But my daughter and I are very different. I LOVED cafeteria food - still do! I loved the rectangle pizza, the thick mac and cheese, the salad bar, mashed potatoes, bread rolls, weird meat with gravy on top that they called salisbury steak, meatloaf, and whatever other possibly frozen, processed, food served in mass thing those awesome cafeteria ladies slopped onto my tray.
But with my daughter, it is easier to name the things she will eat than the numerous things she won't. She won't any vegetable AT ALL! And no matter how I have tried to hide them in things she will eat, it is like she can sniff them out! She won't even eat potatoes unless they are French fries or tater tots! Who doesn't like mashed potatoes or friend potatoes or cheese potatoes?!
Anyhoo, so last year I started sending her packed lunches to school at Pre-K. On occasion when they were having something I knew she would eat at least 2 things on her tray, then I would let her eat cafeteria food - and the food program that year was FREE for ALL students!
This year, I am still going to mostly send her packed lunches, but not so much for the pickiness factor. This year it costs money, and really not that much at all for eating a meal "out"! But I knew that I could pack lunches cheaper and be sure that everything I pack is something my daughter will eat.
But again, the list of things she'll eat are limited, and there is the added difficulty that packed lunches to school cannot be something that needs to be heated up. So what to do?
I got this idea one evening when I was grocery shopping with my kids in-tow. Usually I buy my kids each a Lunchable to eat on while I shop. It is pretty cheap, quiet, not too messy, and keeps them occupied so I can get the shopping done! I decided NOT to throw away the empty Lunchable plastic trays after I had scanned and paid for them like I usually did. Instead, I took them home, washed them with soap and hot water, and let them air dry.
And the next time I took my kids to the pool or splash pad or zoo, instead of buying a Lunchable at the store, I filled those previous trays with lunch goodies from home! My kids LOVE it! They love how different they can be and that I occasionally fill one of the compartments with Sour Patch Kids!
So when Emersyn went back to school, I decided to price-check a typical homemade lunchable to see if it was cost-effective for me to NOT buy her cafeteria lunches AND NOT buy her actual Lunchables from the store. I was surprised at how cheap I can pack her a lunch she loves, and her lunchable, once it is unwrapped, looks just like the student's next to her after they peel back their Lunchable seal.
|I choose different kinds of cheese. Just slice each piece into 9 little squares! |
This amount costs me about 14 cents!
|My son LOVES these crackers! He won't touch the real Lunchable ones! |
This amount of crackers costs me about 15 cents!
|One version of a typical "Lunchable"|
|Put the tray into the baggy, push the long flap over the side and on top of the tray,|
and then stretch the folded flap over and down the sides and corners of the tray.
|Basic option completed and ready to go into the lunchbox!|
|I try to always pack this and put it in the refrigerator at night for the next day. It takes me maybe 3 minutes!|
|In the morning, I quickly just tuck in an ice pack of some sort in to the lunch box so it will stay cool until lunchtime!|
It costs us 30 cents for my daughter to buy a carton of milk at school, so what I do instead is keep these character bottles that originally come with apple juice in them at Walmart. I usually buy my kids one of these while grocery shopping too. When I get home, I wash them in soap and hot water, cut the label off, and store them to reuse them as "sippy" cups. The type of tip on Rapunzel's head is spill-proof, which is great if my daughter's lunchbox gets dropped or flipped around inside her backpack. I buy a gallon of milk, put in a little strawberry syrup (sometimes), shake it, and pack it in with the "lunchable". The milk costs me about 14 cents!
Anyhoo, this is maybe the silliest blog post I have ever written, but I have had several people tell me that this is a helpful idea to save money and time. So I thought I'd share it just in case anyone else wants to try it out.
Again, the possibilities are endless! Here is a list of various items I have packed into these compartments (sometimes even just cutting or slicing things up in a few seconds in order for it to fit):
string cheese, shredded cheese, cheese slice
unsweetened apple sauce
carrots (for my son, my daughter would cry)
fully-cooked, frozen chicken nuggets
boiled egg (surprisingly, my daughter loves these... like, what???!!!)
ranch dressing (I tuck folded saran wrap over it and then still wrap it in the sandwich baggy)
Captain Crunch cereal
Peanut butter and jelly roll-ups (pb&j spread on a tortilla and rolled up, sliced into inch-wide pieces)
So there you have it - one more random contribution to the internet of a mom saying "this is how I pack lunches" and probably everyone else is rolling their eyes and thinking 'No one cares!'
But I am excited this is so easy, cheap, and my daughter loves lunch at school!!!'
What else would fit into these compartments? I'd loved to read your ideas in the comments!