Right up there with emptying the dishwasher, putting away clean laundry, and getting the kids to sleep, one of my most dreaded tasks has always been making school lunch.  When I stop to think about it, I’m never quite sure where all the hate comes from, after all, feeding my children is probably the most important aspect of my job.

But the gut-wrenching sadness I feel when my well-prepped meals come home 3/4 full is enough to drive me to a low place.  A very low place.  A place where I find myself wishing it was still the ‘80s and I could throw a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread into a ziplock bag and call it a day.  Pair that with a fruit roll up and a juice box and that was called lunch back in my era.   On special occasions we sometimes found a Twinkie or a cookie too?!! It didn’t happen often, but it was pure heaven to the under-9 set.

But today lunch expectations are different.  Very different.  To begin, one is shunned for packing food in anything but a sustainable container.  That means no plastic wrap, no foil and definitely no baggies.  Juice boxes are also a total “no-no”.   Too much sugar and then there’s the garbage. And don’t even get me started on plastic straws…
To this end, I’ve devoted an entire kitchen cabinet to lunch boxes, lunch kits and a very expensive water bottle collection.  I have containers that hold hummus, others are perfectly shaped for grapes and organic berries, and some vessels I save only for cheese and crackers. My kids love their miniature squeeze bottles that are ideal for maple syrup, salad dressing and mustard.  I could open a store with this BPA-free stuff.  It’s embarrassing.

To help keep me somewhat sane, I make my kids agree on a monthly lunch (and dinner) menu plan. They choose an entrée, a fruit, veggie and a snack that they promise they’ll eat.  Of course neither kid can agree on a common plan, so I am usually charged with creating two perfectly curated meals wrapped in perfected packaging.  Needless to say, I’m not happy when food comes back uneaten.  And they’ve been warned.

Today my daughter is nearly 10, and I’ve been making school lunches for her for 7 years.  Instead of dreading the task, I try to embrace it. I no longer wait till I’m rushing out the door to throw a meal together. Instead, I try to pull together their food as I’m prepping or cleaning up dinner.  I find this saves time, aggravation and a lot of wasted food.  Some evenings don’t allow for a full lunch prep, but I sleep better knowing part of it is prepared.

 

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Top left: My kids tend to favour what they call the “deconstructed” lunch.  Not an actual sandwich, but just its parts laid out in a pretty display. Favourites always involve hummus and guacamole with veggies, chips and chesse

Top right: another version of the pulled apart sandwich. This time there’s Genoa salami, cheese, veggies, fruit and dare I say WHITE BREAD!!! Crusts off…

Bottom left: that’s an actual sandwich of sorts.  On a Montreal bagel. Somehow that seems to be acceptable to this group. Lots of berries and fruit finish up this lunch.

Bottom right: had I tried to take a photo of all my lunch gear I would have needed a bigger table. Best lunch boxes: @rootscanada.  Amazing bottles that stay hot or cold for 12 hours. For real!!! @swellbottles. And I can’t help but adore the @lunchbot tins. Never any garbage made with our lunches!!

Yes, I have lost sleep over lunch.  Sometimes before bed, I find myself scrolling through pages online for lunch inspiration. Romantic, I know!  A few of my favourites include:

@avivawittenberg 196lunches.com. Aviva is a real person and a good friend of mine. She truly makes these amazing lunches.  Every. Single. Day.    Another fun page is @lilyslunches.

And if you tire of searching for and creating the under-appreciated school lunch, enlist your offspring for some help!  Happy lunching. Xo