Back-To-School Lunch Ideas: 5 Realistic Ways to Approach the Greatest Stress of Our Time
Back-to-School lunch ideas, don’t lie, you have Googled it. You have purchased cute new bento-style containers and have released a giant sigh of relief that now, thanks to the Internet, you have permission—nay, are encouraged!—to send your kid to lunch with a random collection of foods rather than an actual meal because it is healthier. You follow Weelicious and YummyToddlerFood and you have read this story and seen this video and you are ready. Or so you thought.
Then you walk into the kitchen on the Saturday before school starts and your grade schooler tells you he no longer likes apples, and in fact he never did and he doesn’t want to eat them anymore. You stare at him in disbelief: “Come again, you don’t like apples,” you say, while pointing to the direct-from-Instagram-prints hanging on your wall of the kid happily eating apples from the u-pick place EVERY YEAR SINCE BIRTH.
You love apples.
“Nope, I don’t and I never did, really.”
Um, well ok, but what about when Mommy makes you apple-peanut butter sandwiches, where the apple is the bread (a thing I came up with when he declared last year he no longer likes sandwiches, but that is another story)…?
“Oh that’s different,” he says. “But I am not eating apples anymore.”
How does the saying go? F*ck.My.Life.
Look, it’s not that I don’t get it—he gets bored with food, we all do. I personally never need to eat a shishito pepper again, but the reality is… when you already have a limited pool to work with, when your kid removes a food, it makes things harder. Especially when they aren’t following the one food out, one new food in rule. As he Marie Kondo’s his diet (also, why, why is he doing this at nearly 7?), he limits my options.
Here, in no particular order, are foods he refuses to eat (spoiler alert—every single one of them you have recently seen in a fun Internet video suggesting packing lunch will be a breeze): sandwiches, ham, cheese, bananas, banana chips, hummus (OK, he never did hummus, I tried, I really tried, please don’t judge me, I think it was a texture thing), carrot sticks (oddly will eat celery sticks, cause WHAT THE HELL KID?), apples (kill me), red sauce on pasta, yogurt, did I mention cheese and ham, leftovers, granola bars or trail mix (unless he is actually camping, in which case he will, IDK). Basically, food. Oh, and oranges.
Things school says he can’t have: nuts of any kind.
Watch: Bad Mom's Bento Box
So I have the containers, and I have the heart, I have the backing of a gazillion recipe developers, but I don’t have the raw materials. What am I going to do?
- Send them anyway. Yes, I am. I will forgive myself the food waste flogging and hope that hunger will win out (maybe I’ll compost this year?)
- Let him buy lunch at school sometimes. Hey, once last year the lunch lady told me he was one of the kids that will occasionally pick fruit (usually the F*CKING APPLE, but I digress)
- Put some stuff on repeat and hope he doesn’t burn out on those foods. (I see a version of this story where the word “apple” gets replaced with “cucumber” by holiday time.)
- Remember my own childhood diet and praise myself daily that nothing in his lunch box has the word Hostess on it.
- Send good thoughts to his teacher. I suspect he will be difficult around 2 pm when all he ate were three bites of celery and a couple of whole-wheat tortilla chips at lunch. Good vibes, sending good vibes.