The Lunch-Packing Manifesto

mother-making-lunches Image via Shutterstock

If you want to hold on to a shred of belief that you’re a decent mother, don’t Google “healthy school lunch ideas.”

The first hit will take you to some obviously child-free assholes at who think that Asparagus and Gruyere Panini and Curried Egg Salad Pinwheels qualify as two of “25 Quick and Easy School Lunches To Pack For Your Kids.” According to them, I’m to roast the asparagus the night before—or shave it raw into thin ribbons using a vegetable peeler—then add the gruyere cheese and drizzle the lemon juice the next morning before cooking the whole thing in a panini press. Or hard-boil the eggs and prepare the curried egg salad the night before, then use my ample lunch-preparation time the next morning to cut the crust off bread and fashion “pinwheels,” which I’m to secure with toothpicks. The “pinwheels” in the picture—I can’t even write the word pinwheels without putting it derisively in quotation marks—are lying upon a bed of lettuce. A bed of lettuce. And not iceberg lettuce—hipster lettuce.

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I love my child. And I believe in his eating healthy. Since I’ve been packing his lunches for preschool, I’ve rolled up slices of nitrate-free turkey. I’ve sliced raw vegetables. I’ve washed grapes and then halved them, lest he choke on a large one. I’ve placed dollops of hummus and yogurt in adorably small containers labeled with his name. I’ll admit that when he was going through his shapes phase, I even cut his cheese into circles and squares and sadly irregular pentagons.

I’m all for prepping and cooking on the weekends—cold salads or casseroles, for example—to make my life easier during the week. But I will not press a panini (hypothetically—I don’t own a panini press) while trying to wrangle a naked preschooler at 6AM. on a work day. I will not drizzle. I will not pinwheel. That I’m even using “pinwheel” as a verb right now runs totally contrary to my philosophy of parenting. I need to save my energy for the necessities.

Even if I weren’t a working mom, I’m not sure I’d use my time to pinwheel. My mom stayed at home, and the lunch I always remember her packing for me was a baloney sandwich on white bread and a thermos of Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup with a handwritten note. I distinctly remember that there were no shallots in my soup. I never saw her whipping up homemade pesto and grilling vegetables for my Lunchbox Pesto Shrimp Skewers. She was busy reading me a book.

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Besides, as one voice of reason pointed out in the comments section of “25 Quick and Easy School Lunches,” Really I don’t think you should send your kids to school with skewers.


Related post: I’m A Pinterest Mom And Proud Of It


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  1. Julie says

    Amen to this woman for writing this post! I am so tired of fancy lunches for pre-schoolers being advertised on websites and pinterest and FB. Do I really need to be in a “who’s mommy can make the best lunch” contest with other moms? I too work full time and find this craze ridiculous – we have enough pressure without Bento Box lunches for 4 year olds! I am rebelling with plain PB&J.

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    • Annie says

      So, don’t do it. There’s no competition unless you make it that. I don’t get the whole, “You’re making me feel bad because you cut your child’s bread in a shape of a star. That Mom thinks she’s better than me because she makes her child a fun lunch, puts a note in the lunchbox etc.” I don’t make fancy lunches for my daughter either but I certainly wouldn’t put down another Mom who does. Nor do I feel like I have to just because a website says to or another parent does.

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    • Mom22Tweens says

      If their kids are anything like mine… those haute cuisine, nutrient-enriched, veggie-filled pinterest pinwheels are being traded for cheap store-bought cookies.

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    • Britta says

      We get “reduced-priced” meals but my son is a vegetarian and the school consistently fails to provide a balanced meat-free lunch. I would love to be able to just have him eat school meals on occasion.

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    • Stephanie says

      YES!!!! Brooke….on principle I hate Luchables because I hate spending $5 on 5 crackers 3 pieces of salami and a snack sized reese cup BUT sometimes their brightly colored convenience beckons me in the refrigerated section and dammit I just breakdown and buy them because…well sanity.

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  2. Malyssa says

    HA! If I can’t even pronounce it (wth is gruyere cheese anyways?) it’s sure as hell not going in my kid’s school lunch. I have a 2 1/2 yr old and 16yr old. The 16yr old makes her own lunches. But when my 2yr old starts pre-k here in the next year or so his lunches will be almost exactly the same as he gets at home. PB&J with milk & grapes, or a fruit cup (juice drained to save me the sticky ass mess it becomes on the table/floor/child) some ham lunch meat rolled around a couple slices of cheese, etc. These “bento” boxes are cool because I like organization and kids like having their food separate (or so I’ve read but my toddler still mixes his spaghetti and salad together and then it eats it) plus they are just cute. But they come from the $ tree in this house! Hooray for healthy lunches! Oh and I’ll probably throw in some cookies or a pudding cup if we’ve got them haha

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    • Crys says

      our day care won’t let me send peanut butter, or strawberries, etc. etc. there is a list of what i cannot bring in his lunch. quite frustrating because he’s not allergic to any of it, but the other kids might be.

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