Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Lunchbox Loser

My son has said some soul crushing words to me about the food that we serve him. If memory serves right, "Please don't ever make this again" is one of the most memorable to date.

But please keep in mind, he is only six years old so he is only talking the way a six year old can - brutally honest and as frank as an American Idol judge.
Yes, I realize he is no longer on American Idol.

The other morning I was making my son's lunch and he peered into his lunchbox and said, "I wish you could make my lunches more interesting."

Ouch! You see, I try really hard to make dinner a fun event around here, but lunches? Well, let's just say I've been taking a hall pass on lunches ever since he was in preschool.

I find making lunches a total drag and approach the task with as much enthusiasm as clipping my toenails. Yet my husband and I dutifully make his lunches four out of five days a week. Once a week we let him pick a lunch to buy at school and his choices are usually either Mac 'n Cheese or pizza. But on the other days we have the same rotation of sandwich/fruit/vegetable/cracker/cheese stick.

Kind of boring, right? I am a Lunchbox Loser.

I don't think my son knows who Pac-Man is.

I have a slight sneering disdain for those who put too much effort into their kids lunches... and it's totally out of jealousy. I wish I had the time to cut fruit into flowers, create inspirational Bento boxes with a daily theme and make Pac-Man sandwiches. (My big question with those Bento lunches - How do they get them to stay that way till lunchtime? Surely I don't have the only child who throws his backpack with lunchbox inside on the ground. How does it stay all nice and pretty?) Most of all, I swoon over fancy lunchboxes that look like they could solve ALL my lunchbox problems. See below...
$50 metal lunchbox = Lunch problems solved

I agree that I have hit the 'repeat' button too many times for his lunches. I thought back to journalism school and decided to interview my son about his lunches and asked pressing questions like, "What is in an interesting lunch? What do you want to see when you open your lunch? Who has the cool lunches at school? What do they eat?" (Eat your heart out Woodward and Bernstein!) His answers were embarrassingly simple: Some kids get chicken nuggets (not going to happen), some kids get wraps, and others get hot pasta in thermos containers, hot dogs with a bun, and slices of pizza. That's it? Seriously? I can do that!

I also searched on the interwebs for some inspiration -  I am not looking for gorgeous presentation here, folks, I am looking for something that is a step above a sandwich. I would love to produce lunches like this, this or this, but that isn't going to happen around here.

In my searches, I discovered LunchBox Blues and was inspired to give a few new ideas a try. I made a list of lunch ideas that I keep next to the prep area in my kitchen for inspiration and bought a few supplies like English muffins, pita pockets and tortillas. I prep fruit ahead of time so I am not stuck cutting and seeding a canteloupe five minutes before I leave the house in the morning.

So far the lunches have gone over pretty well. We settled on pasta shells tossed with butter and Parmesan and steamed broccoli from the night before. That was as easy to put together as a sandwich because all I  had to do was reheat the meal for his thermos. I've made chicken wraps, banana peanut butter dogs, English muffin pizzas, and egg salad sandwiches. So far he is loving the effort and his empty lunchbox shows this.

It took some harsh words and some creative thinking to get me out of a lunchbox rut. Not bad coming from a person who can easily eat the same sandwich with carrots everyday - IF someone else made it for me.


  1. this made me laugh so hard...I will say that the Bento Boxes make life a little 'cuter' (and they are less than $50!! laptoplunches.com i think). I JUST bought a lunch idea cookbook yesterday (because I obsess about being a lunch loser all the time) and it's pretty cool. Called 'the lunch box' i got it at W-S and it's by Kate McMillan & Sarah Putman Clegg.

  2. Thanks for the book recommendation! I will definitely check that out. For inspiration, I definitely am relying on LunchBoxBlues.com. The dad has some great ideas for lunches and clever ways to get his kid to eat them. Loving the Star Wars themes.