Five Things I *HATE* About Packed Lunch

Ah, the packed lunch; before I had children I had such grand plans about how their relationship with food would be.  I was convinced that they would eat anything that would put in front of them, and that every evening I would make the same meal for everyone in the family and they would all thank me politely before polishing it all off and asking for seconds. And then, after several years developing such healthy eating habits, when they went to school my children would happily eat the school lunches they were given.

However, despite all these plans, here I am with a 9yo and a 7yo at school, and I find myself having to make them both a packed lunch every day.  This is not something I find fun, for a number of reasons.


I find it really boring to have to make a packed lunch every day.  There have been many times in my adult life when I have resolved to take lunches to work to either save money or eat healthily (or both).  Inevitably though, there are days when I can’t be bothered to make myself lunch, or don’t have any food in.  On those days, I just buy myself something to eat at lunchtime.  There’s no option for that with kids’ packed lunches though.  If you don’t make them a packed lunch, they don’t eat that day.


I was very clear when the children stopped having school dinners that they had to have at least 5 different lunches they would eat, and that they would eat anything off that list that they were given.  Yet still there is moaning every day.  And what have I done to deserve the moaning:  I have variously grated the cheese the wrong size, put in a pear that is too hard (or too soft), given them the wrong brand of crisps, forgotten to include a spoon for soup and, worst of all, made a cheese wrap WITHOUT ketchup in it.


The school has rules around what can go into a packed lunch. I’m not against rules in principle, but it does add another complexity to the planning.   The rules we have are: No nuts (fair enough); No juice (we don’t have that at home anyway); No chocolate (actually, there’s nothing wrong with a couple of cubes of dark chocolate but it is a blanket rule); No sweets (fair on the face of it, but in the school dinners they often have ice cream for pudding, which seems hypocritical); No fish (there is a child in my daughter’s class who is allergic to fish).


Packed lunches generate so much washing up.  You have to wash up all the various bits of Tupperware, and often the cool bag itself.  And don’t get me started on the water bottles – even though they only ever have water in them, it is astonishing how filthy they get after one day’s use.  Also, unless you do the washing up the minute you get home, the things you need are not dry by the next morning.  The very worst thing though is if you forget to unpack the lunch bags over a long weekend or a half-term.  There is nothing like the smell of a mouldering sandwich crust at the bottom of a lunch bag to ruin your day.


It shouldn’t be so hard to keep track of the Tupperware.  I only have two children at school, and they only need one sandwich box and one fruit box each.  Yet somehow I have a cupboard full of mismatching boxes and lids, and can never find a matching set when I want one.  And woebetide the mother who puts the wrong colour Tupperware in the wrong child’s packed lunch bag!

I showed this blog to the 7yo and the 9yo.  They still want packed lunches, but have now requested dark chocolate in them….

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Rachel Millington is a mum of two. In her spare time, she works in PR, hanging out with people who are all a good 10 years younger and a lot more glamorous than her, which is terribly good for the self-esteem. She also volunteers for Mind & MumsAid, because she very definitely believes that maternal mental health matters. She can be found tweeting (/ranting about politics) @rachmillington and is also charting her absolute hatred and despair of the weaning process on instagram @mummyledweaning (whoever said it was easier second time around LIED).