What are the advantages of buying school lunch versus bringing a packed lunch? Let’s discuss.
I’ve always desired to be a stay at home mom.
When I’d daydream about my life as a homemaker I always pictured packing my kids lunches each day with little notes and then having fresh baked cookies waiting for them after school.
The cookie idea quickly fizzled out once I actually started having kids (I only do it as
Every school year my kids get a new lunch box, and thermos, and I use containers to pack their lunch each morning – and yup, a little note from mom is included.
This year I have three kids in school – three lunches each morning to pack.
I started to realize that my dream of the lunch packing motherhood days wasn’t quite the same as the reality.
The reality? Complaints about what I packed. Kids asking for certain things over other things.
After school frustrations – lunch boxes getting left at school, the hassle of cleaning them out, food not being eaten and wasted.
And let’s not even talk about how many notes got tossed without even being read!
I felt unappreciated. I felt frustrated. My mornings kicked off with negative feelings and something needed to change.
I tried having my oldest pack his own lunch but the time that took only made our mornings more stressful.
I wanted to have GOOD mornings with my children. Send them off to school with a happy heart.
So I did something pretty radical for me: I stopped packing lunch.
And here’s what happened when my kids started buying school lunch rather than bringing lunch from home:
The Advantages of Buying School Lunch
1. Buying School Lunch Saves Money
My hesitancy in starting to have the kids buy lunch at school was that it would cost us more money.
But, in fact, it costs us less.
Our school lunch is $2. Per kid. Per day.
While that sounds like a LOT of money… when I started considering everything I buy to pack their lunch I quickly realized it would save us money over time.
I strive to pack a healthy lunch for my kids and healthy food ain’t cheap.
Now that they buy school lunch we aren’t needing to buy fruit as often and have cut down on the extras I was buying in order to give them a variety of items in their lunch boxes.
It will also cut costs on new lunch boxes, thermoses and other back-to-school lunch related items in a new school year.
And on days when I was rushed or my husband was traveling, I’d have some Lunchables on hand to pay for their lunch… which often cost more than the school lunch does anyway!
Six dollars sounds like a lot to be spending on lunches each day for the kids to buy at school but when I started to really look through the things I packed for them (and consider the money wasted on foods that got tossed) it really is a
I know so many friends who live in areas that provide a free school lunch program for students and in those cases – school lunch (or even school breakfast) is a no brainer in saving money for sure!
3. We Save Time By Not Packing Lunch
On the mornings when I had my oldest pack his own lunch – it took AGES.
But even when I pack them all on my own it takes time.
Time is precious.
Especially when you have four kids and need to get three of them off to school in the morning.
I am a hardcore mom when it comes to sleep (for my kids but also for myself) so I try to allow all of us to sleep as long as possible and I maximize our time the best I can in the mornings.
One of the major advantages of buying school lunch? It saves a TON of time for myself in the mornings!
And that time isn’t wasted… it’s used in ways that further proves the benefits of having them purchase lunch at school.
3. Buying Lunch at School Allows for Healthier Breakfast
Often I would be spending so much time packing their lunches that breakfast became a quick-grab item.
Typically they’d each have their regular breakfast (banana and prune with grape juice) and then grab a granola bar to eat on the way to school.
Granola bars are expensive and are not all that healthy.
I love that my time is shifted now from a lunch focus to a breakfast focus.
Having the free time that buying lunch at school allows us gives me time to better focus my attention on the other meals they are eating at home and not worrying about looking up lunch ideas on Pinterest 😉
I also have more time to make a healthier breakfast item (oatmeal or bran cereal) and the time for them to enjoy eating it.
4. Our Morning Runs Smoother With Buying Lunch
Among the advantages of buying school lunch is that not only do I save time on a task, I also save emotional energy, too.
Our mornings used to consist of my packing lunches and at least one kid asking what was for lunch and then being disappointed by whatever I told them.
Sometimes there were complaints about it. Or big hefty sighs of disapproval.
And ya know what? As a mom we already deal with feeling unappreciated on a pretty regular basis.
Starting my day off by doing something that I considered an act of love for my children and having them complain about it was a big mood killer for me.
My goal as their mom is to start their days with love and kindness, greet them with love and kindness after school, and tuck them into bed surrounding them with love and kindness before they go to sleep.
I realized that packing their lunches was taking away from my ability to enjoy my children in the mornings.
Now that they buy lunch at school my mornings go smoother – I’m able to take the time to pour into them with positivity rather than feeling frustrated at the lack of appreciation.
While I make their breakfast items we can talk and it is such a happier way to start the day for us all!
5. Buying Lunch at School Means Less Wasted Food
Unopened milk. Unused side items. Unopened packages.
The food is not wasted. It is set aside and those who may need it are able to take it.
Food purchased and packed from home would often come back to me half-eaten, or uneaten and would have to be tossed because it most likely got all gross from sitting in a lunch box all day.
I also found that often items I bought for their lunches would go bad before I’d used them all.
Yogurt containers that expired. Fruit that spoiled before it all got used. Lunch meat that we didn’t quite finish.
I spent money buying a variety of items to pack in their lunches and I wasted so many of those items by not using them all prior to expiring.
