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When to Care about Homemade School Lunches—& When to Give Up

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If you like reading what Amanda feeds her kids, you'll love taking a look into what other people—both in the food world and the world at large -- prepare for their own children (and occasionally their significant others and maybe even their pets). Prepare to be either resentful or appreciative of your own parents.

Today, Sarah Carey, Food Editor at Large at Martha Stewart Living, has been known to cook dinner in her pajamas before 7 A.M. (just check out the hashtag #sarahbeforeseven). But what does she pack her kids for lunch? 

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Let’s not candy-coat it: Making lunch for your kids is a total bore. Make it every day; make it healthy; make it varied—these rules, mostly self-imposed, can be hard to live up to. It’s especially challenging when you spend all that time making the lunch only to find it comes back half eaten. You might begin to question the importance of the homemade lunch. Why do I bother? Does it really make a difference? I'm already making them dinner every day, so why can't I just let them eat school lunch, that almost-but-not-really-food "meal" offered in the NYC public schools?

The answer is I can (my son) and I can't (my daughter). Let me explain: It got to a point with my son that he really wasn't eating the food I made; “too busy” and “not enough time” were his excuses. It was a big waste, so I stopped (no judgements please: The guilt I feel is quite enough, thank you). My daughter, on the other hand, while she often doesn't finish everything, really appreciates the lunches we pack, so we continue to make them.

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What constitutes “lunch” depends on the day. Sometimes it's the classic sandwich, fruit, and vegetable combo, or sometimes a container of leftover dumplings or samosas. Allowing our daughter to be involved—or to even make her own lunch—results in more food eaten/less wasted. Lately, she's been into salads, so anything that can go in or on a salad is great. A bonus of working in a test kitchen: all the leftovers. In this way, bits and pieces from upcoming stories (turkey in April, anyone?) end up on the cafeteria table months before they appear in the pages of the magazine.

Today's lunch (see above): sliced turkey; whole Romaine leaves, cucumber spears, and feta with vinaigrette; broccoli tossed with pesto; and strawberries.

Make it easier by taking a bit of time on Sunday to get stuff ready so that when you are packing the prep is already done: Make a bottle of salad dressing, wash and dry some greens, cut up a few days' worth of your kids' favorite veggies, and make a batch of hummus or pesto.

Did you ever decide to stop making lunch for your kids? Share with us in the comments below! 

Photo by Sarah Carey

Tags: kids' lunch, brown-bag lunch, brown bag lunch, packed lunch, lunch, sarah carey, martha stewart