Is packing a lunch for a family day out a sensible way to save money or a miserly move that makes everyone miserable? One mom says it’s the latter.

As The Sun reports, the anonymous mom posted on the forum Mumsnet about a multifamily day trip she’d planned with another mom. She and a friend arranged to take their children to a theme park, and the mom assumed they would get lunch while they were out.

When the mom arrived to pick up her friend, however, she noticed that the friend had packed lunch for everyone, including homemade sandwiches and bags of chips. Though grateful for her friend’s thought and effort, she was also disappointed.

The mom thinks eating out is part of the fun of an excursion, so she has always felt “a little sad when I see families on a day out at a theme park, zoo for example, sat on a bench eating (warm?) sandwiches wrapped in foil.”

She acknowledged that her feelings probably come from a childhood of eating those warm packed sandwiches while envying those who didn’t:

I had the type of childhood where this was common place — packed lunch for every occasion, no need to eat out because there was “food at home” or it was “too expensive” (despite no money worries), etc. So I suppose it’s kind of stuck with me and I don’t want that kind of life.

The mom feels it shouldn’t be an issue to spend a little more for lunch if you can already afford the zoo, theme park, or other outing. That’s why she wants to know if it’s unreasonable “to think that life is too short to spend time making a sandwich/salad to take on a day out, when really you can just spend a bit of extra money and have the hassle taken away?” She added:

It just seems so strange to me and as though people try and suck all enjoyment out of life.

Unsurprisingly, a number of commenters told the mom that she was being very unreasonable. Some pointed out that packed lunches were a necessity for those with allergies or intolerance. Others took her to task for being “judgmental” about packed lunches.

Several commenters took issue with the idea that anyone who can afford to go on an outing can afford to eat at a restaurant as well. One wrote:

We can only afford trips the the zoo, etc. because we take a packed lunch with us. Just because you can afford the extras it doesn’t mean everyone else can.

Others argued that the food at theme parks (and other family destinations) is expensive, unhealthy, or poor quality — making the packed lunch the superior choice:

At that sort of attraction purchased food tends to be overpriced junk. Sensible people bring a nice packed lunch especially if they have young children who they don’t feed a lot of processed crap. If there was somewhere decent to eat I wouldn’t mind, but there rarely is. I guess it depends if you don’t mind paying [three times] the average price for a burger and [fries].

Some commenters extolled the virtues of picnics and argued that they were a nicer way to eat with the family than trying to go to a restaurant:

Maybe your culinary skills aren’t up to scratch, but there is nothing better than a lovely homemade picnic. The cheap and nasty fare found at theme parks, etc. doesn’t compare to a home made sandwich made on fresh sourdough with real butter, nice ham, ripe tomatoes, crunchy lettuce, a generous dollop of mayo and a twist of black pepper. I’m pretty sure most people have a [cooler], so the sandwiches and lashings of lemonade stay cool all day too.

However, not everyone thought the mom was in the wrong. There were several commenters who agreed that eating out makes the day feel more “special”:

I do get what you are saying. It’s cheap and such a damper on a day out. I also grew up with packing lunch and eating out was such a treat. Unless it’s something amazing, I would be disappointed to go on a lovely day out and just eat boring everyday sandwiches.

Even someone who admitted she usually packs sandwiches agreed with the mom that “they are a bit sad. A necessity if you somewhere rural, but perched on a bench in a city or theme park is with your soggy sandwiches rather than cafe is a bit of a fun suck.”

Often, those who agreed that packed lunches can be a downer had similar childhood experiences envying kids who didn’t have to eat packed meals on family outings. As one commenter remembered:

My family was the same; you’d see kids eating hot dogs, burgers or chips but it was “too expensive” or, “I could make that better at home.” I don’t blame my parents, that’s how they were brought up, but occasionally it would have been nice to try a burger or hot dog as a treat and to feel/be like everyone else.

Another recalled:

I’ve told this story before but when we were children we were taken on a coach tour for the day. At lunch everyone else filed in the cafe and we had to stand on the pavement outside and eat our lukewarm egg sandwiches. I was dying of shame the whole time and I’ve never forgotten the feeling.

With accusations of snobbery being made against both sides, the argument grew heated enough to generate dozens of pages of comments. One reader, however, boiled it down to “privilege”:

Actually, this thread seems to be one about privilege, right? If you are privileged enough that you eat out (and did as a child), and your children do now, then theme park/zoo food is not a treat. And if you are privileged, then spending [money on a high-end] picnic […] is also not a serious drain on finances. So not all packed lunches are equal.

What do you think? Is the mom right that packed lunches can drain the fun out of an outing? Does it all depend on what you experienced as a child?

Leave a comment

2 Replies to “Mom Asks if It’s Unreasonable for Her to Think Packing Lunch for Day Trips Sucks the Fun out of Life”

  • Debra Hoffman 3 weeks ago

    “Special”? “Hassle free”? Since when is standing in line for a meal for half an hour among hungry, impatient theme park visitors ALSO not considered a “hassle”? The bigger the group, the bigger the “fun suck,” and the expense. No judging, but also no shame in taking a different path. Privilege is often where you find it.

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Mom Asks if It’s Unreasonable for Her to Think Packing Lunch for Day Trips Sucks the Fun out of Life

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