School Lunch: What Do You Pack?

Last updated on August 22, 2010 by Liza Hawkins

In my mind I have a list of things I want our kindergartener’s lunch to be:

  1. Yummy
  2. Refrigerator-less
  3. Healthy
  4. Inexpensive
  5. Simple
Except, when I think about options that fit my Top 5 list, the only thing that comes to mind is good ol’ peanut butter and jelly*. And there are a couple of problems with that. First off, how boring is PB&J? I guess for a five year old, at least OUR five year old, eating the same thing day in and day out isn’t as monotonous as my fellow adult friends would think. Every weekend for lunch that’s her request, “Mom, can I PLEASE have peanut butter and jelly?” She asks this as though she’s requesting a handful of jellybeans for lunch.

“Okay,” I say every time. Secretly I’m thinking, “B-O-R-I-N-G, but so easy.” And PB&J it is.

I guess PB&J isn’t that bad for a school lunch. It does taste good, and I’ll admit that I still crave one every couple of weeks…but only if eaten with occasionally with potato chips.

So, a PB&J with low sugar jelly*, whole grain bread, apple, pretzels, carrot sticks, watery juice box, a little treat for dessert?

For those of you that are seasoned parents of school-agers, what do you pack for your kids?

*I did promise “a couple of problems” with PB&J. The other problem is that even though they [apparently] have a special table set aside for kids with food allergies, I can’t get over the fact that Mia could still throw some child into anaphylaxis.

Also, just a pet peeve of mine. I really hate when you intend to buy “low sugar” or “no sugar added” items, and they instead turn out to be “added fake processed chemicals instead of sugar” items. FALSE advertising. So, make sure you read those labels – especially on juice drinks.

Hi, I'm Liza — a self-proclaimed word-nerd who loves getting lost in whimsical stories and epic movies. I have laid-back, practical attitude towards life and am always on the hunt for good eats, easy recipes, binge-worthy shows, relaxing road trip destinations, the perfect fizzy gin cocktail, and time to finish my novel!

9 Comments on “School Lunch: What Do You Pack?

  1. I completely understand your frustrations 🙂 Although my daughter is entering 4th grade now, when we do pack a lunch, she’ll take a sandwich (pb & j or lunchmeat), yogurt of some sort, granola bars, crackers of some sort, fruit snacks… not necessarily at the top of the list for healthy, but it works!!

  2. It’s funny – lunch meat sandwiches as a kid were a staple, but I don’t remember worrying about things like “ice packs” then. Seems like we have to now. I’d like to go ice pack free. Maybe freeze the juice box?

  3. I haven’t packed a lunch for Calvin yet, but I did invest in a Thermos food container that claims to keep hot food hot or cold food cold for 5 hours or so. This has me thinking of soups (Calvin loves soup) or pastas (like leftovers/spaghetti). My main concern is that he remembers to a)not throw it away and b)screw the lid back on tightly if there are liquid leftovers.

    I am in search of a small reusable container for ranch dip, too, because Calvin loves to dip veggies of all kinds.

    Oh, and Calvin acts like he could eat PB&J every day, too. Good for him (and all the kids that are like that). I had peanut butter and honey sandwiches as often as PBJ growing up, though.

  4. Yes, pb & honey, as well as pb & banana sandwiches were both staples for us growing up.

    Leftovers in a Thermos container would be nice (we do have one, complete w/spoon), but I would be afraid of the cap being loose as well.

    Small containers for dip…we have a few little tupperware-esque ones, but I feel like they’d get thrown out. LOL

  5. We do PB&J nearly everyday with ham rolls (ds won’t eat ham on bread) with a thermos of water and some other random snack.

    I have up on buying “low sugar” stuff and now we use whole grain bread, natural PB, and organic jelly.

  6. Some “no sugar added” stuff is legit, and a lot of organic companies make their stuff that that way.

    It’s the addition of aspartame and other chemicals that makes my skin crawl, especially for stuff marketed towards kids as being “healthy.” Yuck.

  7. I packed Megan’s lunch every day last year. When I went in to take a treat for her birthday at the end of the year I was glad she hadn’t been buying. It didn’t look very appetizing or nutritious!

    I try to hit certain categories:

    1)Sandwich/Main Dish

    She is one of those kids who has a list of about 10 things she will eat. Her favorite thing for lunch at school is a plain peanut butter sandwich. It’s actually the only kind of sandwich she will eat. Then I usually send goldfish or pretzels. For fruit I send raisins, grapes, apple slices that I dip in lemon juice or OJ to keep from browning. Then for a treat she gets a cookie or fruit snacks. I give her milk money that she buys milk with every day. She does like going through line to buy her milk. And, at $0.40/ea or $2.00 a week it’s cheaper than buying boxed drinks.

    Another thing I do is try to avoid buying packaged things that are hard for her to open, such as fruit cups/yogurt. The lunch room is chaotic and very busy and I don’t want her to have to ask someone to help her get into something she wants to eat.

    I wish she would eat a bit more variety, because I get a bit bored. But, at least it’s pretty simple and fairly healthy.

  8. Awesome Kristina. Thanks! Thinking about the applesauce cups I bought…might have to do a “dry run” with one tonight.

    And milk! Fabulous idea! Does she go for chocolate – I’d obviously prefer white.

    And, you give change? I thought they had to have some sort of lunch money account that we fill online….

    More investigating to be done!

  9. We have been doing packed lunches for T for the past two years, seems she always prefers a cheese sandwich with mustard and pepper! We got her a lunch box that came with a little around ice block, worked perfectly! We have sent stuff in little tupperware (grapes, dip, carrots, etc.) instead of plastic bags, the containers all come home. BUT, I think we lost an entire set of spoons in the two years! Buy plastic!

    T also loved the mini bagels, instead of bread, and she was more likely to eat it all, with bread she would come home with bread.

    We always gave her a fruit or veggie or both too. She often had raisins for a morning snack, or a Cliff Kidz bar or fruit twist, but those could go in a lunch too.

    For beverage we got the small milk boxes or low sodium small v-8 cans, she loves v-8!

    I also tried mixing shrimp with salsa once, and she liked that. If we wanted to try something new for lunch we would try it at home for dinner first, so it didn’t go to waste at lunch. Oh, and applesauce is a great addition too!

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