HOMEGROWN Life: Back to School Lunches

| 9/10/2013 11:04:00 AM

childrenIt’s that time again: time when it begins to cool down, days get shorter, lists get longer, and most notably, the kids go back to school. I know it’s something a lot of people joke about, happy to see their kids get back on that bus, but I am not of that mindset. In an age where some parents simply survive their kids’ childhoods, I am thoroughly enjoying mine. Sure, there’s the occasional day when their bickering makes me want to throw myself into oncoming traffic, but those days are few and far between. No doubt it’s because I remind myself almost every day that my time with them is short and I want to make the most of it. 

All summer the kids and I work on projects, trying new things. This summer, in particular, has been about experiencing: We raised our chickens (a HUGE learning experience in itself) and realized chicken poop doesn’t bother us nearly as much as we thought it would. We ziplined over tall pine trees, 200 feet above the ground. We got tossed about and learned (loosely) to white water raft, and we learned the ancient legends of the people native to what is now Glacier National Park. We also repurposed until our fingers hurt. Our truck couldn’t possibly have been packed with one more piece of someone else’s trash in which we saw treasure. Over the summer, people remarked that each time they drove by our house, we were always outside and always together. I love hearing that. 

So it is with mixed emotions that I’ll put the kids back on that big old bus soon. I get really excited learning along with them and watching them grow, so I try to see that as a silver lining. I also like the challenge of saving money by packing them healthy school lunches, as I’m sure many of you do, too. 

Did you know that you can save between $1,200 and $1,500 annually by packing a child’s lunch? I’ve tried the school lunch plan and realized my kids were not only making poor decisions, they were spending about $5 apiece every day. That’s about $1,800 a year to buy lunches consisting of preservatives and mystery meat. So this year, our year of experiencing and learning will continue straight through to their lunch bags. Here’s how we’ll do it: 

1. GET THEM IN THE KITCHEN! No one knows better than my kids what food they’re actually going to eat when I’m not looking, so my strategy is to get them invested. My son is obsessed with PB & J and would eat it every day if he could. As a trade-off, he eats it on healthy bread, generally homemade wheat or spelt, with wholesome sides. He also LOVES homemade hummus, which he helps to prepare and is proud to boast about at the cafeteria table. 

2. MAKE IT WORK FOR THEM. My daughter would rather die than been seen with a PB & J, so for her I invested in a salad set: a container with spaces for the lettuce, the toppings, and the cup of dressing. It also has a handy spoon and fork stored in the lid. She is much more agreeable when I pack her a sleek little container instead of a brown bag with her name in Sharpie on the front! 

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