A Sociology Lesson: School Lunches

Holds Not Just Lunch--So Much Hidden Truth

Holds Not Just Lunch–So Much Hidden Truth

No, not lunch TIME, lunches. As in: the food that is consumed for lunch. An entire Psychology of the Family 101 syllabus could be written based on what may, or may not, be found in our kids’ lunches.

First, let me point out that much like everything in our nutty lives, Chris and I split lunch prep duty evenly. Monday-him. Tuesday-me. Wednesday-him. Thursday-me. And we alternate every other Friday. It is a “lunch bag” shared custody agreement if you will.

It is a well-known fact that Mom lunches rock and Daddy’s lunches are—”um, Dad can I buy??” This week I found out that Sam had already spent all $30 in his account–in the first three weeks of school. “Son, how is that possible?” He looks down and mumbles something about a drink. We are not fools. Milk in the school cafeteria still miraculously costs 40 cents. It is not humanly possible for that child to drink $30 worth of school milk.

Investigation commenced. But first, a comparison.

“Mom Lunch Days”

Typical Mom Lunch

Typical Mom Lunch

5:30 am: Mom awake

5:40 am: prep begins after coffee

5:50 am: water boils

6:00 am: pasta is cooked, seasoned and put into preheated Thermoses (one bedazzled pink, one Lego Star Wars, and one beaten out of recognition–you guess whose is whose)

6:15 am: Veggie Prep: Cucumbers for M and H: peeled and seeded, circles for H, spears for M. Sam gets celery–really.

6:30 am: Fruit Prep: Grapes for M and H, apple for Sam

6:40 am: Snacks: M and H get Goldfish, Sam gets Chex Mix

6:50 am: Drinks: Chocolate milk for H, Water for M, Iced Tea for Sam. (all in temperature controlled and insulated bottles)

7:00 am: Non-brown bag vessels are prepped with ice and hot packs for separate compartments, silverware, napkins and a single piece of candy are tucked in. Haddie gets a love note. Sam and M are not “weird” so no notes for them.

7:05 am: Top two are out the door, lunches in cooler bags carefully clipped to their packs.

I sit with steaming coffee #2 and catch my breath.

Dad's Fruit Choice

Dad’s Fruit Choice

“Dad Lunch Days”

6:45 am: Chris awake (sort of)

6:55 am: Three PB and J sandwiches are assembled using only the heels of the bread and chunky, homemade raspberry jam. (note: none of our kids like PB and J, crusts, or raspberry jam.)

7:05 am: Top two are shoved out the door. Cooler bags are missing so each kid has a Wegman’s or Target shopping bag (not Walmart–what kind of people do you think we are?) As they fumble with plastic bags, browning bananas and baggies full of Grape Nuts are ale-oped from the front door. No my love. Kids do not like Grape Nuts. In fact, only old, constipated men like Grape Nuts.

Forget napkins, silverware or treats.

It turns out, Sammy has been supplementing on Dad days with soft pretzels, $2.00 iced teas, and about 17 chocolate chip cookies per week.

We had a family meeting. Everyone understood that not all lunch-packers are created equal. We had to learn to accept the limitations of others. Lastly, spending $30 on empty calories is not an acceptable solution. Dad promised to try harder and Sam promised to be less hungry.

On the way home today, I tested out our “therapy.” When asked how his lunch was today (Dad day,) Sammy looked forlorn.

Me: “Sam! What? PB and J again??”

Sam: “No, Mom it was a pepperoni sandwich.”

Me: “Oh. Frozen bread?”

Sam: “No…the bread was fine. It’s just that I had to take the whole sandwich apart to peel all the little pieces of plastic off of the pepperoni.”

Note: When Mom buys pepperoni, she invests the extra $1.49 to get the pre-sliced, unwrapped kind.


  1. This is one of my favorite post s to date! I am admittedly a Chris style packer so my sons expectations over the last four years have been low. Now that mom has moved in and become a lunch packer more like the good doctor (no surprise there ) he is in heaven for lunches!

  2. This post brought the biggest smile to my face! Believe it or not, now that my twins are 20 and Matt is 22 I actually miss making lunches. I used to take great delight in coming up with new and inventive ways to give my kids a decent lunch and I always included a joke or something extra. As hectic as those mornings must seem to you now, it will be over before you know it. I really do miss those days and this brought it all back like it was yesterday. And I must admit that I find it funny that the pediatrician in the family isn’t the one that is stressing over the “perfect” lunch! Thanks for sharing…Ellen

  3. I love this! This is true with our house but after 5 years of him doing it, I think our youngest goes with the flow! Ha!!!! I enjoy your blogs so much!!!

  4. It’s just starting lets see Sam’s in what 6th grade ? So next year it will be why cant I just buy lunch? My friends buy their lunch its just not fair.
    Your come back will be life’s not fair deal with it, as u push him out the door.
    Been there done that. At the cost of $20.00 a week..
    I love reading your post it brings back soooooooo much.
    ooooooo yeah 1 more thing wait till u here but you and dad are Dr’s what do u mean I cant have that because it cost to much, again the THATS NOT FAIR lol

  5. Marilyn Clarke says:

    I think this is a must read for all parents! Too funny and a great way to start my day, laughing out loud again! Thank You, thank You, Thank You

  6. Thank you for my morning chuckle while at the school bus stop. Love it

  7. love reading your blogs!

  8. Hey, stop picking on Grape Nuts, I like them and I am not constipated!

  9. I’m impressed with your ‘Mom’ lunch days! I’m lucky to whip together a PB&J with some grapes and ‘fruit’ snacks. ;-)

  10. OMG! Hilarious! I am totally impressed with Mom…will you pack my lunch? I can only imagine what my husband would pack:) I worked last night and saw a classic picture on FB of what the rest of my fam was up to. Silly-icious Sandwich night. Yep, hotdogs, corn, chocolate chips, {insert other gross disgusting food here} on bread then eat. AHHHH! Good thing we love them:)

  11. I’ve never left lunch duty to my husband. he’s awesome at everything else parenting related but lunch is a science. My kids now make their own lunch the night before. They decide their sandwich, make it, pack it and the rest is done in the am.

  12. LOVE IT! I’ve recently started making my husband’s lunch because he asked me “finally” to get him healthier! I wish I was more motivated to make lunches the night before, it would make life so much easier :)

  13. xandraoneill says:

    My daughter just started preschool so we’re still working on getting a system down. Maybe by the end of the year?

  14. So funny! I could see our mornings being the same when my daughter starts school

  15. This is too funny! I always complain a little while packing lunches for my guys (son & hubby) every night. It’s not my favorite job and no one likes to help me either! I can’t even imagine what they would pack for themselves if I didn’t do it. :-) Thanks for making me laugh…again!

  16. On dad packing days in my house, all he needs to do is open the cabinet and read the check list as to what goes in each kids lunch. It has made it easier on everyone. I teach 8th grade so I see the full run of lunch possibilities. Thanks for writing it helps make me feel better that every mother goes through this.

  17. Packing lunch is my biggest nemesis. Between all the little tupperware, the different lunches that need to be made (after all, I only make 1 dinner!) Making sure they have enough…, blah blah blah….,

    i complain about packing lunches so much, people doubt that I feed my kids lunch when they are NOT in school.

    I just have to say I love Sam, and with the last few posts about him, I just have two words… MIDDLE CHILD! Don’t try to understand, just go with it.


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