World’s Worst Lunchmaker

My kids’ school has a Facebook group and someone on it has started a weekly lunch feature where we are to take pictures of the lovely, carefully balanced lunches we are creating for our children and post them up there. To this I say: HA HA HA HA HA.

The people who are posting are the people with a) nice lunchboxes, in bright colours, divided into cute little sections, and b) children who actually EAT LUNCH.

I have neither of those things. For starters, all three children are on their third year with the same lunch bags, so you can imagine the staining and smell that is involved (if only the internet were scratch-and-sniff). I did try to replace them this year but they are still in one piece with (miraculously) an intact liner, and none of them actually wanted to part with their beloved bags, so they stayed.

Secondly, all three of my children are of the cookies-only-throw-the-rest-away school of lunch eating. They may drink the drink. And, I have to say, my “good eater” – that’s Gal Smiley – will probably eat her sandwich, unless she’s suddenly decided that the same sandwich she’s taken for the past six months is DEAD TO HER and she will never eat another, which happens about twice a year.

So we get a lot of boomerang fruit and vegetables coming back, as well as things like crackers and granola bars, and buns and sandwiches from the other two. I still, for the most part, diligently pack them with one fruit, one vegetable, and a sandwich/main course like item each day even though I know it’s basically going to just be for my post-school-pickup snack. Swistle posted a while ago about a time when one of her kids was becoming sandwich-resistant, so she sent him to school with a variety of snacks instead, with all the sandwich parts separated out, and then the teacher called home to say that he was missing a sandwich, and oh, the humiliation. I always picture the teacher at lunchtime seeing my kids open what passes for a lunch and sighing with sadness at the poor, poor life they lead.

That said, I have really been pushing the boundaries lately on what passes for a balanced lunch – like, Froot-by-the-Foot counts, right? And leftover tater tots make a vegetable, right? My worst offender – Little Miss Sunshine – is likely to get a lunch of a dried fruit bar, a few sad looking baby carrots (which I will eat later), a bun with butter on it (20% chance of her actually eating it), a bear paw, a juice box, and goldfish crackers – what my sister would call a “beige lunch.” All beige, all the time! That’s what we’re about here – but there’s little point in packing anything else, because unless I’m willing to eat it for dinner it’s going in the garbage.

Today in a wild fit of optimism I threw a mini yogurt in her lunch. It should make for a nice tidbit at teatime for me.

I’m tempted to upload my kids’ lunches to the Facebook page in a dare-to-judge-me kind of way, but I think in the end I just don’t have the stomach for it. I’m too busy filling up on leftovers.

13 thoughts on “World’s Worst Lunchmaker

  1. I have changed my life – which means all our lives are changed – by downloading school lunches.

    1) Sat my kids down the week before school started and agreed on what makes a lunch. E.G. Two fruit and / or veggies, one “snack”, one “main”, etc.

    2) Agreed on what constitutes a “snack” (homemade chocolate zucchini loaf is a snack; a slice of chocolate cake is not; that’s dessert). Also agreed on what fruits and / or veggies a) they will eat b) will survive the trip to school without becoming mashed and gross.

    3) Made a checklist to go on the side of the fridge.

    4) Showed them where all the things we agreed upon will be.

    5) “Over to you!” They now make their lunches, checking the checklist, and they eat everything.

    So, yes, it’s still my job to keep everything stocked, and yes, that’s sometimes labour-intensive (I fill up mini salad dressing containers with whipped cream cheese so they can take whipped cream cheese and breadsticks instead of buying those pre-made crackers and processed cheese thingies).

    But they do all the “pre” stuff before bed, and they do the final packing up in the morning, and I can’t tell you how much of a difference having those tiny bits of extra time makes. Plus no more racking brains for what to send them for lunch. WHICH I LOVE!

    Changed my life, I tell ya …

  2. Sarah McCormack

    grade 6 I handed over the job to both my boys… they make a sandwich, take a piece of fruit and a snack (usually a granola bar type item) and ta-da.

  3. Sarah McCormack

    and before grade 6, that was basically what I did for them…… boring and certainly not FB worthy but works for us 🙂

  4. I so love the idea of you posting the pictures. I imagine being someone seeing that group and feeling cranky about it, and then how uplifted and amused I’d feel when seeing someone posting pictures of more like what I send!

    I have an acquaintance who has volunteered to help at school lunchtime, and she says we should SEE how many fruits and vegetables and sandwiches and unopened milks get tossed into the trash. I enjoy (in a way that does not say nice things about my character) picturing the children with the “this took an hour to make, not counting the time spent on Pinterest” lunches eating the cookie and dumping everything else in the trash, while the parent preens at how their child eats EVERYTHING!

  5. Ugh lunches. Abby makes her own lunch now, usually in the morning after I have left for the day, so goodness only knows what really goes in there. That just leaves Maya’s lunch to make, she has been a notoriously picky eater since birth and will gladly launch a hunger strike rather than try something new. Most of her lunch comes back home so I try to steer clear of anything that will spoil. I can’t handle the waste.

  6. I revolutionized my life when the Little Man (now in Grade 4) was in Grade 1. I taught him how to make his own lunch and it became fully his responsibility about halfway through the year. He knows that if it isn’t fairly well balanced, Mom will secretly remove anything not found in nature and replace it all with only fruits and vegetables.

