ADHD proof lunch boxs

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Due to new covid rules, when my youngest goes back to nursery I will need to send him in with a packed lunch box. If you read my previous article about how stressed I got trying to leave the house with a little baby and a nappy bag you'll understand that a lunch box is a daunting prospect.

So what will I do? Well, I'm tempted to wing it. As a neurodiverse person, I am great at thinking on my feet and problem-solving. I think I could manage to throw together a lunch box. Have you ever thought like this?

This thought pattern is a trap! Sure, I could manage A lunch box, but I don't need to provide ONE lunch box, I need to provide a lunch box 3 days a week every week for the foreseeable future.

If I try to wing it, what I'm really doing is relying on the adrenaline that comes when I know I need to pack it RIGHT NOW. I've not prepared and I have no option but to throw something together. That will work a few times (at the cost of increasing my stress levels at the most stressful part of my day). Eventually, I'll get bored or forget and I'll mess up.

How many times have you implemented a system because you messed up big time and that was the trigger to change?

I remember I bought my first daily diary (in the days before smartphones) after I missed an important appointment. I was so embarrassed I was determined not to let it happen again. I bought the diary, I carried it everywhere alongside my keys and phone and I wrote everything in it. It worked and I didn't miss that appointment again. However wouldn't it have been better if I'd had the system in place when I needed it? Before I messed up?

These days I am older and wiser, so I try to anticipate problems ahead of time and put systems in place around the things I know will be difficult.

These are the four steps I use to deal with a new regular challenge so that I have a system in place BEFORE I mess up. You can use these steps for any regular change/challenge, whether you are taking on a promotion at work or when you have to start making packed lunch for your kids.

1) Ask for advice

2) Get the best equipment

3) Make a checklist

4) Build a routine

1. Ask for advice

How am I preparing to make lunch boxes? First, I asked for help from people who have done this before. It's a strange fact that people LOVE being asked for help. And most of us don't ask nearly as much as we could.

I asked two groups of people to help.

1) The pros. I asked a group of really organized mums, the ones who not only make their own children's lunch boxes every day but also bring along lunch for other people's kids. I don't know how they do it, so I asked them.

2) People who have overcome my challenges. I asked other folks with ADHD how they make their lunch boxes.

2. Get the best equipment

Good equipment is more enjoyable to use. Starting a new routine is difficult and doing the same thing over and over is boring, especially if you have ADHD. Reward yourself for doing the right thing by getting good quality tools which will make a boring job a bit more fun. Fun is motivating!

Think through what types of equipment you will need to complete the whole task, there is nothing so frustrating as starting a task filled with good intentions and then having to break your focus to find another tool. Keep your equipment close to where you need to use it. Remember that you will need more than one box as it's bound to get left behind or lost at some point. If you have several you won't need to wash them up straight away and can put them in the dishwasher.

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making lunch made easy
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3. Make a checklist

Fighter pilots and surgeons use checklists because they cannot afford to make errors. We can use them too.

To make lunches as easily as possible I want the following lists.

  • List of food types to include

  • List of foods my kid will eat

  • Shopping list of ingredients

The idea is to think about everything ahead of time. By preparing these lists in advance I reduce the work that needs to be done to actually make the lunch. I want to make it so easy for future me to make these boxes so that she has no excuses.

4. Build a routine

Have you ever suffered from decision paralysis? A routine or habit means making a decision once to save yourself energy compared to making the decision every single day. It prevents decision paralysis. For example, I don't think about whether or not I'm going to brush my teeth in the evening. I just do it. No decision.

I've heard lots of people say that it's easier to pack a lunch box the night before and have it in the fridge ready to go. That makes sense to me as the morning is already the most stressful part of the day and there isn't really time to add any more chores!

A successful new routine needs a cue. Something that will remind you when it's time to do your new thing. Here are some possibilities:

  • Visual cue

  • A reminder on your phone etc

  • Body cue (like being hungry)

  • Cued from an existing routine

I'm going to add making the lunch box onto the dinner routine. I could do it either while I make dinner or while I clean dinner away. I'm not really sure which one will work better. In the interest of making a decision once and avoiding decision paralysis, I've decided to make the lunch box right before I clean up dinner.


Here are the steps I took. They work whenever you have a new activity which you will be doing regularly. Can you see how these steps could apply for a promotion at work?

1) Ask for advice

2) Get the best equipment

3) Make a checklist

4) Build a routine

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