All across the country, kids and their parents are preparing for back-to-school rituals. One of my favorite parts of back-to-school routines is figuring out what to pack for lunch. Or, should I say, the devolution of the ideal, gourmet kids’ lunch into a basic meal by the time Christmas break comes.
All parents know that at some point we’ll be sick of making lunches, which is why we try so hard to start off the school year at a high bar. Those other PTA parents aren’t going to beat us at being the Coolest Parental Unit! (insert inspirational fist pump here). We created a Pinterest board full of creative meal ideas.
One by one, our best efforts get thwarted by fatigue, laziness and the realization that kids don’t care about our feelings or our food presentation. At some point, we stop trying to do too much for back-to-school lunches. Put these dates in your calendar.
Editor's note: Dates are approximate. Results may vary. Consult your therapist if this is upsetting.
Sept. 8: The end of the PB&J pinwheels
Every kid gets tired of sandwiches, right? So we first decide to reinvent the wheel with peanut butter and jelly sushi rolls! No crust for our little scholars — we lovingly peel the ends off honey wheat bread. Flatten the bread with a Campbell's Soup can, slather the PB and J on the bread, then slice into adorable rolls. Place lovingly into a bento box. Until that day your kids miss the bus because you couldn't find a single can of soup.
Oct. 29: Death to ants on a log
We love sneaking vegetables into lunch in fun ways, and ants on a log is an easy way to do that. We slather cut celery with cream cheese, then drop raisins carefully onto the sticky logs. How to store it? Slowly cover with cling wrap. Until you realize how messy this nonsense is. Then the kids will be lucky to get precut celery in Tupperware and maybe a box of raisins.
Nov. 12: When you pack a cold slice of Saturday night's delivery pizza
Most kids’ cafeteria lunches are terribly uninspiring. Corn dogs? Pizza? The lightbulb goes off when we find a recipe for a lunchbox hummus pizza: toasted pita, hummus, spinach, tomatoes and olives. We’re super excited to roll out this one. Until le kid sadly informs us he just wants regular pizza like the other kids get. Ingrate.
Dec. 1: When you throw in the towel and give in to store-bought, syrup-soaked fruit cups
The final straw is the fruit. This idea will last because kids love fruit, we tell ourselves. By this time, we’re running low on energy and gourmet ideas, so we try a fruit kebab. It’s simple enough to shove pineapple, strawberries and blueberries onto a short stick. The most work is cutting off the pointy end.
And what is perhaps the most tell-tale sign that back to school is over? The day we’re too rushed to fill a Finding Dory lunchbox with gourmet foods our kids don’t appreciate, and toss snack packs and Lunchables into a plastic bag. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted!
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