It's that time of year again…when I make my "New School Year’s" resolution. This year, my resolution is to make better lunches. I'm not referring to healthier lunches (although still a priority), I'm referring to lunches that get eaten. I want fewer after school meltdowns and an easier lunch bag clean up!
Last year, my JKer started at a school with a 'boomerang' lunch program. This means that all uneaten food and food packaging that goes to school must return home with your child, including half-eaten apple sauce, fruit peels, and food wrappers. I was completely on board with it. After all, I have a happy, 'healthy appetite' eater. All I have to do is pack it and she'll eat it, right? Or so I thought!
Our experience was a disaster, to put it mildly- for her and for me! I started the school year prepping an assortment of her favorites. Nothing fancy. Just simple, healthy foods. The lunch left the house beautifully organized and came home a disgusting sloppy mess. The sandwich with just a teensy weensy little bite out of it, some broken cookies, and the yogurt smeared on the entire inside of the lunch bag. Additionally,I also ended up with a super cranky ravenous monster after school. I should clarify- it's not the boomerang program that I dislike (it's because of this program that I found out my daughter wasn't eating all day). It's the associated mess that I have a serious allergic reaction to!
As I unhappily hand washed the lunch bag and containers on repeated occasions, I eventually got her to talk. She finally blurts out that she likes yogurt for 1st snack, but when she doesn't finish it, she puts it back in the lunch bag (boomerang lunch rules) and by the 2nd nutritious break, the yogurt “touches” her wrapped sandwich, so she doesn't even want to eat it. She hesitantly takes a bite and says that she doesn't like it. And with all the jumping around before school even starts, the cookies were broken so she didn’t want them. Ugh! ...the life of a 4-year-old! And the life of the parent that has to clean up that mess!
So, after a few trial and error lunches, we finally developed a system that works for us. The lunches sent are eaten and lunch bag clean up is a breeze too! These are my 4 tips -I'm happily sharing them if they can spare you a meltdown:
1) Food in containers. Send food (fresh and packaged) in hard, sealable, dishwasher safe containers. I know it sounds odd to put a muffin or a yogurt package in a hard container, but this one trick made a huge difference for us. No more smushed or smeared food! I use the DALCINI twist top containers and send her sandwich in a DALCINI Sandwich box. To my amazement, my daughter re-seals her uneaten food (and any dirty packaging) back inside the containers, preventing it from "touching" anything else. I'm working hard to eliminate ALL packaged foods, but on the occasional days, the convenience of grabbing a small yogurt and dropping it into a stainless steel twist top makes life easier. And now clean up is easy too.
2) Fun. Make all aspects of school lunch fun. Lunch prep, eating lunch and cleaning the returned lunch bag should all be enjoyable. With our DALCINI containers we write/draw on them with washable markers every morning, we also customized the containers with personalized, dishwasher safe, labels. (We use Mabel's Labels with great success). Make lunch something they look forward to. Even if the bag returns a mess (which ours don't anymore!), show no sign of disappointment, and simply place them in the dishwasher. If you're happy, they're happy, and lunches become FUN.
3) Reward. Have your child select a special after school 'treat' as a reward for eating their lunch (or at least eat a good amount of everything). My daughter’s 'treat' was peanut butter on anything, and she really looked forward to it. She would often remind me of her selected treat as we walked home from school. Treats don’t have to be junk, just something special to them.
4) Involve your kids in lunch prep. Allow your kids to determine what goes in their lunch. (obvious limitations here). For my girl, her selection was a butter and jam sandwich instead of anything with mayo, the crust off. She also liked writing the contents on each container. Done, done and done! Her entire lunch devoured!
What are your tips for less lunch “boomeranged” home? Share your tips with us on facebook or twitter. Or upload your before and after boomerang lunch on Instagram. #dalcinistainless #boomeranglunch