Kids’ Lunch Checklist – Free Printable

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I’ve been a parent educator for more than 20 years and I’m also the mom of three children ages 13, 17 and 19. My goal as a parent has always been to raise responsible, capable citizens. As a parent educator, I realize that developing responsible, capable children (and future adults) is a building process. I’ve always focused on teaching my children the life skills they’ll need in smaller, age-appropriate steps. My Kid’s Lunch Checklist allows kids to be independent in preparing their own lunch and to develop life skills they’ll need in the future. 

red and blue checklist with containers of food, water bottle and lunch box

Making your own lunch each morning teaches children to plan ahead, time management, to make good choices, and responsibility. Using the Kids’ Lunch Checklist encourages their reading skills, decision making, critical thinking and ability to follow instructions. It’s also a great structure to use to teach your children about nutrition and making good food choices.

I separated the checklist into four categories to make it easier for kids to make choices within each category rather than being overwhelmed by all the choices at once. I listed typical items that my children like in each category and only listed items that are mom-approved. My family has been moving towards a healthier lifestyle, better food choices and clean eating in the past few months. We’ve been teaching and talking about better nutritional choices, so I’ve clearly listed better choices for them on the Kids’ Lunch Checklist to encourage better choices. 

You can get your own free copy of the Kids Lunch Checklist and tailor it to your family’s food choice preferences.

Kids’ Lunch Checklist

image of red and blue checklist

Set-Up and Preparation Tips

Overhead view of refrigerator drawers filled with bottles of milk, apples, cheese and containers

Easily Accessible – Keep mom-approved items easily accessible in the refrigerator and pantry.  Keeping items visible and easy for your kids to reach makes it more likely that they’ll make good choices. Keeping items easily accessible also prevents frustration and saves time in the morning. 

We keep reusable water bottles in our organized lunchbox drawer and Horizon™ Organic Chocolate Protein Plus Milk in a dedicated drawer in our refrigerator. My children drink milk at every meal and have water the rest of the day. My kids and husband have been big fans of Horizon Chocolate Milk for years. I’m thrilled that Horizon Organic Chocolate Protein Plus Milk now contains 15 grams of protein in each bottle.  I also appreciate that it’s shelf-stable so I can stock up when I go grocery shopping keep the extra on my pantry shelf. You can imagine how much milk a family of five milk-loving people goes through each week.

milk bottles, apples and yogurt containers in refriderator

Keep Lunch Items Together in Identified Containers –  Corralling items that are approved for lunches makes it a no-brainer in the mornings. My kids know that anything in the for-lunch-only containers are approved to take in their lunch boxes. We have for-lunch-only containers in the refrigerator and in our lunchbox drawer. Having the approved, better choice items in an identified location saves time in the morning since they can grab any of the items without having to think about it and wonder if it’s a good choice. 

lunchbox containers and knife cutting strawberries and grapes

Prep Fruits and Vegetables – Clean, prepare and containerize fruit and veggies. Fruit, like apples and plums, can be left whole to be washed in the morning before being placed in the lunchbox. Other fruit and vegetables, like carrots, celery, strawberries and melon, need to be cleaned and cut up. It’s easier to do this the night before or on Sunday for the upcoming week. Once the vegetables and fruit are prepared, place them in containers that you use only for lunch so that your kids can quickly find the approved lunch fruit and veggies in the morning as they prepare their lunchboxes. 

box of crackers and lunchbox containers holding crackers and popcorn

Package Snacks in Lunch Box Sized Containers – Package lunchbox sized portions of snacks in smaller containers. I do what I can to repurpose items and reduce the product packaging that ends up in our landfill. One way I do that is to package individual serving sizes of snacks myself. It allows me to choose snacks that I approve of and to package them in our easy-to-identify school lunchbox containers. Homemade popcorn is a family favorite snack and I recently discovered Horizon™ Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers. They’re made with real organic ingredients (read the side of the box and smile) and have a fresh, not-processed taste that I really like. They’re so good that we’re eating these Horizon Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers for lunch and for after-school snacks. 

overhead view of checklist, water bottle, lunch box and lunchbox containers

Use the Kids’ Lunch Checklist Each Morning – Have a copy of the Kids’ Lunch Checklist available each morning so that your children can easily prepare they own lunch in minutes with no confusion. Some children may find it easier to check items off on a new checklist each morning. Experiment and find what works best for each of your children.  Mom’s happy. The kids are happy. And the kids are practicing  life skills while creating a mom-approved lunch. 

I made sure to stock up on mom-approved lunchbox items on one of my many back-to-school trips to Walmart. I found Horizon Organic Chocolate Protein Plus Milk and Horizon Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers in the snack aisles of the grocery section of the store. 

You can organize your after-school snacks with this Mom Hack video and my Tips for an Organized Pantry

red and blue checklist, lunchbox, food containers, bottle of milk and water bottle

Check out more lunch ideas for busy families from Horizon. Be sure to grab your own copy of my Kids’ Lunch Checklist and take a few minutes to organize your kitchen so your kids can make their own lunches this week.

More Kitchen Organizing Ideas

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  1. I have had a bit of a challenge balancing meals for my daughter’s school lunches, so I love this checklist! She loves Horizon milk, and their snacks – it’s been a bit since I’ve looked for them, so I am going to keep my eye out next time I am at the store!

  2. This checklist is fantastic for kids and adults too! At times, making sure that Big has a good lunch that can be a challenge. We are fans of Horizon products and you will always find them in our pantry and refrigerator.

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