School Lunches For My Kids

I often feel like being a "Mommy Blogger" lumps me into this category of being super crafty, world's best super mom, and that I should be making some super adorable and killer school lunches each day. The truth is, not all mommy bloggers are created equally, and things that bring one mother joy, may not bring the same joy to another mother. Making a school lunch each day may bring one mom joy, but it doesn't do the same for me.

Our History With School Lunches: 
When Kyle was in preschool in Georgia, he had to bring a lunch everyday, and that was often a very frantic and stressful part of my morning. I'd often throw in a juice box, string cheese, and anything else that came in a package and just called it good. 

Then when we moved to Utah, Kindergarten was only 2 1/2 hours, and Kyle at lunch at home, so I was off the hook with making school lunches again.

Then first grade came and I was making lunches in the pictured above lunchbox. Kyle almost never ate all of his food, and it felt like a huge waste of my time (and money) for things he wasn't eating.

I also feel like there is a lot of value in doing things that bring you joy. You wouldn't keep a picture hanging on your wall if it didn't bring you joy, or add value to your life... school lunch making wasn't bringing me joy and there were better options, so I Marie Kondo-ed it out of my life.

The Cost of School Lunch:
First and foremost, money brings me joy. If making school lunches everyday was going to be a huge money saver for me, then I would for sure do it. That being said, school lunch at our school only costs me $1.85 per day, or $9.25 per week. This gives Kyle the option of having a hot lunch with a fruit and veggie, and a milk each day. If he doesn't like that option he can have a PBJ with a string cheese, a fruit and veggie, and a milk.

As an experiment for this post, I went to Walmart's grocery website and put in bread, PBJ, carrots, string cheese, veggie straws, applesauce, and chocolate milk. Just to have enough of that on hand for a week of school lunches would cost me $25. I can pay the school $9.25 to feed my kid the same exact food (or better varieties if he actually chooses them) for less than half the cost.

But... Cafeteria Food...
I know when a lot of people think of school lunches, they think about when all the school lunch reform that happened a few years ago where it was said that ketchup counted as a serving of vegetables. Hearing that on the news would turn off any parent, and I was hesitant at first as well.

Then I actually went onto our school's website to look at the menu and was shocked when I saw interesting entrees, and a huge plethora of fruits and vegetable options. This wasn't the same "ketchup for vegetables" school lunch that I had imagined in my mind. I also love that if my child doesn't want to eat the hot lunch option, he can choose from a wide variety of other fruits and vegetables, and a sandwich and string cheese instead (which is his #1 go-to option!) Below is a sample menu from our school's website, and all the alternative options. I also love that I can click on the entree options on the school website and see a picture of what the food actually looks like, with all the nutritional information so that I know exactly what my kid is eating each day.

A Teaching Opportunity:
One aspect of school lunch I really love is the teaching opportunity that it provides. One day Kyle is going to leave my home and I won't be making every single one of his meals anymore. I love that this puts the power in his hands to take the things that he's learned at home, and make good food choices in an environment where the stakes are low. 

Everyday when Kyle gets in the car, the first conversation is usually about what he had for lunch. For the most part, I'm pretty impressed with the selection of food that he's eaten. There have been moments where he's told me that he's had a chocolate chip cookie, a chocolate muffin, and a chocolate milk all in one sitting and we discussed that maybe he should only have one treat... but other than that I'm happy with the decisions he's making. 

In Conclusion:
I know that not all school districts across the nation, and likely even our state are not the same. But right now I feel like our school adequately meets my child's nutritional needs, and at a low enough cost that it takes the pressure off of me in the mornings, and gives Kyle a positive experience of picking out his lunch each day. I also realize there are families who struggle with allergies and that buying lunch is not an option for them. However, if there is another mom who feels the same way as I do about not making school lunches, than let this be your permission slip to feel just a little less guilty when you see the cute school lunches popping up on your instagram feed the next few weeks. And just like breastfeeding vs formula, #FedIsBest

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  1. I've had my kids eating school lunch the last 6 years and it has been awesome! The variety, and the amount is perfect for my kids. I don't worry about sending them enough, or too much and the food getting wasted. My bigger worry is do they actually eat it or do they dump their tray and go out to recess right away. :)
    This year is a home lunch year. I am not sure what I am thinking that this will work. But I'm going to give it a try. With 3 kids eating lunch, and the pricing different for jr high meals vs. elementary meals, I might be able to save myself a little money. But if it doesn't work as well as I thought it will, I will send them money and deal with it. What works best for my kids usually is what works best for me. :)

  2. I made lunch every day until last year when circumstances pushed me into doing school lunches . . . And honestly, it's made our school mornings a million times easier!!

  3. Oh I am the same! My little girl used to eat a packed lunch every day but I found that paying for a school lunch wasn't just slightly cheaper, but also eased the morning stresses of getting everyone to school on time! Also, they are a lot more exciting than anything I could ever come up with and I love hearing my kids come home and tell me what new vegetables or fruit they've tried that day! xx

  4. Did you know that breakfast is also available? for like $0.90. my son is starting kindergarten and has to leave early to the school with his dad (who is a teacher at the high school) and since he is being dropped off early he can have breakfast before class.