Thursday, January 23, 2014

Haters Going To Hate, Nicole's Going To Lunchmate

As you know, my children come home for lunch. I can count on one hand the number of kids who go home for lunch in our school of 520 children. I don't mind it; we are a twelve minute walk/ two minute drive to the school, so other than pattering back and forth to the school six times a day, and always having to schedule appointments in the space in between drop off, lunch, and pick up times, it's a pleasure. I like to see the kids in the middle of the day, they like to have a bit of downtime at home, I don't need to worry about them freezing on the playground when the temperature is only slightly above the minus-20 cutoff, and the dog is always happy when he sees his people come home, hopefully to accidentally drop a bit of lunch on the floor.

Plus, I get to serve the children a hot lunch*!

*Hot lunch meaning toasted bagel, plus non-hot fruit and cookies.

That's the drill from Monday to Thursday, anyway. Fridays are different because those are the days of early dismissal; the children finish school at 1:10. This means that they have a fifteen minute "nutrition break", and I need to pack as much nutrition as possible into that nutrition break for a couple of reasons. Friday afternoons mean long hours at the playground, hanging out with friends at home, or doctor/ dentist/ haircut appointments. In any case, they need to be sufficiently fueled for our free afternoon, but they also need to be able to eat quickly.

And so on Fridays I join the ranks of practically every other mother in the country, packing lunches that I am reasonably sure are going to get eaten. I make them "Lunchmates".

Before you slam your laptop shut or, less aggressively, click on the "close window" button, I have actually never purchased a Lunchmate in my life. I know there is a furor surrounding them and their lack of nutrition, not to mention the environmental impact. But I tell you this: I can really understand the appeal. I am someone who actually secretly likes getting meals on airplanes, everything in their little compact container. I loved getting hospital meals because look! A tiny thing of milk to pour on the little bowl of oatmeal, so cute! I also, less weirdly, like getting room service for the same reason. So I can really understand why Lunchmates are appealing: they're cute, they're neatly contained, and they require almost zero effort on the part of the lunch packer.

But! They are nutritionally deficient, the containers are landfill-bound, and they are also expensive. Here's what I do: I have two Bento-style boxes I bought at my local Co-Op. I put a bunch of crackers in the large "sandwich" part of the container. I put a stick of pepperoni (nitrate free!) and some carrots, grapes, or berries in the smaller parts of the containers. I put a couple of cookies, a muffin, or some banana bread in a separate container, fill a water bottle, and BADA BING BADA BOOM. Lunch. The containers always come home mostly empty and the children are ready for a Friday afternoon of fun and/or appointments.

The best part? The cost. Here is my breakdown for the cost of the lunch, not including the baked goods:

Crackers: $3.49/box. I get about eight servings out of a box. Cost: $0.44/ serving.
Pepperoni: $8.99 for a pack of 20. Cost per stick: $0.45.
Carrots: $2.99/ 2 pound bag. I worked this out to $0.23 per serving of carrots.

Total cost: $1.12. I don't know what Lunchmates cost but I assume it is much more for smaller, less nutritious servings. It takes me approximately five minutes to put together, which is more than zero minutes, but still pretty reasonable.



  1. I would so much love to put this in front of all the parents I know who go Lunchmates on a daily basis. Seriously, if you can't put that amount of effort into packing a lunch that's kind of pitiful.

    Also, I need to get some Bento boxes. My kids would love this and what a fun change of pace a couple of times a week!

  2. I usually make J's lunch but sometimes she asks B to make her spring rolls (because she knows a PB&J is the best she can expect from me in terms of effort).

  3. Full confession - I occasionally give my kids a Lunchable, when Matt's away and I know that by the end of the week I'm going to really want something I can just toss into their bag. The other days, I make fruit smoothies and cut up fruits and vegetables and cheese and put in crackers, and it only happens about once a month. And I NEVER give them STRING CHEESE, HANNAH (snort - because they don't like them in their lunches, just straight out of the fridge).


    (I honestly only judge people who do the Lunchables thing every day. Because people do, you know. And that's gross. I stand by that.)