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.