Monday, January 12, 2009

Sad confessions of a lunch packing mom

I have the lunchbox blues. Please, please help. I need you to be my Zoloft.
Let me start off with this: I have the option of paying for a catered lunch for my kids at pre-school. The lunch is from Jason's Deli, so it's quasi-healthy, but doesn't include all the things that my kids usually eat. They eat a lot.

I would probably have to pack more than just what they would get from that lunch. So, I just bite the bullet and pack their lunches every day. I won't lie and tell you that I like it either. It's about as much fun as a root canal, but I do it, danggit. I have been known to say that this was the bane of my existence. Dramatic? Maybe. Honest? Youbetcha.

Oh, and I'm cheap and don't want to pay for that lunch that I would have to supplement. Have I mentioned that I'm cheap, before? I think I might have here. Or here.

Here's the situation, though: my poor kids have a lot of the same foods over and over again. Not only because the foods are easy to pack, travel well, don't grow mold in a matter of hours, etc., but also because their mommy can't think of other things to pack!! I'm out of creative juices (or juice boxes in this situation)!

I used to be the Queen of the Lunchbox, but I've gotten into a rut.

Here are my standard "guidelines": meat, 2 veggies, 2 fruits. (They get loads of whole grains at breakfast, so I don't feel bad about leaving those off the lunch list.)

Meats: Ham, chicken or hot dog (yes- the bad ones, they just taste better)
Veggies: Corn, Lima beans, baked beans, black eyed peas, green beans (anything in a can- I am NOT good at cooking frozen veggies. They end up burned on the edges and frozen in the middle when I cook them.) And I send fresh carrots, broccoli or celery with Ollie because he has chomping teeth (vs. his brother) and loves those. AND they give him ranch to dip them in. (Time out here to get a collective *AMEN- Hallelujah* for dipping accessories like ketchup and ranch!)
Fruits: Strawberries, blueberries, bananas, peaches in a little cup, cantaloupe, pineapple (canned), oranges (mandarin canned ones), pears, apples.

(OK, well I'm okay with fruits, thankfully because they will eat any fruit, but I need serious help in the other areas.)

Sometimes I get a little wacky and throw in a cheese (cubes or stringed) or a pasta (like the oh-so healthy Easy Mac). I feel really proud of myself on those days. Or I might send a soy nut butter (2 children in Ollie's classroom are deathly allergic to peanuts) and jelly sandwich with Ollie in lieu of a meat to spice things up a bit. Last week I was desperate and even sent Bagel Bites. I hope the teachers didn't talk about me at the microwave.

I need help!! Please click on Comments and take a few minutes to tell me your kids favorite things that you pack.

I try not to send things that they will completely hate because I want them to eat. I normally try new things at home so I can force them to try it with threats of taking away toys see if they like it before it's carted off to participate in pre-school. It might be traded for something, so it has to at least be a contender.

What? You see potato chips here? I do NOT know what you're talking about...

I also need tips on lunch box containers. I have to have a size that will fit into their lunchboxes, but I am SO tired of the cheap $1 ones I got from Target (that they don't sell anymore!!). I only have 2 lids without cracks left and I clean those and use them everyday. It would been nice if the packages told you not to dish wash the lids, but apparently the level of instruction on a $1 container isn't quite what it needs to be. Or didn't translate from Chinese. Or wasn't a concern while they were filling it with lead. Whatever.

They need to have separate areas for each food (that quirk comes to my beloved children courtesy of my husband) and preferably can be dish washed.

Go wild with your ideas and tips! You can do it!
Thanks in advance!! You're the best!


LOOK WHO'S MARRIED!!!! said...

Wow, Hillary! I can't give much advice here because I don't have kids yet, but I think you're doing great. You named about 7 more vegetables than I eat, so I think you're kids are doing great.

Have you ever thought about crock potting some chicken on a you can use it for a few days in lunchboxes during the week? Some BBQ or something?

I can't wait to read all the comments that you're going to get!

Susannah said...

