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I Pack My Kid the Exact Same School Lunch Every Single Day

peanut butter jelly sandwich

Last year we had 165 days of school here in Eugene, Oregon. My oldest son managed to get perfect attendance (he was singularly focused on this goal as the last day of school approached, despite my killjoy assurances that he would in fact not be featured in the local paper for his stunning achievement), and he never purchased a meal from the school cafeteria. That means I fixed him 165 school lunches throughout the year ... and here's my humiliating confession: he had the exact same lunch every time.

That may be a slight exaggeration, but when I say slight, I mean slight. His main entree never changed even once. It was a PB&J, on whatever that creepily soft white-yet-whole-grain bread is. The peanut butter brand never changed. The jelly was always blackberry. My son's lunch was like Steve Jobs' famous closet, only instead of black turtlenecks and jeans, it was day after day of the same old sandwich.

I ... okay, I'm not particularly proud of this.

In my defense, my son is annoyingly picky, and I had no intention of fixing him a variety of things that would inevitably get thrown in the dumpster. I'm also not a terribly creative lunch-packer: you know those bento lunches with the foods shaped like panda faces and whatnot, and there are like 43,640 different ingredients in each adorable pint-sized container? Well, let's just say I am not drawn to attempt those lunches. Let's just say even seeing a shared photo of one of those lunches kind of makes me want to poke a panda right in its stubbornly-refusing-to-mate hind end with a pointy piece of bamboo.
 
Anyway, I felt like I'd settled on a fairly nutritious lunch menu, if not organically ideal or Paleo-friendly or served with a chilled thermos of kefir and chia seeds. He had the peanut butter and jelly sandwich: carbs, protein, fat. And yes, sugar, but shut up. He had a squeeze container of unsweetened applesauce and a handful of baby carrots. Lastly, he had unsalted almonds or peanuts in the shell (and no, there were no nut allergy kids in his class).

And he loved it. Ate every bite. Was 100 percent happy to have it again the next day and the day after that and the day after that. Was there really any compelling reason to rock the boat and insist that he try different things during the one meal I didn't preside over? I felt like I had enough to focus on with school -- was he happy? Liking his teacher? Making friends? Doing okay academically? -- without fretting over whether he was properly refueling during their short lunch break.

But I realize it's kind of a weird thing to admit, and truth be told, I do feel a little guilty. I don't know any parents who admit to doing an instant-replay on lunch throughout the entire school year.

More from The Stir7 Make-Ahead School Lunches That Will Save Your Mornings

The question is, what will I do next year? My youngest will be in school full-time too, which means twice as many lunches, and of course they don't like the same things. Maybe it's time I branch out from our PB&J-slathered rut. Maybe I'll make them eat the cafeteria lunch, which is inevitably far more diverse than what they normally eat. Maybe they'll create their own lunch ritual (my youngest has been in a cheese quesadilla phase for YEARS, although I don't imagine that would hold up well in a lunchbox). Or hey, maybe I'll actually get on board with the cutesy bento routine! Or ...

no gif


Give me a read on the craziness of sending in the same school lunch over and over. Go ahead, don't be shy, I KNOW you've got opinions on this one.


Image ©iStock.com/mvp64

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the4m... the4mutts

Eh, I don't see the big deal. The kid ate it, so who cares?

My kids couldn't handle that, but my kids are also super weird haha

sylph... sylph_ironlight

My oldest starts kindergarten in September, and I am not looking forward to lunches. He loves PB, but his school is nut free-you can't even send in the 'fake' peanutbutters like Wow!Butter. On the other hand, every friday is food day (pizza or subs) so I only have to do lunches 4 days a week...


knitt... knittykitty99

I sent my kindergartener with PB & J and a chocolate milk every day last year, because that is all she will eat.  Her sister always eats school lunch, but some kids are picky.  I'm just glad our school isn't nut free.

00NoW... 00NoWay00

As long as it's nutritionally balanced, there is nothing wrong with that. My kids don't take peanut butter to school, though, because they both have friends with nut allergies. Of course, they are old enough now that if they don't want school lunch, they can make it themselves. :)

nonmember avatar Stephanie

What you sent to school for your kid is most likely better for him than whats in the school lunches. Don't beat yourself up over it. As long as he liked it and didn't complain, then whats the point in adding worry to the list of worries all mothers have and deal with. My son is not in school yet, but my niece is and shes....lets just say a super picky eater. Like we took her to the doctor so worried she was so picky. So I know her lunches will be the same everyday until she branches out and tries new things. Some things we just have to follow the kids on. When hes ready for something other than pb&js then he will let you know. Hang in there momma!

Vanessa Fasanella

Good for you! Whatever you are sending him in with, minus Lunchables, are better than the garbage schools serve. My daughter is also picky, but has issues with preservatives and additives (nitrates and dyes), so we must pack a lunch for her. Out of the 5 things that go in, 3 are always the same. 2 are rotations of fruits and vegetables.

nonmember avatar Lisa

Just a glimpse into your future...I have 2 boys(a senior and a sophomore). I still make their lunches everyday. One will eat anything I put in the sack but the other literally eats the same lunch EVERYDAY! It is, by the way, the same lunch that I have packed for him for his entire school career. He is happy, healthy and will attend college next year! I know exactly what to put in the care packages I will send him...

nonmember avatar nikki

I have a 3 year old who wants nothing but peanut butter and jelly for lunch and a yogurt. Every day I let him choose his lunch and offer suggestions but it's always the same.at first out worried me but it's only one meal a day and he eats other things for breakfast and dinner. We are also on a tight budget so I don't see a point in arguing,if he will eat it great! I would rather him eat food and be happy then argue and throw out food and waste all of it.

Tina Goff

What you send your kids to school with for lunch is your business.  You know what he will and won't eat, so why is it anyone else business but your own?  Have you seen school lunches lately?  Even after the lunch 're-vamp' that a lot of schools have had, the lunches are still pretty gross.  All the new 'healthy' options that have been added to school lunches usually end up in the trash bin.  Kids just throw them away.  Just give your kid the healthiest options that you know he will eat.  

bizee... bizeemommy

Why do you feel guilty.  When my youngest was in 2nd grade his favorite lunch was peanutbutter and honey sandwiches.  I am pretty sure that I made this sandwich every day all year.  It was what he wanted and as long as lunch wasn't getting thrown out I was fine with it.  I think as long as we are providing our kids with healthy lunches that they enjoy then that is all that matters

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