School Lunches | Giftie Etcetera: School Lunches

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

School Lunches

For the first time ever, my kids get to bring lunches to school sometimes.

For years, we were opposed to bringing lunches. After all, school lunch is fairly inexpensive (though not as cheap as I can do at home), mostly healthy, and not bad at the kids' private school. (I even got the recipe for the mashed potatoes from the cafeteria manager, because oh man those are yummilicious. Garlic powder. Who knew?)

But, about once or twice a week, the boys were coming home starving. For the older kid, meltdowns happened on pasta day. He is a really great eater. In fact, he would eat salad bar on pasta day - lettuce, carrots, tomatoes. Note the lack of calories. The only thing he truly won't eat - and this is despite trying a bite quite often - is thick pasta. Everyone has food preferences, but for adults, we get to choose our food. For kids, it means missing a meal. No big deal, once in a while, but not really fair to a kid who is perfectly willing to eat almost anything else or veggies! Also, the meltdowns from being hungry were making after school hours INTOLERABLE for Mommy. Truth.

So we started once a week (twice if they have good behavior reports) packed lunches.

This, of course, is a pain for Mommy. (Why does everything go back to Mommy?)

Here are some tips to make it easier.

*Write a reminder to make lunch in your planner.

Don't assume you will remember to make lunch in the hectic morning, especially when you are first adding lunches to your routine.

*Leave the lunchbox out on the counter.

Again, mornings happen. Don't let yourself forget to send lunch! The empty box reminds me to check the fridge.

*Serve leftovers.

Yes, I know most people send sandwiches. But school lunch is a great opportunity to use that last hot dog bun (either with an actual hot dog or with four frozen meatballs microwaved in some tomato sauce and packed in a warm thermos). Less than a full serving of chili? Serve it (again, in thermos) with some crackers and cheese. All those random fruits and veggies? Salads, fruit cups, and side dishes. At this point, school lunch is pretty much free at my house because the kids are eating the little things I would have thrown out when they were left uneaten.

*Have some quickie meals available.

Just because I usually serve leftovers doesn't mean I am above serving a turkey sandwich. Crackers, lunch meat, and cheese are popular here. Also, we do keep applesauce and fruit cups (in natural juices) in the fridge. Oh, and Spaghettios. Awkward. :/

*Don't pack junk.

I don't think kids will die from a bag of Cheetos. In fact, we do serve such things, sometimes, at home. But if I send them at lunch, that is all the kids will eat. They have such limited time for eating and they always eat the junk first.

In fact, because of the short lunch period...

*Pack two foods.

That's it. Two. Tomorrow, the little one is getting a hot dog with cheese and a side of fruit. Now, in shear numbers, the meal includes 1) hot dog bun, 2) hot dog, 3) ketchup (in a little cup), 4) cheese, 5) blueberries, and 6) grapes.

But his meal with be eaten this way - 1) hot dog with cheese and 2) mixed fruit. Otherwise, he would waste so much due to the time spent opening and eating and choosing each individual item.

Other examples include spaghetti and meatballs with an apple, beef and vegetable stew over rice with dessert of a banana, red beans, sausage, and rice with a peach, or a turkey, ham, and cheese sandwich with baby carrots. Always two main items. I realize the school gives several options, but the truth is that your kid probably only eats two of them. If you are packing lunch, you already know that your kid eats the meal. No need to give so many options.

Today was the second time my older kid brought lunch.

He forgot it in the classroom and ate carrots (for a total cost of $2.45 for BABY CARROTS because he refuses to eat spaghetti).

No system in perfect, right?


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