Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Start Packing!

School starts in a week. I did the math and the kids have been out of school for nearly 90 days. That’s three complete months. I know I’m ready for them to go back, and for all their caterwauling (I’ve always wanted to use that word), they are ready too. The one thing I’m not looking forward to is making lunches every morning. So this year I’ve decided I’m not going to.

No, I’m not shelling out the money for them to buy lunches laden with too much starch and sugar and questionable proteins. I realize they’d just eat the roll, choose chocolate milk and finish off their lunch with artificially sweetened pudding (Pennsylvania has yet to get on the healthy school lunch plan). No, I’m not making lunches this year because my kids are making their own lunches.

We’ve tried this before, but this time I’m giving it a little more structure and direction. They can’t simply grab what they like and stuff it in their bags. And I’m not buying single serving versions of the junk food they crave. No, this time I’m offering a little lesson in how to put together a balanced meal, countered with the promise of dessert every day. Here’s how it will work:

Each child must place five things in his/her lunch: fruit/veggie, carb, protein, water, and dessert. They can make their lunches as big or small as they want, but they must have at least these five things. I’ve explained that having a healthy lunch will give them the energy and patience to survive the rest of their day. I hope they’ll also realize that just because a lunch is balanced and healthy, doesn’t mean it won’t taste good.

I’m providing plenty of Tupperware snack size containers and colorful Reusie bags for them to fill. No plastic bags or aluminum foil to clog up the planet. They have been strictly directed to bring their containers home. I’m giving them the choice of cloth napkins or planet-safe paper towels (which they must bring back home and compost). To make their lunch, all they have to do is:

Choose at least ONE OR MORE FRUIT OR VEGGIES: banana, apples, blueberries, peaches, oranges, sliced watermelon, strawberries, carrots, celery, or cucumbers. (of course these choices will vary according to season and my shopping whims)

Choose at least ONE OR MORE PROTEIN: peanut butter & jelly sandwich, ham & cheese sandwich, hard boiled egg, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, nuts, bagel with cream cheese, or cheese slices

Choose only ONE carb: pretzels, grain chips, crackers, popcorn, bagel chips

Choose only ONE dessert: cookies, leftover dinner dessert, leftover candy from the last event (Halloween, birthday party, valentine’s, road trip, Mom’s weak moment), homemade pudding, or zucchini bread

Choose ONE OPTIONAL DAIRY: yogurt, cheese stick/slice

Fill your water bottle. Add a clean cloth napkin and any utensils you’ll need.


Because they are taking over a job I normally have to do, they also receive one mom buck (see our family money system) for each day they pack their lunch with out my involvement (this includes me having to nag them to do it). I’m going to encourage them to consider packing the night before, but leave the decision up to them.

I do realize that this doesn’t get me off the hook completely. It’s still going to be up to me to keep the house stocked with options they’ll like, which may mean more trips to the market. But I’m cool with that. I’ll be thrilled if this plan works. There’s nothing that frustrates me more than unpacking three uneaten lunches to feed the chickens. Lunches I carefully packed just that morning. Hopefully this will mean less for the chickens and more food for the kids. And just maybe, it will imprint upon them how simple it is to eat a balanced, healthy, yummy meal.

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