Two summers ago my son was about to go into junior kindergarten and I was freaking out.
Like many parents, I was emotional because he is my first, he still seemed so little and he was going off to a big school. But even more so, I was worried about lunch.
I wanted it to be nutritious and filling—but it had to be something he’d actually eat. I also didn’t know if I had it in me to come up with a wide variety of different lunch options every morning, like those “42 school lunch ideas!” slideshow articles suggest.
12 shortcuts to make prepping school lunches easierI asked my friends with older kids for their helpful school lunch tips. Instead I got horror stories of kids not being able to open their lunch box containers, so they’d go hungry all day, their lunch brought home uneaten. I also heard about parents squeezing precious time out of their morning routines to create homemade sushi for their kid’s bento box and use mini cookie cutters to turn vegetables into hearts and stars. Cute, and I’m not judging—but that’s just not me. I started thinking that perhaps we’d just skip kindergarten all together.
Then my brilliant friend Lindsay gave me some unexpected advice: “Pick the foods he likes the most, then pack those every day for lunch until you hear a complaint,” she said. Yep, despite the pressure from other parents and Pinterest to come up with beautiful, creative lunches every day, her advice was literally to pack the exact same thing, Monday through Friday.
At first, I balked. He’d for sure get bored quickly and complain. And wasn’t it important to offer a wide variety of foods for lunch? Plus, what would his teachers or lunch supervisor think?
But I thought more about it. Kids really are creatures of habit, and they love routine, especially one they can anticipate. And the idea would for sure take the pressure off my busy mornings. Plus, who cares what anyone thinks?
So I tried it. And while it may sound basic, this idea has actually changed my life for the last two school years. Each morning, I put the exact same sandwich every day in my son’s lunch: cold cuts—either turkey or ham—on brown bread with a squirt of ketchup. For sides, I rotate between a couple of different fruits, vegetables and snack foods I know he’ll eat. It’s super easy to pull this off every morning (even pre-coffee!) and the only one super bored is me.
It was May in his JK year when he first seemed to notice the repetition and asked me for a different type of sandwich. So I sent one. I don’t remember if he ate it or not, but then I went back to what I was sending before.
And that’s it. Basically the exact same lunch. Daily. For 10 months. Two years going.
My son is about to start grade one and I’m going into my third year of making him the same lunch every day. I figure, why stop now? He likes it, he eats it and I don’t have to read (and stress about!) articles about 42 creative ways to make lunch.