Ever since my oldest daughter started school three years ago, she has taken a bagged lunch with her roughly 99 percent of the time. Part of the reason for this is I want my daughter to have plenty of time to eat (she only gets 20 minutes and the hot food line can sometimes cost her up to 10 minutes). But, more importantly, our local food service department has gotten a bit too creative with its menu and is now offering way too many exotic dishes that even I wouldn’t eat.
My wife and I face two major challenges when it comes to making bagged lunches for our daughter. The first is justifying our decision financially by making her school lunches that cost less than the $12 a week the school’s lunch would cost. The other is finding ways to keep her lunches from becoming too boring because, after all, you can only eat so many peanut butter sandwiches in one school year.
Fortunately, with some practice, my wife and I have managed to find three ways to meet both of these goals.
The first of these is making her the same sandwich but in different ways. My daughter is a bit picky when it comes to sandwiches and, other than peanut butter, the only things she really likes is cheese and bologna. So, in addition to alternating what we put on her sandwich, we find ways to make them more appealing.
One of the things we do is use cookie cutters to cut the sandwiches into different shapes. We don’t let her see us doing this so the shape is always a surprise. Other times, we might make her sandwich with a different type of bread or, on occasion, skip the bread and make her bologna and cheese rolls or peanut butter crackers.
Another thing we do is offer a wide variety of extras. Sometimes it’s a sandwich and chips. Other times we might have a sandwich with freeze dried strawberries (one of her favorites). And, we always slip in some sort of new dessert for her to look forward to. That way, even if she has the exact same sandwich, she is still getting a different lunch overall.
The last thing we recently started doing was making her bagged lunch a hot lunch. She eats lunch roughly 2 hours after she gets to school and my wife and I found if we heat up chicken nuggets, hot dogs and chicken patties (her three favorites) in our microwave a short time before she goes to school, we can keep them at a safe temperature by wrapping them in aluminum foil and a freezer bag and using her insulated lunchbox. This also works with butter noodles (one of her favorites) and macaroni and cheese if we use a sealed container wrapped in aluminum foil.
By taking these steps, our daughter is able to have a nutritional lunch each day she is at school, we are able to save some money and, most importantly, we know she’s getting something she’ll actually eat. In fact, with the price of school lunch going up every year, don’t be surprised if we never buy her a hot lunch again.