One of the things that I hate the most about the end of school term is digging out the old mouldy sandwiches from my son’s school bag. Recently however, things have gotten much worse. He started complaining to me that his bag was very heavy and after giving it a moment of thought I decided to investigate.
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that with everything going on in a very tough year for my family, we’ve been a little remiss in checking his bag. Asking him to bring various items, such as homework diaries to us rather than searching for them ourselves, but what I found in his bag was shocking, to say the least.
There were more than fifteen complete school lunches in his bag. Yep, that’s 15 tetra pack fruit juice drinks, one or two of which were now leaky, 15 sets of stinky mouldy sandwiches, 15 muesli bars, fruit chews or other recess items. There wasn’t 15 pieces of fruit though, just one smelly, mushy pile at the bottom of his bag. It had me gagging. No wonder his bag was heavy. The things I expected to see–like school work and lunch boxes–were nowhere to be found. Instead, my son was spending his day carrying around a sack full of garbage, and his iPad.
He’s twelve, so I thought I should have been able to expect a little more independence from him but clearly this was not the case even though his younger, by three years, brother seemed to be coping mostly fine. Such is the world of special needs, where things like distractability and texture issues can quickly hijack a lunchtime agenda.
I spent some time talking to my boys about the issue but really, I’m not one to talk. I barely ate any of my mother’s carefully prepared lunches in primary (elementary) school and I swore off lunches altogether from years seven to twelve. As I related my memories of sitting on the school balcony in a position with the bin one floor directly below me–so I could drop my unwanted lunch into it–I suddenly realised that no matter what I did, I would never be able to get my kids to eat their lunches if they didn’t want to.
Changing the Contents of School Lunches
I decided to instigate some drastic and not necessarily healthy changes.
- First of all, sandwiches were out. There are way too many competing textures in sandwiches and far too many things that can go wrong.
- I decided that my boys would only get food that wouldn’t go off and that could handle being squashed.
- We’d get over the fibre issues by having bread and fruit readily available for the kids when they got home from school. There was certainly no way I was ever going to let them take a pear to school again.
So, at the beginning of the week, I packed ten plastic bags (two kids for five schooldays) with:
- 1 Fruit juice carton
- 1 package of kiddie biscuits
- 2 different bars**
- 1 stringy fruit “lolly” (supposedly healthy but I doubt it)
** Initially I tried muesli bars, then sugary cereal bars and, when everything else kept coming home, I switched to cake-ish bars with mild success and then finally to “space food sticks” with complete success.
Changing Your Lunch Routine
My routine changed too.
- Every morning, I’d go through the kids bags and remove the previous days lunch.
- There was no need for lunch boxes because everything was “crush tolerant” and in any case, my eldest had already lost three so far this year.
- Any uneaten food would safely keep for a long time and could be reused if I ran out of pre-packaged bags.
- Pre-packing at the beginning of the week also proved to be a massive time saver.
Sure, it’s not 100% healthy but it is getting eaten, the kids are happy and our daily wastage has dropped significantly.