O.K. All I pack for Anderson is milk and Gerber 2's, but...try the lunchables. I don't think they're that expensive and they're good!

becky said...

start with these two. i saw the first link to the lunchbox on tv. sounded tooo cute and i'm a sucka for anything like that. also, if my kids weren't extremely picky ( i would KILL to send them what you do yours) then i'd totally do some of the cute ideas on the kraft site. mine get (seth) pb&j, chips, applesauce (b/c he eats slow and that is all he has time for and luke (super picky extraordinaire) gets either spaghettios or pb ritz, chips, applesauce and a treat like pudding or a granola bar. he is a vacuum and eats a ton.

becky said...

google lunch box ideas. also, look on they may have some kind of similar lunch box or better ways to pack stuff.

kim s said...

my kids loved nuts, cottage cheese, yogurt, string cheese and especially fresh berries, grapes, apples, etc. you're doing great. oh - and my 2 didn't like the same things, so each lunch was tailor made. may i nominate myself for mother of the year?!

Jennifer said...

OMG! Can you pack my lunch too? You are rocking the healthy food... even with the hot dogs b/c what kid (or adult) doesn't love a hotdog? Since I don't have kids I don't know much about what kids eat besides chicken fingers... apparently that is a staple that some live off of for years.... plus look at all that cutting you are having to do! How long does this take you in the mornings?

I have been trying to pack my own lunch and know what you mean about the burnt out feelings. I am to the point of either leftovers (when I eat at my parents~ cause I am not even going to try to lie and tell you I cooked it... that is a rare night these days) or frozen dinners.

I'm enjoying your blog! You rock... please keep it up!

holly said...

wow, i think you are doing great! a few more ideas that my kids love...hard boiled eggs, and hummus/wheat pita chips (since they are dippers). both great sources of protien, so you could do this in place of meat.

It Feels Like Chaos said...

You sounds like you are doing much better than I am in the lunch-packing variety department! I tell myself my kids really like eating the same lunch every day! The only things I have to add are my kids love turkey pepperoni -- so that is another meat option and drinkable yogurt. I just send a straw with it. I need help with getting rid of that lunchbox smell!!!

Carrie said...

I know you know how lucky you are that those boys are not picky eaters. Your variety is great! What about little sandwich wraps? You can make them Owen-sized with the taco size tortillas. Fill it with sliced meat, cheese, a piece of lettuce, some carrots and "wonder pets" celery, and voila! Perfect dippable finger food all in one!

Of course, mine just dissect it, but hey, they like it. And chicken nuggets. Megan would eat "Chicken Muggets" for every meal if I let her. So I guess they like a little repetition.

Matt, Carrie and Lucy Allen said...

is this post a joke? i mean are you kidding me? you sound like you are doing a great job!!! your kids sound like really good eaters! i pack lucy's just 3 days a week and she has just about the same thing every time...turkey (not on bread b/c she won't eat it like a sandwich), pretzels or cheez its and applesauce or mandarin oranges...that's about it! you sound like you are doing just fine, cut yourself some slack, supermom!!!

Lindsey said...

i'm with the rest of the group. you are doing a great job. i pack elle's just two days a week and she generally gets the same things. i have started cutting her sandwich out in shapes (gingerbread man at christmas, heart shaped now) and that seems to make it much more interesting. as for grady, my picky eater, he does eat the same things every day?! that kraft website becky suggested had some neat things i might try. keep up the good work!

annieck said...

WOW! That's impressive!!! I have zero advice. You've got me WAY beat. My poor kids...

Amy Chaplin said...

I didn't read the other comments, but some of the items I see at the preschool I work at are sliced grapes, pb&j's (decrusted and cut into triangles or shapes), rolled ham or turkey slices, apple slices, broccoli and ranch dip, cold pizza (cut up and decrusted), watermelon chunks, organic snacks of all types, bananas, trail mix (homemade or packaged), etc. etc.

I have found that lunchables are highly unpopular with the kids I've seen that bring them. They won't eat them! I haven't checked the nutrition info, but I heard they are not that healthy... but you can check that out. Just wait to your kids get to be my girls' ages. They make their own lunches!! ( it!)

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