We’re over a month into the school year and I’m already daydreaming of simpler days of summer lunches. Lunchtime? Cool — throw a tub of hummus on the table and a bag of pita chips and the kids go to town … Or the budget-friendly favorite — leftovers! I am very fortunate that none of my children have nut allergies, so PB&J is on the regular lunch rotation when we’re home (let’s be honest — it’s on the regular dinner rotation too). If I don’t have any clean dishes (or if I don’t want to create any additional dirty dishes) I can send them out to the back porch with a sandwich — where no dishes and crumbs are fair game. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
Until August anyway, when school lunches come back into play and the seemingly simple task gives me grey hair. I’ve seen all the Pinterest container/ lid hacks, and they are great for your more TypeA on top of it folk, but there is no magical hack for us fly by the edge of your seat type moms that keep containers from losing their mate. Trust me I have tried it all. If I can find one matching container and lid combo on any given day, we’re doing great. The problem is I have three kids, and unfortunately, I can’t send them to school with one communal container and the same pack mentality we use at home. And the chances that the one container I find actually fits in the lunch box? Slim. The odds that there is room for anything else in said lunchbox next to the unicorn of a container is a lost cause. On a fancy day when I have three containers and can send them with some nice cold leftovers (everyone’s favorite!), I curse my (half-dead) inner environmental activist and wish I could stomach plastic utensils (we’ll save that rabbit hole for another blog), so I send my fancy target spoons into the black hole that is their lunchbox knowing there is about a 12% chance that said spoon is ever coming back home.
All three of my kids have food restrictions in their classes because of a child with an allergy. Your kid’s survival is more important than my daughter’s affection for peanut butter pretzels, hands down, but trying to keep track of which kid can bring which food to which class? Then what, pack three separate lunches and pray I didn’t send the wrong kid with the wrong lunchbox and they accidentally send their friend off in an ambulance because of an allergy? It seems stressful and like way more work so we just combine allergy lists and everyone gets the same lunch every day, assembly-line style.
Last year my 8-year-old was missing her two front teeth for a ridiculously long time. I kept sending apples in her lunch and they kept coming home. I would get so annoyed that I’d just put the same apple back into said lunchbox and figured “she loves apples, she’ll either eventually eat it or starve.” After a week (maybe more) of this she was complaining that she was “starving” on the drive home from school and I told her she should have eaten the apple that she’d avoided the last 100 days (because all 8-year-olds need to function and run around on a playground in the Florida heat is an apple, obviously). Then she replied, “I can’t eat an apple without my teeth.” DUH MOM. Domestic and communication mom fail all in one. Where’s my trophy? But don’t worry, I remembered and packed her soft fruit instead for a few weeks anyway until I forgot again and packed her another apple. I like to tell myself if she were home eating where I could see her I would have connected those dots sooner and not tortured my kid with food she couldn’t eat.
This is our fourth year packing school lunches, and, jokes aside I feel like we’ve finally found our rhythm and the perfect lunchbox that embraces our crazy ways. I can’t help but think it shouldn’t have taken us this long to get a grip on something so seemingly simple, but here we are. I throw sandwiches straight into the fully wipe-down friendly but not eco-friendly hard plastic lunchboxes (stop judging me Self- we’re trying) without any containers or wrapping. Then I throw in some fruit (everyone currently has their front teeth) and allow myself one individually packaged item per day (usually it’s a squeezy yogurt or bar). But even now, in year four, where we have reached seasoned lunch packing status I received every parent’s worst nightmare text from their kid’s teacher “I gave your son some of my lunch because he was still hungry” and I once again catch myself daydreaming of summer lunches. The simplicity of grabbing a rotisserie chicken from Publix and ripping it apart like animals for lunch, oh how miss you so.
Writer’s Note: Our school doesn’t have a kitchen/ purchase lunch option