Lunches With Love

. November 1, 2016.

I have made nearly 360 school lunches in the past year.

Frankly, I’m surprised the actual number is that low. I feel like I made thousands between my two children. Two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – one with the crusts cut off, one cut in half. Two containers of grapes or nectarine slices. Two bags of pretzels. Two packages of fruit snacks. Two cookies. Two water bottles.

That was repeated five days a week, most weeks, not counting school vacations or the rare sick day. My kitchen counter turned into a sandwich assembly line. The lunches were not fancy, although I always had good intentions, with delusions of delectable lunches. The idea of Bento boxes drew me in each August – delicate lunches in intricate boxes, with the elements into interesting shapes to stimulate the senses. Instead, my kids get Barto boxes – plastic sandwich containers, plastic baggies and plastic water bottles.

Keep those Lunches Coming

They now are certainly old enough to make their own lunches. Even though I am not the most creative cook, I don’t mind making them. My high schooler didn’t even have a lunch period this year, so at least I knew she was eating something while on the run. And just try to wake a teen up early enough to have them make their own lunch when they need to be at school at 7am. It was just as easy to make two as to make one.

My mother, on the other hand, never made me lunch. That’s what the school cafeteria was for – a good, hot lunch. I didn’t mind. I got to try some “American” dishes that my Italian mother wouldn’t make. Open-faced turkey and gravy sandwich on white bread? Yum. Tomato soup? Disgusting. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches made by the lunch ladies? Heaven on earth. Even in high school, my friends and I ate school lunches.

Good to “gross”

My own kids used to eat the school lunches until the federal government got involved. The chicken nuggets and pizza they thrived on got healthier, and apparently, according to them, “gross.” In middle school they started to beg to bring their lunch. I’ll bet, somewhere in the school office, there is still a meal ticket with punches left.

Thanks to summer, I had a break from making lunches. I got to make, or supervise the creation of, three meals a day for two teenage girls, who rival any teenage boy in food consumption. After a couple hours at the pool or a work shift, they immediately raid the fridge while dinner is cooking. I’m glad to have them home and that I am able to feed them, but I am always surprised at my grocery bill for June, July and August.

Now that we’re in full swing with school, that grocery list includes creamy peanut butter, jelly, pretzels and fruit snacks. I might need to replace a sandwich box or two, and stock up on bottled water.

The lunch line in our kitchen begin again on Aug. 17. I am in the home stretch, however, since in two short years my oldest will be walking into a college dining hall for her meals instead of my kitchen.

Until then, I’m more than happy to pack the kid a sandwich.  I’ll even stop counting how many, if she will stay home a little while longer. Maybe I’ll sneak a PBJ into her moving boxes for her first day of classes.