Packing Lunch

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School begins in just two days and while unmitigated joy is still the predominant emotion, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to a little bit of anxiety. I am worried about how well my kids will adjust to their new schedules, if anyone will be mean to them, and if I will have to deal with lice again. But these not-so-small issues pale in comparison to the anxiety I have over lunch packing. Holy mother of God, the thought of packing lunches and snacks for all three kids every single morning again is enough for me to keep them home all year long. And that is really saying something.

Here is what happens. I wake up, usually late. I know there are alarm clocks but for some reason I don’t think they apply to me. Sometimes I wake up on time, but then leisurely drink coffee until I am late. So with only 45 minutes until the first bell rings, I have to put away the pots and pans from the night before, snuggle on command with each kid, make them breakfast, get them dressed all the way down to their shoes tied and teeth brushed and THEN put together three well-balanced, carefully thought out lunches and two low-sugar, peanut-free, teacher-approved snacks. With drinks. It’s madness and sometimes most times I am still in my pajamas when I kiss the kids goodbye in the car at drop-off.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about this over the summer, and I’ve decided I need an entirely new lunch and snack packing system if I am to continue calling myself a good mother. Here is what I need to do:

1.  Get up earlier, which means I have to go to bed earlier. This is not going to happen.

2.  Make two bins: one for the pantry, one for the fridge. Everything in these bins will already be individually wrapped and disposable. Think “grab and go.” Pantry bin items will include chips, granola bars, and crackers while fridge bin items will include fruit, yogurt tubes, and the one veggie my kids will sort of eat — cucumbers, peeled and sliced. I give myself until November.

3.  Make sandwiches the night before. An epiphany, since I thought my only option was to pack the whole lunch the night before. I can’t pack three whole lunches after making and cleaning up an elaborate from scratch dinner no one ate, but I can slap some lunch meat on some bread. The only caveat here is that I will need to have some lunch meat and some bread.

3.  Limit beverages to only two types: water in reusable sippy cups (I like these Rubbermaid Litterless Juice Boxes) for snack and lemonade cans for lunch. Honestly, I wish I could just skip the beverages altogether. I mean, sippy cups, juice boxes and bottled water did not even exist when I was a kid and I survived just fine. Thrived, in fact. Can’t they just use the water fountain?

I am confident that this new system will deliver me from the chaos that took over my mornings last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. I am also pretty sure it will be a breeze to implement thanks to my new daily schedule that has me cooking while everyone is in school and not in the evenings when I clearly should be focused on the next day’s lunch. How do you tackle the monster that is lunch packing?

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