Nine More Months of Lunch Packing
One child is yelling about missing gym clothes and another shouting that their life is over because their hair is standing up. In between those issues, breakfast and the normal chaos, dealing with packing lunches can be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
Getting organized to deal with the next nine months worth of lunches is certainly worth the small amount of time involved.
Our kitchens, when set up to function properly, have a certain layout and rhythm. Most likely, I would find the coffee and coffee filters near the coffee pot at your house. T he things for baking are all together. Your cookware, pots and pans, are surely near the stove.
Yet, when it comes to lunch making, I bet you have to go to one drawer for plastic bags, another for a paper bag and then another drawer for a plastic fork or spoon. You grab a napkin from the napkin holder, peanut butter one cabinet and a small bag of chips from another. Multiply that times several children!
To be honest, you are lucky if there is a bag of chips or container of pudding. Somehow, when you were not looking, someone snacked on all the individually packaged lunch food you purchased. Most likely, family members stay confused about what is okay for snacking and what is off limits. Now you are grumpy and in a rush to try to find something else to put in the lunch.
This type of lunch packing ends up with lots of hustling about and wasted time. Not only that, it makes it harder for your child to successfully participate in this routine. No wonder if you ask them to help, they forget something. Think how many steps are involved.
Here is how to set up a great system for lunches:
Rethink your cabinet space. Choose a cabinet to be designated for the lunch center. If you still have short people at your house, be sure to choose a low cabinet so everyone can reach.
Empty that cabinet of its current stuff. Sort through it and find new homes for those things.
Gather all of the lunch supplies: Plastic bags of snack and sandwich size, napkins, plastic flatware and all of the non-refrigerated food that you approve of for lunches – even the peanut butter and a loaf of bread.
Organize the supplies and the food products in the cabinet.
Grab a plastic large food container, minus the lid, and open the refrigerator. Place the lunch meat (make sure it is in its own sealed container), cheese sticks, fruit and so on that may be used for lunches into this plastic container. Place it on a shelf next to the drinks purchased for school lunches.
Take time to instruct the family, pointing out that the lunch cabinet is off limits for after school snacking. There should be plenty of other things in the pantry for that use. Also point out the section of the fridge that is for packing lunches.
Packing lunches the evening before is a great way to relieve morning stress. During the after-dinner clean-up, have each child go to the lunch center and choose their side items. The next morning, all that needs to be added is the sandwich and drink. Sandwiches can be made ahead and refrigerated, if you wish.
Keep the cabinet stocked. Now that everything for lunches is in one spot, it is easy for you to pop open the door and eyeball what is needed from the store.
Not too long ago, I was enjoying coffee with a table of professional organizers who all happen to be mothers. We drifted away from the talk of organizing and into the talk of parenting. Pretty soon we began to compare notes and discovered every one of us had something in common. We all had taught our children to be self-sufficient from packing their own lunch to doing their own laundry.
Part of disorganization comes from trying to do everything for everybody. As much as our heart desires us to be that mom who does it all, it simply is not possible or practical. Taking the time to teach your child to be organized is the greatest gift you can give them for they will carry it through their whole life. This includes packing their book bag and laying out their clothing the night before and packing their own lunch! All you have to do is organize and keep that lunch cabinet stocked. That is enough of a job!
Author Lea Schneider, a columnist for What’s Cooking America, is a freelance writer and organizational expert whose organizing ideas have been published in many magazines including Woman’s Day, Better Homes and Gardens Kitchen and Bath Ideas, Family Circle, Parents Magazine, as well as numerous newspapers and websites. She is a member of the Association of Food Journalists.
Getting organized is all about living simpler and making things easier. The bonus is it often leads to saving money. Lea Schneider’s kitchen organizing columns tell you how to organize the many things that relate to kitchens, menus, meals, and special food events.
Check out all of Lea Schneider’s helpful home and kitchen columns at Organizing Kitchens, Pantries, Menus and Meals.