Newest Obsession #426

School Lunches.

With first grade comes a lot of firsts. Bus rides, to school & back, all day classes, and my current brain space hog: eating away from home.

The Husband and I talked it over first. He seems to remember only buying lunch at school. He figured it was easier for his mother, (who was juggling a career in addition to six kids- a superhero of a woman if I ever knew one) and it might have even been more economical. I latched onto this idea, being ever-eager to solve problems with money. (it is odd that we are not millionaires with this brand of thinking!) And thud went the stamp of the problem solved! proclamation.

I then turned my anxiety and frenetic energy to backpacks. Pouncing from website to website (in july!) weighing the options to price ratios. I decided on the Garnet Hill collection, and noticed that hey! Free matching lunch box comes with any backpack order! I wasn't going to TURN DOWN a freebie just because I didn't NEED it, right? Not only was I going to get the free lunch box, I was going to USE it. Obviously, this was my heroic attempt of shunning empty consumerism. After the order was placed I was forced to revisit the lunch situation.

I remember my own childhood experience with school lunches; a tortilla shell with microwaved cheese hardened to the point of becoming tortilla varnish was a staple. I did some digging into the current school lunch program, snagging an example month's menu from the summertime program. There were vegetables, cleverly marketed with names like "carrot coins." Ok, I can get on board with that. They have cards now, much like my debit card, in which parents load on the cash and the kids can swipe it for their lunch. The pessimist in me can see how easily this plan could go awry- losing cards being the chief option. (I'm avidly labeling coats, shoes, backpacks, and pencil holders! My kids seem to be completely unaware for the need to keep tabs on their stuff- like at all)

I took my inquiring mind to my mother, whose first thought was "pack lunches as long as they'll let you!" Apparently getting hot lunch at school carries a certain weight in social contexts- the cool kids get hot lunch! I do not remember any such thing, but I'm taking her word on it. Given the kind of lunches available from school at the time, I can see how this option was unappealing to the nutrition-minded-adult. As the district started putting up the fall lunch calendars I noticed a small red flag- there were two calendars. One was the healthy lunches I'd read about over the summer, the other was the standard fare which I remembered from my school days. (cheese stuffed breadsticks?!) There isn't a uniform lunch system in the district. Each school is different, and heaven forbid there be a list of which schools do which lunches on their WEBSITE. I almost don't even want to call the school and ask. Why force me to call, school? Why must your website contain NO INFORMATION at all?! (I still may have to call as school starts in just over a week and we STILL have not received teacher assignments- another rant entirely)

All of this is to say I have become consumed in my quest to make perfect packed lunches. Pinterest is fueling this obsession. Have you seen all the beautiful bento lunches! What kid eats a carrot spinach salad with balsamic vinaigrette anyway?  I can't even get my kids to like tuna! Squirt hates all things peanut butter! I am THOROUGHLY SCREWED. But at least I have very cute supplies! My favorite are these GoodByn Bynto containers. And I promptly purchased some fluted silicone cupcake liners to make extra divided space. Most of my ideas have sprung from this Pin:

Popcorn is filling, right? I very may well be fooling myself into thinking I can keep this up all year, just let me languish in my delusion, if you please. This year will be the year I excel in parenting! Having two thirds of my children away at school most of the day will really free up time to plot my psychotic organization and hone my housewifery skills, yes? OF COURSE.

Since the girls seemed to have a bit of curiousity-bordering-on-anxiety about the lunch situation, I held a practice run. (I probably needed the practice too)

A couple problems: the kids cannot open a Capri Sun independently. And they ate maybe 20% of the healthy practice lunch I packed. While they were enthused about it, they weren't voracious in their eating. Hopefully the sheer exhaustion from recess and all day school will make them desperately hungry- enough to even eat- dare I say it? Some TRAIL MIX, and not just the M&M part. We shall see.


  1. So much Disney has gotten me an early start on lunch packing, and here is my two cents: We use these for disney and I'll probably do the same for school. I only ever pack half a sandwich in the sandwich side (I've never cut crusts off ever, but I do sometimes use the circle flatbreads), and then fill the rest of that container w/ fruit. On the smaller side I do some sort of crackers/gold fish/trailmix and a little back of fruit snacks. I'm hoping that the array gets some sort of healthy food in their bellies. We're still working out vegetables.

  2. Also string cheese and yogurts.

  3. That is a BEAUTIFUL practice lunch =)!

  4. Charlotte is two days in and has yet to eat all her lunch, but is DEVOURING dinner. The way I see it, I try to pack mostly healthy stuff, so that what she DOES eat will be good and giver her good energy. Then for dinner, it's super filling and I let her have as much as she wants. Char is skinny minny like your girls, so I know that eating is a constant battle. SO annoying! Also, there are teachers that go around opening water bottles, fruit snack bags, applesauce containers, etc for the kids that can't open them alone. What you've done as a practice run is awesome! You're such a good mom, seriously!