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Monday, August 20, 2012

1st Day and Lunch Lunacy

The kids' and I's first day back to school went well today.  Norah was completely cool with the change in school and seemed to easily settle in with her new teacher and new friends.  Caleb cried at drop off, but that was expected.  We could hear that he'd stopped crying right after we left his room, and at the end of the day, his teacher said he did well.

I did a little car-crying.  Also expected.  But, it was brief, and soon, I was fine as I sucked down my coffee and listened to NPR in blissful silence.

I also learned a little bit of the successes/weaknesses of what/how we packed the kids' lunches.  I don't know why this is something that confounds me.  Maybe because I grew up eating the crappiest packed lunches in the history of humankind that I want their lunches to be totally rad, but still healthy.

Seriously, when I was a kid, my packed lunches were the WORST.  Reasons for this were aplenty:

1.  My mom hates waste, so I think she thought of our lunches as an opportunity to use up food.  I opened that bag with trepidation: It was like a game of roulette.  I never knew what I'd find in there.  My brother often referred to the sandwiches she concocted as "dinner between bread."  I'm sure she often thought she was being inventive and creative whilst using up what was leftover, but by god, I can't describe how many times those science experiments went right in the trash.  Wasteful.  Sorry, Mom.

2.  My mom is a thrifty person, who thinks packaged, prepared foods are over-priced, but she was also health-conscious before it was cool.  So...you got Lucky Charms when you were growing up?  Awesome.  I didn't.  We didn't get sugary cereals.  They were gonna "rot [our] teeth."  I also didn't get a single Hostess product in my lunch when I was growing up, and I can tell you this: It's a hard sell to try and trade your goddamn apple for Twinkies.

3.  Lastly, our packed lunches were train wrecks because my mom had some kind of grudge against actual sandwich baggies.  Don't ask me why.  Baggies were probably socialist or something, I don't know.  What I do know, is that she used Saran Wrap for virtually any kind of preservation.  Guess what?  Saran Wrap doesn't work for shit to keep loose chips grouped together or to keep unruly grapes from breaking free and disseminating all over your brown bag and ultimately getting squished and oozing their squishedness onto other disorderly, free-rolling lunch companions. 

So, most days, I loathed the lunch my mom packed me, and I loved the days I got hot lunch, or later in high school, when she just handed me some money to get lunch as I pleased.

Thus, my feelings now.  I want my kids' lunches to be healthy (no Twinkies for them either) but I also want them to like what they're eating, or if nothing else, not dread it.

Any hints or advice?  Little helpful tidbits for packing the right balance of healthy food they'll actually consume that won't take me half the night before to prepare and package?  (Unlike my mother, I appreciate companies that do some of the legwork for me and I'm totally willing to overpay for convenience.)

What did you get in your lunches as a kid?  Was yours awesome?  Or, did it suck like mine?


Agate Lake Girl said...

I was the pickiest eater ever so I had a peanut butter and honey sandwich every day - really made my Mom's lunch planning simple. And my Grandma contributed her homemade molasses cookies. My mom would freeze them and then send one every day too.

Erin said...

We hardly ever got to bring our lunch. It was hot lunch all the way 99.9% of the time. I longed for my friend's packed lunch. She always had great finds in there that she never ate.

We too have the new dilemma of what to pack that is edible but not too extreme on the unhealthy scale or cool scale. The new school doesn't allow nuts or nut products (sorry PB&J, you lose out to those with allergies).

This week we are starting with a basic sandwich (turkey or chicken) on either bread or Miller loves them on tortillas with mayo. We found the carrot snack packs that come with dip (costly, yes, easy, worth it!). We also found the pretzel sticks that come with cheese as a snack. Fruits, veggies, sandwiches, noodles (you can boil the snot of out of them and put them in the thermos jars that supposedly keep them warm until lunch time per the coworkers who have been living this reality for a couple years), crackers, raisins, etc.

I would love to provide the lunches you see in magazines that scream cool but really, the kid's lucky if he gets enough to eat that isn't going to make him hurl when he opens his lunch box.

Disclaimer, we for the most part of this post that relates to purchasing or food prep is really Ryan.

I am interested in the finds because we need that same advice.

diana said...

Have you thought about Bento boxes? basically it's a cool lunch box with dividers that you put the food into. You can use cookie cutters to cut basic foods into fun shapes (cheese, fruit, bread/sandwiches) and then pack it on the way. The HelloBee website has a whole series of posts on bento boxes. It seems like you can do a lot of prep, or not as much and they are still cool.

(I'm not the author, I just thought of the series of posts when I read your post.)

Leah said...

I was also going to suggest bento boxes. There is a website called This Lunch Rocks and that woman does some crazy stuff with her kids meals. A fun lunch box I think is called planet box...i kind I want one for myself :)

Ryan said...

We never got to bring our own lunch either. Hot lunches 100% of the time. Now that I have kids, I understand why my parents did this(healthy and easy). This is also probably the reason why I am actually excited to bring my own lunch to work and not eat out everyday.

Miller is bring his lunch twice a week. We will see how long this novelty lasts.

Lisa said...

I did *not* have good luck packing lunches that my kids would actually eat. I am not the one to ask for advice on this topic :-(

Ended up sending them with lunch money for a hot lunch instead.

James said...

Throughout elementary, my lunches were typically a standard white bread with some sort of meat and a slice of cheese, along with chips or cookies... not healthy and not tasty. Starting in middle school, I got money and would eat out of vending machines, so bad for you! These days, I like to make wraps. They're quick and easy to make. Hummus, guacamole, or some other spread, with some kale or spinach, chopped tomatoes and onions and I'm golden. I'm sure you could come up with some good ones for the kids. And to top it off, a quick roll in foil and it's sealed. Yum!

TNTcoach Ken said...

LOL, blissful silence! Don't bring back those painful childhood memories of lunch! ARGHHHHHHHH

X-Country2 said...

Well, this is kind of the gold standard for super fun, healthy lunches. http://thislunchrox.com/ Be prepared for serious feeling of inadequacy though. :)

(You'll have to scroll down back to the school year for the lunch suggestions.)

Carolina John said...

We got the same thing with our kids. As soon as you drop them off they cry like the gates of hell just opened up to them, but 30 seconds after closing that classroom door they were playing just fine.

Erika . . . with a K said...

I always ate the unhealthy (yet delicious) cafateria food! I grew up eating processed crap and my mom never had fruits or veggies in the house. Crazy. It took me a long time into adulthood to teach myself and my family to eat healthy. I pack my daugher's lunch everyday - usually a sandwhich or wrap with yogurt, or an apple and a snack of some sort. Very boring.... So if you come up with ideas for rad lunches please share so I can copy! My daughter usually complains she is sick of whatever I pack her. I am trying to find ideas to spruce up her lunches this year and make them healthier and fun (and not break the bank).

runner26 said...

the website, "100 days of read food" has, IMO, excellent ideas for healthy kids lunches (and other meals for that matter) and they all consist of real food. In addition, many of them are cost conscious. i'm a big fan of this site, i've made many of her recipes, and i'm already using her advice for willa's meals. hope it helps.


Tiffany - Colorado Mama said...

I am that healthy mom who does not feed my kids surgery cereals! I am also the mom who hates to pack lunches for the kids but I do b/c they eat much better when I do pack them. Ideas - ham and cheese roll ups/ my version of a lunchable - pieces of lunch meat, cheese and crackers for them to put together/ PB&J (all natural not added sugar, oil or salt!), left overs that do not need to be heated up, all natural applesauces, all natural, only fruit leathers, lots of fresh fruit and veggies, yogurt.