Why Our Daily Outdoor Lunch is Working So Well This Summer

In my post about things that are working well this summer, I mentioned that our daily outdoor lunch.

It’s been one of the biggest wins of the summer so far and it deserves more than a single paragraph!

So here’s a whole post about our outdoor lunch and why it’s been such a win!

For me, when I’m working on our schedule or making plans, it’s helpful to think about what typically is a pain point for me or our family because then I can troubleshoot it.

As I started planning for summer, it became clear that lunch has almost always been one of the biggest summer pain points.

Here were a few of the reasons that lunch has often tripped us up in the summer:

  • We had no lunch routine. During the school year, three of the girls eat lunch at school, so we haven’t had a great rhythm for lunch with everyone home. Right there, we were set up for disaster because we had no plan or expectations.
  • Without a lunch plan, “lunch time” lasted for HOURS. Someone would come in saying they were starving at 11:30, so I’d make them some lunch or have them get a lunch for themselves and then someone else would ask for lunch just as I finished that child’s lunch and then inevitably someone would realize around 2 p.m. that THEY’D never had lunch. It made the mental load of lunch just SO much heavier than it needed to be.
  • Freewheeling lunch often meant family members didn’t eat ENOUGH lunch or a very nourishing lunch. Without some oversight, many of my children would eat something tiny (a granola bar or a yogurt drink) and say they’d had lunch but then be hungry again within 45 minutes. And fruits and vegetables and protein at lunch? Got skipped WAY too much of the time.
  • Without a real lunch time, there was no real lunch CLEAN up. Which meant the kitchen would be messy all afternoon. Not only do I hate that, it also meant that when I came to make dinner, I was confronted with dirty dishes before I could get started on dinner.
  • I’d often skip lunch myself. No lunch time routine meant I was the most likely to skip my own lunch, which would mean I was ravenous in the afternoon which resulted in either eating things that weren’t the best options or eating too much too close to dinner (which meant I wasn’t hungry for dinner which meant I often didn’t even WANT to make dinner and if I DID make dinner, I wasn’t really hungry enough to eat a real dinner so then I’d be starving again before bedtime, goofing up my whole eating schedule).

So clearly our system wasn’t working.

At the beginning of summer, I declared that we’d have lunch together every day and that Bart and I would both stop work at noon and everyone would gather in the kitchen to prep their lunches.

I don’t make any sort of lunch menu and everyone prepares their own lunch, but with everyone in the kitchen together, Bart and I are able to help with suggestions or add in more nourishing options (my kids are rarely going to wash and cut up cucumber slices or bell peppers, but if I cut them up and have them easily available, they’re very likely to add them to their plates and then eat them).

The girls make themselves a lot of scrambled eggs, sandwiches, nachos or quesadillas, I often have leftovers or a hefty snack plate, and Bart makes himself scrambled eggs and toast most days for lunch and we all add in some fruits and vegetables and whatever else is on hand.

Once everyone has their lunches ready, we all head out to the back patio and sit down together at the outdoor table and eat lunch together.

One of my summer goals was to spend more time outside, so this was a simple way to add outdoor time every day, plus being outside for lunch makes it feel a little more special and purposeful AND I’m always happy to get more use out of our back deck since it’s one of the big reasons we bought this house in the first place!

And with all of us sitting down together, everyone eats way better for lunch since there isn’t the feeling of rushing that you often have if you’re the only one eating and you want to get back to the fun.

Plus, it’s such a nice break in the day and time to spend together chatting and laughing, and acts as a forcing function for me to stop working (which is hard for me to do!). Knowing that everyone expects me to walk out of my office at noon means I’m more focused during my morning work and acts as a hard stop for my work time.

It also means that when inevitably one of my kids starts saying how they’re STARVING at 11:35, I can tell them with total honesty that it’s only 25 minutes until lunch and they know I mean it.

After the first week or so, they all started to recognize that they could expect lunch at that time and that I wasn’t going to start handing out snacks at 11:38 (plus, it’s meant that they eat a better breakfast because they know lunch won’t move up to accommodate the fact that they ate 4 spoonfuls of cereal for breakfast and then rushed off to play).

And then, once everyone is done eating, we all bring our dishes inside, fully clean up and the kitchen is back to being clean for the rest of the afternoon.

It feels a little silly how MUCH of a difference it’s made in our summer schedule to have a daily set lunch time but it’s been a game changer for our family and such a fun different daily ritual while everyone is home.

Any questions about our outdoor lunch? Happy to answer – leave any questions in the comments!


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