School Lunches

This year we have three kids in elementary school (3rd, 2rd, and K.)  That’s 15 school lunches a week.  Yikes.

Someday, we will have two in middle school (8th and 7th) and three in elementary school (5th, 2nd, and K.)  That’s 25 school lunches a week.  Really yikes.

Or, 13 years of school (K-12) times 180 days of school times five kids is 11,700 lunches.  That’s scary even without factoring in 11 1/2 child-years of preschool.

I could have them buy lunch at school, but that would be almost $50 a week for mediocre meals.  Plus, making lunches for school is a great chance for them to learn something, I’m sure.  Probably nutrition and frugality and to not leave packing 15 lunches until after dinner Sunday night.

Last year each kid packed his lunch and snack every night.  We had a good system, so I will share it even though I decided to change it this year.  We had a bin of Greek yogurt and string cheese, and hummus and chip packs, and baby carrots and such in the fridge.  In the pantry we had bins with reusable plastic containers of salty snacks (goldfish, pretzels,) sweet snacks (graham crackers, teddy grahams, fig newtons,) nutty snacks (granola bars, trail mix, peanut butter crackers,) “fruits” (applesauce, peaches in fruit juice,) and desserts (fruit snacks, cookies.)  They were allowed to pack a few things from the fridge and one thing from each bin in the pantry.  That covered lunch and school snack.  It worked, but it generated a lot of reusable containers to wash and wasn’t as healthy as I would have liked.  But, it got us through the first few months of five little kids.

This year we’re doing something different.  I got a bunch of 3 compartment lunch containers (often called bento boxes.)

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On Sunday we pack all 20 lunches for the week.  Twenty, because Little A wants lunches, too, so he can be just like his brothers.  First I present the kids with a entrée menu and they each choose five lunches for the week.

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Then we spread containers all over the kitchen table and work together to make the lunches.  It takes about an hour.

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Each lunch has an entrée, a fruit or veggie (baby carrots, grapes,) and a dessert.  It’s much more efficient to make them all at once.  R likes to make the sandwiches.  Big A likes to make crackers and cheese and chips with hummus.  O likes to put in carrots and grapes and desserts.  Little A likes to try to eat everything as we make it.

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Twenty lunches is a lot of food!

Each kid has a color which we use around the house.  It happens to also be the color of the baby blanket I knit when he (or she) was born.  R has yellow/orange (or rainbow here,) Big A has blue, O has green, little A has red (or pink sometimes,) and Miss C has purple (but no lunches yet, obviously.)

On school nights all the kids have to do is choose a pre-made lunch pack and add a water bottle (reusable,) napkin, and a snack (fruit and a baggie of cracker type snacks.)  It takes about two minutes, is healthy, and involves much less whining than last year.  And because they chose, and packed the lunches, it should all be food they like.

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Apparently O was in a pretzel mood when packing his lunch for today.  He chose a hummus and chips/pretzels lunch and took applesauce and more pretzels for snack.

At lunchtime Little A knows where to find his “lunch box” and enjoys choosing something.

Note: I haven’t sent PB&J to school yet because my mother-in-law used to pre-pack PB&J for my husband and apparently they got really soggy by the end of the week.  You can avoid the sogginess by putting PB on both slices of bread and jelly in the middle so the jelly doesn’t touch the bread.  I know that works for a day or two, but I want to do a five-day test before sending any with the kids.  I made a couple for Little A this week.  We’ll see how they last.

Also, this year we are only using neoprene lunchboxes because they are machine washable.  I am so tired of scrubbing yogurt, soggy cheese, hummus, and other goopy, malodorous gunk out of non-washable lunchboxes.

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