My Love/Hate Relationship with Packing School Lunches

Schoolchildren eating hot school lunches made ...

Schoolchildren eating hot school lunches made up primarily of food from the surplus commodities program. Taken at a school in Penasco, New Mexico, United States. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The beginning of the school year brings with it the inevitable advent of school lunch packing.  I have a love/hate relationship with this chore.  It’s not that hard, it saves us money and it only takes 5 minutes or less.  However, more than one cup of coffee has gone cold on a busy morning when I just poured one, only to realize that I forgot to load the lunch boxes.

Now I can’t whine too much about this topic because I realize that packing my kids’ lunch is a choice. For one, I am fortunate enough to live in a school district that is a pioneer in Food Renaissance and therefore cooks the majority of its food from scratch.  They also have an impressive Farm-to-School program.  However, my kid’s don’t like to eat hot lunch.  If times were different, I might insist upon it, because I am positive that they could find something that they liked to eat every day and be fine.  But hot lunches, though a great value compared to eating out, quickly take a toll on the pocketbook of a one-income family.

I also understand that I could have my kids pack their own lunches.  They are totally capable of completing this task. Truthfully, I am just too lazy to endure that period of time between training them to do it and then waiting for them to become proficient at it.  I want to get to school on time and I don’t really trust them so I would have to check it anyway.  Since I usually don’t have to leave the house for work, it easier for me to do it myself.  Don’t worry, my girls have lots of opportunity to cook at my house, so I don’t feel like they are missing out on a valuable learning experience.

I’m particular about packing lunches.  I use real food – or at least minimally processed food and I want them to be somewhat balanced.  There will not be any potato chips or candy-bars-disguised-as-granola-bars in my girls’ lunch.

Unfortunately, my girls are not big fans of regular lunch items.  No PB & J for them.  Sometimes I can slide a PB & honey in on my youngest but that’s about it.  Also, they are don’t eat ham or turkey sandwiches.  Their meat of choice happens to be salami, which doesn’t exactly fit my lunch rules.  I blame their father.

My oldest is pretty good about packing leftovers, but sometimes gets embarrassed when her friends realize what she is eating.  I take pride in the fact that there is a passel of 6th grade girls who are now familiar with Mango and Black Bean Quinoa Salad.  Yet, she won’t take her favorite Sausage and Spinach Soup anymore because, apparently it looks too weird in a thermos.

Baby girl is a different story.  She wants yogurt everyday. And an apple. That’s about it.

Lunches usually look like this:

Monday: B – tomato soup, crackers, celery sticks, C – strawberry yogurt and an apple

Tuesday: B – leftover pasta with feta and sun-dried tomatoes, C – peach yogurt and apple

Wednesday: B – slice of Mediterranean Pizza, fruit, C – peach yogurt and apple

Thursday: B – homemade pizza lunchable, broccoli, C – this one, she will eat

Friday: B – no school,  C – strawberry yogurt and apple

I’ve been packing lunches for six years now and I have a pretty good system. But if you don’t, I recommend you check out 100 Days of Real Food for lots of great ideas.

Although I am curious if her kids actually eat everything she packs them.  My kids are too worried about their social time and sometimes half of their lunch ends up back at home. I’d love to be able to give it to them as a snack if they complain about being hungry after school but you know, food poisoning.

How about you? Do you pack lunch for your kids? What do you pack?

2 thoughts on “My Love/Hate Relationship with Packing School Lunches

  1. Love this! I also grumble about packing my kids’ lunches, but I haven’t gotten motivated enough to teach them to do it themselves. For my ten-year olds, the weekly menu looks something like this: Monday – sandwich, Tuesday – pasta and veg salad , Wednesday – fried rice with scrambled egg, Thursday – canned soup in thermos, Friday – dinner leftovers. A rotation of fruit and crackers, goldfish , etc. My five year old eats only yogurt, cheese string, fruit and pb and j. I enjoy 100 Days blog but I believe in moderation. I would drive myself crazy if I felt like I had to can my own tomatoes or use brown rice for my fried rice. What is your homemade pizza lunchable?


    • When I make pizza, I usually double the recipe for the dough. Then I roll it out and use a biscuit cutter to make little rounds and bake them on a cookie sheet. I pack 3-4 of them in a Ziploc container with pizza or spaghetti sauce and some grated cheese (I use the stuff in a bag – a 100 Days food violation :-)). My kids won’t eat pepperoni – they are selective about their processed meat.


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