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The Lunch Dilemma

Lunch Box via Land of Nod

My kids (particularly my son) love school lunch.

They like the daily variety.  They love chocolate milk.  They like a warm meal… especially in winter.  They love dessert almost everyday.  They love Pizza Fridays.

They don’t want to take home lunch. “Home lunches are boring!”

Oh boy, what a dilemma!  Chocolate milk and dessert everyday is not healthy.  Processed foods everyday is not healthy.

What’s a mother to do?

So I’ve struck a bargain with my kids.  Four days a week they will have home lunch.  And I promise, I really promise, to try to make them awesome.  I promise to include foods they love.  And once a week, they can choose to eat a school lunch (my guess it will be Pizza Fridays.)

Now that I’ve made the bargain, I’ve been wracking my brain for school lunch ideas that will keep things interesting and healthy for the kids.

If I’m honest with myself, school lunches also need to be EASY.

Here’s a few ideas I’ve had…  I’d also love to hear a few of your favorites.

  • Sandwich wraps- My kids will love a turkey, cheese and veggie wrap…  it’s a perfect way to break up my old standby of PB & J.
  • I’ll mix up the old sandwich routine with some pasta salads… especially if I have something leftover from the night before.
  • I’d like to invest in a small thermos for soup or warm leftover on cold days.

As for the side dishes…

  • Frozen Edamame from Costco.  By the time lunch rolls around they’ll be perfectly thawed. -Thanks Marcie for that idea.
  • As a compromise, I’ll throw in a few “fun” foods, like Pirates Booty – my girl’s absolute favorite.
  • Frozen Simply GoGurts will help keep the lunch cold.
  • Cheese- string cheese, Babybel Bonbel, or a Light Laughing Cow wedge
  • My favorite local apple grower, S and R Fruit will sell me very small apples.  My kids prefer a whole apple, since cut apples are turning brown by the time lunch rolls around.  If the apple is small enough, they can eat a whole apple and waste not.
  • Every once in a while, I’ve got to throw in a homemade cookie or peanut butter bar.

And last but not least… I can’t forget to put a note in their lunches.  My mom used to write a sweet or encouraging note on my napkin and I still remember how that made my day…

I just ran across the Owl Lunch Bag on Amazon… since they are sold out on Land of Nod…


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21 Responses to “The Lunch Dilemma”

  • Calli, for mom’s who’s kids won’t eat whole apples .. I slice, pop ‘em in a ziplock along with a tablespoon of orange juice, seal carefully and give it a good swirl. Tastes great and stays fresh :)

  • Melanie:

    We have the same 4-1 rule but other than that my son was always cool with PB&J. Now that my daughter is starting Kinder lunch might be more of a challenge since she does not care for aforementioned sandwich. *sigh*
    So you’re post really came at the perfect time for me, especially since I just discovered your blog yesterday, courtesy of Frontier Woman.
    PS: The little thermos is wonderful especially in the winter when I would send warmed up leftovers.

  • pita chips or veggies and hummus are always good. Grapes are always nice. Instead of PB&J you could try peanut butter on whole wheat crackers or cheese crackers.

  • Stacy:

    We’ve already been in school a week…yes, the dead of summer and here we are trucking off to school. So your lunch post really hit the mark with us! My girls are older (11 and 8) and are pretty good about packing their own lunches. That said, your site has made me want to try new homemade things! I’ve already tried the peanutbutter bars (yummy!!!!) and if I can figure out how to do a sewing machine, I’d love to try that yoga skirt.
    I could type all day–just wanted to say that I love your site and can’t wait to see what you’ll be posting next!

    Southern love and best wishes….

  • Oh, that must be so hard. I remember really loving school lunches too! That is, until it became “cool” to bring your lunch…then, of course, we all denied ever liking school lunches in the first place. :-)

    Try whipping up some homemade pita bread (I’ve got a recipe) – it’s easy, fun, and makes for something a bit different at luchtime.

  • Nichole:

    Some of my kids’ favorites that keep things from getting boring are bagels with veggie cream cheese and pita pockets or wraps for sandwiches. I always stick a little ice pack (the kind that thaws and you just keep re-freezing and reusing it) to keep cold things fresh until lunchtime.
    Another favorite are what we call “homemade Lunchables.” My kids always want to buy them but they are expensive and full of unhealthy chemicals, so we make our own version in a shallow tupperware dish. They like crackers, cold cuts of ham or turkey, sliced cheese, and some sliced dill pickles. They love to stack up and make their own creations from these things at school lunchtime. I’ve also found that if they are tiring of the PB&J, which is my mainstay backup lunch, I just mix up the bread and that helps. They have it on a roll or on those whole wheat sandwich thins and it is like a whole new sandwich to them.

    We are big fans of the thermos as well. I just got them last year and wonder why I waited so long (my kids are in 4th and 5th grade). They love soup, pasta salads, mac & cheese, really almost any kind of leftovers from the night before. Just today I sent them with pigs in the blanket leftover from dinner last night by just cutting the hot dogs in half before putting them in the thermos. I’ve even sent scrambled eggs before for a fun lunch on PJ day. I have found that if I heat up food really hot in the microwave (too hot to eat, but not so hot that it burns or turns funky) and then quickly get it in the thermos, it is the perfect warm temperature for eating at lunchtime.

