Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Lunch that Broke the Camel's Back

When looking for ways to save, I decided that I could easily start making lunches for my family. Word on the street is that most kids hate school lunches.  That is not the case with my family, my daughter especially; she LOVES the school lunch.  On most days it is the highlight and she comes home singing the praises of "Penne Pasta Dippers" and brags that because she is so nice to the grumpy lunch ladies, they know her name and give her extra peaches (marinated in sugary syrup).  The joke around our house:  I could simply open a jar of ragu, microwave chicken nuggets, and she would give it 5 stars.

Up until now, I have mostly appeared very on-the-ball and the master of frugality (at least in my own mind).  It is now time to come clean about a not so successful moment.  Last week was the first day of school.  I had shopped to find the best deals on school supplies and assumed we could make do with what we had in the well stocked (ant free) pantry and freezer for meals.  I grabbed their lunch boxes from 3 years ago (since we rarely use them, I never updated them) and packed their lunch:

peanut butter and jelly sandwich
pretzel rods
cranberries that are like raisins
a fresh banana
and a reusable bottle of lemonade

Now some of you seasoned lunch makers are cringing already, but I actually smugly smiled at myself and thought about what a huge success it was that I "threw this all together" in just minutes.  It is healthier because I buy natural / whole grain products with no preservatives and cost effective to boot!!

After school, I could see from 20 feet away that, my normally very happy and well adjusted little girl was welled up with tears.  As soon as she sees me, the tears spill over.  She talks about how she doesn't like being upstairs for 3rd grade.  She wants to be back downstairs and with her really nice 2nd grade teacher.  She talks about the awful game the girls play at recess (where one girl spins the jump rope in a circle and everyone on the outer circle needs to jump over it - but since she is so short it keeps hitting her above the knees and her other group of friends are using sticks to get cobwebs from around the playground-- yuck).  She talks about how thanks to her last name, she sits in the back row and can't see and is near last in every line and how she is the only kid upstairs (3rd, 4th & 5th) to not have lost a tooth... and by now, the tears start to REALLY flow... "and my LUNCH!!!  While everyone else was eating the most delicious Galaxy Pizza, I am eating a sandwich that is all smashed and wet because the lemonade spilled all over it.  My banana was brown and bruised and mushy and gross.  I hate cranberries and pretzels!  How are you my own mother and don't know that I HATE cranberries and pretzels??"
Freshly Waxed Floors, Clean Lockers, & a Terrible Lunch

Now with most kids, one might tell them to buck up, but all of those grievances resonated with me.  She is normally a good-natured child, rarely complains, and was actually very articulate between her gasping sobs.  My heart wanted to pull her out of school and teach her at home but I know that my family is not home-school material so instead I thought about the only real parts that I had control over.  It's too late for her to adopt my maiden name, I can't really help the crazy games played in elementary school, and I certainly can't help move along how fast her body develops (I can only imagine how frustrating it will be in HS)... I did rush her to the grocery store and had her help pick out what is a good lunch for an 8 year old-- including a sandwich box so her sandwich doesn't get smooshed, veggie straws (they look weird to me but apparently all the rage as a healthy chip alternative), an apple or grapes in a container and a lunch box where the reusable bottle hangs on the outside in an insulated pouch.

We threw out the plan, had her favorite pizza delivered for dinner, rented a Red Box, and spent the evening snuggling in the family room.

Now 5 days into making school lunches, I'm pretty sure that this bit of frugality will not last. I really don't like making them and frankly the family doesn't really like eating them -- and I'm not even sure it actually saves money.


  1. Oh, you're such a good mommy! I'm sorry your sweetie had such a challenging day. I guess this first week or two of school is when our families work out all the kinks. I routinely make my kids' lunch, and it feels like a punishment to us all. It's not my forte. And every year I promised I'm going to come up with some more exciting lunch alternatives, but by November we're back in the same drudgery. Better days ahead, my friend!

  2. Aww, Poor you and poor Thea... I say this with not even the slightest bit of humor in my voice... It's such a challenge for these little people, but this too shall pass... I gave up and started buying Cole hot lunch, because, like you, I completely agree that the cost side of it, sometimes, didn't really make that much sense sometimes (not to mention the stress of being creative at 7am with not a drop of coffee in my tummy)... I do hope that she's having a better time of it this week...

  3. Oh my goodness...this made me laugh out loud. I just love your daughter. I can just picture the soggy sandwich, poor girl. It happens to the best of us!

  4. For the record -- it is all much better now and she has come home happy every day. This was no reflection on her teacher --who we've had before and is really a sweet woman. I think this was mostly do to exhaustion and starvation from not having lunch!! -- my lesson was learned... and I let her eat the school lunch today.