Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Baggin' treats for school

I’m prepared for the familiar refrain of those early school days:
“I didn’t have time to eat all my lunch” versus “Can you pack more?”

Our lunchtime tightrope is a little tougher to navigate, given that the 9-year-old entering fourth grade could – and has – eaten an entire roasted chicken by himself. Therefore, every day is a guess to see how much food I can pack into his lunchbox that he’ll actually have time to eat.
And not talk to his friends.
Or act like a fool.

Given that he just turned 9, I realize I’m warring against the odds of improving either of those conditions. Therefore, some strategy and planning need to come into packing his lunch.

Studies show the actual time for lunch at most schools is 20 minutes. He can spend that much time blowing up and popping a zip-top bag, so I pack sandwiches in the cheaper, fold-over bags or, better yet, waxed paper. Do not give them a toy in the guise of a zip-top bag.

Fruit is good, but I make sure it’s going to be eaten first and fast. Bananas are great (and if it doesn’t get eaten at lunch, it’s still viable for a snack.) Raisins are also tops.

Small children (like his 5-year-old sister headed to first grade) may not eat very much at one sitting, so she’ll get a buffet of non-perishable items. Half a sandwich, half an orange, already peeled.

Small food is more fun to eat. My kids are freaks, and love celery or carrots.

Don’t be afraid to be … odd. One of the most successful lunches I ever packed involved …. pancakes. We’d had pancakes for breakfast, and they were the perfect wrap for ham and Swiss “sandwiches” for lunch.

If your child wants the same thing day after day, go with it. Eventually they’ll get tired of PB&J.

Juice boxes freeze. If you don’t wan to invest in a re-usuable block to freeze for the lunchbox, just pop some juiceboxes in the freezer and use them. By the time lunch rolls around, they’ll be thawed or nearly thawed.

I’m also a believer in leaving lunch on a sweet note: cereal bars rule.
Photo: Jupiter Images