    Hope this helps! I’ll be checking back here for other comments as I can always use some new ideas.

  • Dad:

    You are such an amazing Mom! I say it because I’m your Dad but also because I see it and know it when I see it!

  • I guess the grass is always greener…my kids would kill to be your kids! I work about an hour out of town and leave my house at 4:45am. I usually stroll in the door around 6pm – just in time to make dinner. The last thing I want to think about is packing lunches – so I force them to get the lunches from school. At our schools, the kids who bring lunches are called “packers.” My children are very jealous of the packers. It got to the point last year that my 9 year old was making his own lunch – and all I had to carry it in was a brown paper sack. How sad. I am sure if I told my kids that they could only have homemade lunches – they would want to buy from school. All I can say is that buying lunches is my “make it do” for the school day.

  • Thanks, I am borrowing those ideas :D the only thing I can say about apple slices, is mix in a little pineapple with it, the acid keeps the apple from turning brown (just like a lemon and or some people use diet/regular soda but that loses the point of the apple)

  • Calli! I’ve been thinking about the exact same thing! I ordered two thermos just like the one pictured – one pink and one blue – for soup and chili. I also found some cute egg molds that turn hard boiled eggs into cute teddy bear and bunny shapes. I’m trying anything I can to make home lunch exciting and appealing (and most importantly, healthy) for my kids. It’s great to see all the ideas your readers are sharing.

  • Bethaney Parkin:

    Loved this post – We attend a charter school and lunch is not provided so home lunch is every day for us…..Found some fun snack size nacho cheese cups at Walmart by the mexican food, very cheap and fun. I just throw in some tortilla chips for a nacho day. Also I have sliced toaster waffles into strips and sent some syrup in a little dip cup for a breakfast for lunch day! Thermos: Good investment! Love all the ideas..I will be stealing them for sure!

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  • Sally P:

    Please consider trying a waste-free lunch. Laptop Lunches has a great bento style box. I made clothe napkins. Weelicious.com has great ideas everyday of her child’s lunch. There are other blogs with lunch ideas as well as stainless steel bento boxes by other companies. Anyways, I like your practical ideas. Packing his lunch for Kindergarten is one of the major things I’m nervous about.

  • amanda:

    The owl lunch box was cute but it looks like u could buy just a plain colored lunch box and with scrap material hot glue the owl design on. I think I will try it.

  • Amylee:

    Thanks for some new ideas. We do lunch from home and most of the time my kids are ok with it. some fun things I have come up is Homemade trailmix – pistachios, craisins, and a few choc chips- my kids love that. plus sometimes I send a little bowl with carmel for the apples – 1 8oz cream cheese, one bag of carmels and microwave and stir alot, It is stays soft enough to dip. It is nice when they have a microwave available to use if needed, but not all schools will let the kids use them. I even sent some homemade mini hamburgers. Just have them assemble once they get to lunch. would love to hear where you picked up your thermos

  • Julia:

    We always loved my mom’s cooking, so home lunches were an easy sell. But then I loved PB&J (still do). But some other things she would do – little english muffin pizzas made in the toaster oven decorated like a clown face (olives for eyes, tomato nose, bell pepper mouth, etc), loved mac and cheese (and she always snuck in steamed broccoli with it), loved little grilled cheese sandwiches (cut with cookie cutters into shapes) and tomato soup in a thermos. Those were the most memorable ones.

  • Lila:

    I just found this blog this morning : http://www.anotherlunch.com/ You might find some ideas there.

  • Sheri:

    Another solution for the apples – simply wet a paper towel and wring it out – wrap the apple slices in it and place them in a zip bag or plastic storage container and they will not turn brown. (the science behind it is very cool!) ;)

  • The exact bargain I just struck with my new school girl for the exact reason. I am letting her buy milk at school ’cause she is a milk-head, and she came home the first day and said “MOM strawberry milk is AWESOME!!” In her almost 6 years on earth I had managed to keep that fake crud away from her, but a mom has to let go sometime…. :)

  • tara:

    My mom used a variation of Jovita’s trick. Put sliced apples, a tablespoon of lemon juice, and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar in a ziplock bag. We never thought of this until my brother (who would not EVER touch an unpeeled apple) started stealing apple slices out of the apple pie mixture my mom was fixing to put in a crust and bake. I’m pretty sure she made him cinnamon apples 180 days a year for the next five years! Of course, your solution is easier–no peeling!–and healthier–fiber!–but if you’re ever looking for something new, the homemade apple pie filling does the trick!

  • Sarah:

    We do apples everyday until the kids get sick of them. Our method is a bowl of cold water with a couple of drops of real lemon juice in it next to the cutting board. Just drop them in as you slice them then pull out and drop in baggy. My kids love them and there is no extra flavors.(they are a tad picky!)

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