I know it’s summer and school is out. I’m super-happy that I don’t need to make lunches until September. I only need to worry about myself. Which is nice for a change.
I’m a mom of a soon to be first and fourth grader. So I would not consider myself a rookie mom any longer. I know the deal; the ways of the world and I am probably the first to send back my cheque for hot lunches the day after the selections come out! I’m no fool, if I have the option of NOT making a lunch and the option of my kids getting something hot and delicious such as pizza or pasta, I’m taking it! Just tell me who to make my cheque out to!
But I can see the newbie mom starting to panic. School supplies are already starting to find their ways onto store shelves, and with that the thought of choosing the wrong backpack, lunch bag and now lunchbox is a fate worse than your kid ending up in a split class.
The latest trend is bento boxes for kids. Well, bento boxes for everyone really. I have a few for myself and I love them. Makes it easier for me to commute to work without using multiple glass (and heavy) containers.
But I think there are a few moms overthinking things. (Which, we tend to do) and Facebook groups make it worse when there are those few moms posting pictures daily (seriously, daily) of their kids cut up, fun-shaped lunches, complete with googly eyes and animal accoutrements.
Who the hell has the time for that?
My Facebook news feed is filled with questions such as:
“Which lunch box is better?”
“Which bento box will keep my kids fish crackers from getting stale?”
“What lunch bag will ‘X’ box fit into?”
“Where do I buy ‘X’ bento box?”
“Do these ‘X’ boxes really cost $50?”
“Which box will allow me to send my kid hot pasta AND cold yogurt?”
I’m on the bento box bandwagon. I will admit, I love the idea of only sending one container to school, minimizing the chances of losing a piece from my (over-filled) Tupperware collection.
When the Little Bird was smaller (in JK and SK) she stopped eating her sandwich pretty early on in the year. And I was tired of it coming back home without so much as a bite. So, we started doing deconstructed sandwiches, piles of various cheeses, crackers, cold cuts, veggies, bread; as long as it didn’t look like a sandwich, she would eat it. I would just make small piles of different things in a plastic sandwich container, and send a few other containers with fruit and veggies. And that worked for probably three years.
By the time she reached grade 2, I now had two humans to make lunch for, and didn’t have 12 containers to do it. So, I bought a Smartplanet collapsible, eco-friendly, easy to open lunch box. It had three sections, a part for a sandwich and two snack sections.
The Little Mouse has eaten her lunch every day from the start. Send her a sandwich and some snacks and the container would come home empty. The Little Bird was more of a challenge, but still ate most of her lunch.
I cut off the crusts of the sandwich, but sometimes she would still leave the “outside” rim. So I bought a Pampered Chef Cut-N-Seal, this great contraption that cuts a sandwich in a circle and seals the edges like a pocket. Guess what happened, the lunches came back fully empty.
For a while.
Then, like she usually does, the Little Bird gets bored of the sandwich and starts leaving part of it again. I’m not really sure how she survives all day eating one quarter of a sandwich, which is what it pretty much amounts to. Not to mention the fact that I’m wasting the outer edges of the sandwich that end up in the green bin.
These containers were great. They washed well, stored well and fit all their lunch. They also fit into the lunch bags I bought, which were Roots lunch bags from Costco.
Then one day while washing dishes, one of my knives cut right through the side of one. I went back to the store I bought it at to replace it, but they didn’t sell them anymore. I couldn’t find them anywhere, so I had to look for alternatives.
The lunch box business is booming! My goodness, I had no idea how difficult it was to choose a new one. I researched based on size, the number of compartments, what would fit in their lunch bags – because I wasn’t about to try to buy new ones in February!
I finally settled on the Yumbox Panino. It had a sandwich compartment, two snack compartments and a small “dip” compartment. It was easy to open and stated it was leakproof. They are leakproof, they fit into their lunch bags, come apart easily and wash well. For a smaller looking box, it fit quite a bit of food.
They weren’t cheap, but they seemed to fit the bill.
So, I get the panic that these new JK moms are feeling. It’s hard to figure out what to buy. You know what you’re kid likes to eat, and what you have time to do. Ask yourself, do I have time to make their lunches in the morning, or will they be assembled the night before?
The Little Bird would love for me to make her pasta every morning, with different sauces and vegetables. But let’s face it, I don’t have the time. She’s lucky if I have leftovers that I can reheat in the microwave in the morning to shove in a thermos. She says it’s still warm and eats it, so I’m not complaining. But the Little Mouse isn’t interested. She wants a sandwich. And since she eats it, I’ll be sending her a sandwich until she asks for something else or stops eating it.
But that brings me to the most unrealistic expectation that is associated with these bento boxes and that’s the cookie-cutter, character themed, googly-eyed creations. Search on Pinterest for Bento Box Lunch Box Ideas and check out the ladybug sandwiches, cheese flowers, panda bear cucumbers and Super Mario strawberries.
I don’t even want to stick little eyeball toothpicks on their sandwiches, more out of fear they will stab themselves and then lose those suckers. What’s the point? So, the kids will eat their lunch? It’s fun to eat an Olaf sandwich and rose shaped strawberries, I get that. But guess what, the kids will eat their lunch because their friends are eating their lunch. And I guarantee you that there won’t be anyone with a Mickey Mouse hard-boiled egg. It will just be a regular egg, maybe in a fancy bento box, but it will be a regular egg nonetheless.
Aside from the uber-mom I saw on Facebook (I personally think she was a robot) share her daughter’s lunch every day, I don’t know any mom with that much stamina. Not one. So yes, it’s cute. The beginning of the year is exciting. Start those shapes and cut those characters, but what happens come November, when all you are doing is counting down to Winter break? Do you do that for their lunch on the weekends?
Just stop it. It’s too much. The whole thing. Throw your crackers and sandwich in a box, toss in a whole apple (they will learn how to bite it) and the yogurt mini container into their lunch and call it a day. Don’t forget the spoon and maybe a napkin, but stop going overboard!
And, think about the fact that even if you created that masterpiece of a lunch, lovingly sprinkling granola (if it’s allowed) on their yogurt and arranging the goldfish as if they were swimming around your Nemo-themed bagel, you have to put that lunchbox in the lunch bag and into their schoolbag. Do you know what they do with their schoolbag when they get to school? They toss it. Or they wear it while running around the playground. Your masterpiece will be a mashup by snack time. It’s really just unrealistic.
Pinterest lies, people! It lies.
Finally, can we address the amount of wasted food there would be when you attempt to cut two tiny bunny ears out of black forest ham? What happens to the rest of that ham? Or when you cookie cut the cheddar cheese into hearts? What happens to the rest of that cheese? Like the outside of my Press-N-Seal sandwiches, do they end up in the green bin? Or does your lunch look like a pile of scraps?
No, that’s now how we live and it’s not what I want for lunch. I’m not eating half a slice of roasted turkey breast with two corners of whole wheat bread and six uneven triangles of cheese. No, I am not.
And neither are you. So, take my advice, for your sanity and for your morning routine; buy a nice lunchbox, something they can actually open (make them try it) and that doesn’t weigh 33 pounds when it’s full of food. Then, take that lunchbox with you to find a bag* (if you don’t need a bag, you’re better off). Then take that bag with you to find a backpack.
Then put your feet up and enjoy the summer until the first day of school starts and you must start making lunches. Fingers crossed, the hot lunch order forms will come home on the first day of school!
*This is not a sponsored post and I was not compensated. These opinions are strictly my own.