6. Kids Try a Variety of Foods when Purchasing School Lunch
A big thing I spent time worrying about when packing my kids’ lunches was that they’d have a good variety of food.
I’d buy a lot of healthy options and try to spread them out over the week so they wouldn’t be eating the same thing over and over.
I wanted their diet to have a nice variety of items and that meant overbuying at the store and having so many things go unused or not used fully.
By having the kids purchase a school meal they are able to have a variety of foods to try – without adding to my grocery budget or to my mental load of trying to remember what they’ve already had that week!
7. Eating School Lunch Introduces New Foods
Just as they are exposed to a better variety of foods at school than I’m easily able to provide at home, another advantage of buying school lunch is that it also gives them an opportunity to try new foods.
We all tend to have our family favorite items and cycle through those choices, but at school our kids are exposed to new foods that we may not regularly have at home. Or that they’ve possibly never even tried before!
When all of their peers, who also purchase school lunch, are also trying out the new foods, it’s less intimating for them to try them too.
It also means less complaining at the dinner table when we have similar foods served at home and has helped widen their pallet in being able to try new things and enjoy them!
8. Buying Lunch at School Teaches Kids to Make Healthy Choices on Their Own
I want to raise my children to choose healthy meal options when they are adults.
As a parent we know we can’t control what our children eat forever.
We want to expose them to nutritious foods while they are young so they will enjoy them when they grow up and will want to make those healthy choices on their own when we no longer have the influence on them that we do while they are young.
One of the other advantages of buying school lunch is that it gives them that opportunity to make healthy choices on their own.
We have ground rules with our children when it comes to school lunch choices.
They know they must have white milk or one of the juice options to drink and they must have at least one healthy side item.
They get to choose what healthy side they will have but they have to eat most of it.
As students, they are learning subjects in school, and that includes nutrition choices for school lunches too!
I am not a believer in making my children clean their plates (portion control is important!) but do encourage them to make sure they are filling their bellies with the healthiest items on their trays.
I trust my children and know they will let me know how they did that day in their eating choices.
Even my kindergartener will tell me “I didn’t like the fruit today but I still ate 10 bites!”
When they follow through with the healthy school lunch choices all week?
They are allowed to choose either chocolate or strawberry milk for their lunch on Fridays.
I think it’s a great balance in having a treat once in awhile but also in keeping sweeter items as a special treat rather than an every day occurrence.
National school lunch programs are focused on providing schools with school lunches that meet state and national nutrition standards so as a parent we know our kids are given healthy choices each day!
Buying school lunch has really opened up our conversations about healthy eating.
The kids ask questions about what food items are considered healthy and they are able to be in the driver’s seat in choosing nutritious foods.
9. Buying School Lunch Allows for More Enjoyable Afternoons
Not only has buying lunch at school allowed a smoother morning routine for our family but it’s also allowed more enjoyable afternoons too!
When I packed lunch for my kids they’d come home and have to clean out their lunch boxes.
They love the freedom of not having one more chore after school.
I also love the freedom of not having to worry about a lunch box being left behind in their classroom or on the school bus.
It’s one less thing for any of us to have to clean up…but also one less item on their mental load to have to keep track of at school all day!
We can spend our afternoon time talking about school rather than worrying about what may have been left at school or the clean up from it 😉
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Packing School Lunch vs Buying School Lunch: Final Thoughts
While I may no longer be the packing school lunch mom that I had always planned on being… I’m a happier mom with happier kids now that they buy their lunch at school.
For us, the advantages of buying school lunch definitely outweigh any disadvantages. I am totally team buy lunch and don’t foresee us ever going back to packing again!
Another big perk?
When I do pack their lunch now? It’s always so well received and appreciated.
Now that having a lunch packed from Mommy isn’t the norm it’s become a special treat that they look forward to having.
And those lunch notes? They no longer end up in the trash unread either 😉
As moms, we tend to feel this pressure on ourselves and a big lesson I learned in having my kids buy lunch is that sometimes lightening that load on our own shoulders has benefits that go beyond ourselves and to our children too!
Yes, I love that having my kids buy their lunch at school saves us money, that it introduces them to new foods and allows them to experience healthy options…but the biggest perk by far is that it allows me more time to pour into my children where it really matters most – their hearts.
I love that our mornings are less stressful and that our afternoons are less stressful too!
I expected to feel guilt over my kids buying lunch.
I’d always, always planned to be the mom who packed their lunches everyday!
I was surprised that I do not feel guilt when they walk out the door leaving their lunch boxes still hanging empty on their hooks…instead I feel joy.
I feel a fullness that I was able to pour into my babies before they left for the day.
That I was able to be stress-free and meet their emotional needs rather than focusing my attention on a physical need that could be easily met at school.
- Buying school lunch saves money.
- Buying school lunch saves time.
- Buying lunch at school allows for a healthier breakfast.
- Mornings run smoother when buying school lunch.
- Buying lunch at school means less wasted food.
- Kids try a variety of foods when buying school lunch.
- Eating school lunch introduces new foods.
- Buying lunch at school teaches kids to make healthy choices on their own.
- Buying school lunch allows for more enjoyable afternoons.