    That said, I’m blessed with a kid who isn’t a picky eater and will actually eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. I’m not convinced there’s much of a trick to it, despite what some “experts” claim. We did food the same way with the Baby Man (now in JK) and he’s much pickier about what he’ll eat.

    The downside/struggle for us are the allergies! The Little Man is allergic to peanuts and tree nuts and sesame. Which means no store bought bread. And he hates lunch meats and wow butter. So he pretty much has an english muffin with jam on it for lunch almost every day. :o)

    The picky eater has so far had the exact same lunch every day. Wow butter sandwich on white bread with the crusts cut off, one baby carrot, three cherry tomatoes, blueberries and fish crackers.

  7. Zhu

    I blogged about it ( because this whole lunchbox thing was totally new to me–in France, either you go home, either you eat at “la cantine” with set meals.

    I think I have it relatively easy because the daycare warms up the meals (so I can go beyond sandwiches) and Mark is only three, the teachers do make sure he doesn’t just eat the cookie.

    One of my biggest challenges is to add variety. I hate it that products come in such large size here! For instance, I wanted to buy bread rolls (the soft kind) for a change, but the smaller loaf has like 24 buns. If I give Mark one a day (I’ll stick with rye bread…) it’s gonna take almost a month to finish it! Same goes with yogurts (16!) or cookie boxes.

    1. I agree with the quantity challenge. My kids mostly “shop” for their lunches from the freezer. They know I’ve frozen muffins, zucchini loaf, soft pretzels, etc. in there, and they pick what they want the night before and put it in a container to thaw on the counter overnight.

      Otherwise, the only way we’d get through something before it went bad is if they ate that, and only that, every day. This way I can freeze different things and they can choose one on one day, another the next, and none of it goes off.

      1. Zhu

        Ah, so I’m not the only one with the quantity challenge! We are a small family too, just the three of us. I’m always terrified of my in-laws making one of their trips to Costco and “dumping” more food (the giant format kind) on us.

  8. Middle-aged Me

    It really feels like that Facebook lunches page is Over-Sharenting at its worst; wanting to show the world (or their tiny corner of Kanata) that they are doing a better job than others of raising their children. (Insert Judgey-eyes emoji here).

  9. Oh the school lunches…OMG. sigh…another thing they don’t tell you when you’re pregnant with your first child…

    One thing I noticed with my youngest is that she will eat a hot lunch out of her thermos 50% of the time which is an improvement. Sometimes that’s leftovers, sometimes it’s a hot dog. Trick is to prewarm the thermos so it’s still warm by lunch….I no longer bother with fruit bec what’s the point? It travels to the point of bruises or turns brown and then it’s compost and I HATE FOOD WASTE. They can eat fruit at home. As long as they get some fruit during the day I don’t care if it’s not at lunch.

    The best tip I have to pass on is this: when you clean up dinner, put the food into the thermos for tomorrow immediately right then and there and put the thermos in the fridge. In the morning, empty the thermos into a bowl, heat it up in the microwave while you pour hot water into the thermos to prewarm it, and voila, lunch is ready.


  10. bibliomama2

    Yep. And neither of my kids has ever eaten sandwiches. I have packed many a beige lunch in my day. Eve can pack her lunch pretty independently, but if I made Angus do it he just wouldn’t eat, so I still do it (and give him Tim Horton’s and Loblaws cards for Christmas. He rides his bike to go buy lunch, that’s called balance!) They eat pretty well when they’re home. You pick your battles, right?

  11. maryatparenthood

    And here I am as one of “those” lunch moms 🙂 There are reasons I take time over lunch. For one: I had a picky eater and found presentation matters (carrot sticks won’t get eaten, carrot flowers will, one sandwich is daunting, 4 bite sized airplanes are not). And when I say picky, I mean we-consulted-CHEO-for-help picky. For two: my sister-in-law is Japanese so she gets me all the cool lunch stuff (pro-tip: doesn’t take an hour to make ze fancy if you have the right tools- if you are already cutting off crusts you might as well be making shapes with a cookie cutter 🙂 but really the main reason I do it is that I enjoy it.

    The kids school helps in that they do not allow chocolate, cookies or granola bars etc – on our first day we were told unsweetened apple sauce was confiscated from one kids lunch because it violated “no waste” day. Fruit roll ups would not be allowed to be eaten at school; they would come home. I think now that my kid is in first grade they have relaxed things a bit but indoctrination is complete. First snack is always a fruit and in JK and SK they weren’t allowed to get anything else out of their lunchbox. Eat fruit or go hungry! So while I half detest the lunch police at school I also kind of love the culture they instilled.

    It’s obvious my kid goes to a different school than yours, but I felt compelled to say that I’d be all over uploading photos because I love to see what other stuff people send. Why not upload your lunches? (Look, Elizabeth! Oliver’s mom sends tomatoes!!! Want to try eating a tomato just like Oliver does? What if I make a tomato man? LOL)

    I make a choice most days to spend a little extra time making lunch. I assume that those of you who don’t spend that time are doing other things that you hopefully entertain you as much as making lunch entertains me.
    Not everyone enjoys cutting small elephants into apples but most people I know that do will share tips on how to do so without spending inordinate amounts of time.

    But it cannot be stressed enough that most of us do NOT do it in order to show up other parents – sheesh! I will not apologize for doing something that brings me joy (and hopefully my kid), while dramatically increasing the odds of my kid eating everything.

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