Every September I get all worked up about packing lunch. After an obsessive August on Pinterest, I find myself artfully arranging perfectly chopped vegetables, sandwich bites (or roll-ups when I’m feeling fancy), and color-coordinated fruit skewers in the compartments of my 7-year-old's lunch box.
But this energy never lasts. After a couple weeks of asking my daughter how she liked her lunch (I’m looking for praise, obviously) and being met with a tired sounding, “It was fine, Mom,” it's back to reality.
And you know what? Reality is just fine. Because kids don’t need fancy lunches and I don’t need to spend hours composing them. Here is our go-to lunch strategy that keeps her happy and well-fed:
1) Carb Bomb: Slices of banana bread, zucchini bread, or cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches are real favorites. This year we also got into mini-bagels with cream cheese and jam. The carb feature is always a must so I never skimp on the portions.
2) Dessert-ish Fruit: She likes fruit that is very sweet and ripe so I stick with berries (I freeze them in the summer and dole them out in the winter), watermelon, ripe cantaloupe, or a clementine. It is never a good idea to pack a banana. I’ve been informed they get mushy in the lunchbox and she is not amused by messages inscribed in the peel with a toothpick. (Or even messages on a Post-It note. So, no messages from Mom at all, thank you very much.)
3) Salty Crunchy Something: This is the portion of lunch I turn over to the experts. There is no homemade Pirate's Booty, Goldfish crackers, or pretzels in this house. Those experts live at BJ’s, in bulk, and make my life easier.
4) Stand-in Smoothie: I love the idea of blending fresh smoothies every morning and packing them in stainless-steel canisters with striped paper straws. I’ve done it exactly once. She came home and told me loved the homemade smoothie because it tasted just like Stonyfield. Wha??? Why bother? Our store-bought yogurts do a beautiful job standing in for the homemade variety so I’ll stick with them. (Note: These can also be found in bulk at BJ’s.)
It has taken me five years to hammer out this strategy but I think we’ve finally got it down pat. This August, I plan to skip Pinterest and read a good novel.
First photo by Sarah Jampel; second photo by James Ransom
Home cook, food blogger, cookbook author, wine lover, avid traveler, and mother of two young children. Check out my books: The Naptime Chef: Fitting Great Food into Family Life (2012), and The Family Calendar Cookbook: From Birthdays to Bake Sales, Good Food to Carry You Through the Year (2015), Running Press.