School Lunch: Buy or Pack Lunch?

  • 01 of 05

    Considering Questions About Lunch

    Children eating snacks in elementary school classroom
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    When it comes to school lunch, whether to buy or pack it is the first question parents need to answer. Until we decide whether we kids will purchase in the cafeteria or pack a lunch from home, we can’t we can answer any of the other questions about lunch, like whether to buy a lunchbox or what to pack for lunch.

    However, this decision hinges on a lot of different factors, which each family will weigh differently. Here are a few things to consider as you make up your mind as about school lunch.

    Continue to 2 of 5 below.
  • 02 of 05

    What’s For Lunch?

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    Whether you have a picky eater or not, the first thing you’ll want to do is assess the school’s menu. Ask yourself:

    • Will my children eat it? There is simply no point in buying a lunch that your child won’t eat. And you won’t be there encourage them to eat, so if the menus don’t appeal to your child, don’t buy lunch.
    • Will the meal my child eats be a healthy one? This is not exactly the same as whether the school offers a healthy lunch, though that is a more basic form of this question to answer...MORE first. However, even if the school’s menu is basically healthy, if your child has the option to buy a la carte or vending machine items that are not, will he fill up on that? Or will she only eat the dessert?

    As parent, you probably know the answers to these questions.


    Continue to 3 of 5 below.
  • 03 of 05

    Is It Convenient?


    It seems like buying a school lunch would be the most convenient option; however, that isn’t always the case. If you have more than one child, buying for one and packing for another can be confusing. And if your kids only want school lunch on some days, it can be tricky to remember which days you bought lunch and which days you planned to pack.

    Also, school lunch programs don’t always make it easy on parents. Some want exact change, cash only or no cash, separate lunch money for multiple kids, or...MORE payment during a very small window of time.

    And don't forget to consider how convenient it is for your child. If there is a long line for the cafeteria lunches, that could leave very little time for your child to eat.


    Continue to 4 of 5 below.
  • 04 of 05

    How Much Does Lunch Cost?

    Lunch Money. Getty/Jupiter Images

    Compared to eating out in a restaurant, school lunches aren’t expensive, but you can probably pack healthy bagged lunch cheaper. However, if you buy convenience foods, like individually wrapped cookies and chips, you won't save much, not to mention it won't be very healthy either.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    What Does Your Child Want?

    School lunch
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    Last but certainly not least is this wildcard question. If you and your child agree, it could easily seal your decision to go one way or the other. However, if you and your child have opposite opinions, listen to your child's thoughts on this.

    And if you still feel strongly that the school lunch offered is not healthy, but the cafeteria is what your child prefers, you may just have to say no anyway. On the other hand if your child would like a packed lunch, but you don't feel you have the...MORE time, then teach her to pack her own lunch!

    But keep in mind that your child is the one eating the lunch...or not eating it.You have very little control over what actually happens in the lunch room so take a collaborative approach to answering these questions.