Childrearing

I Pack The Same Lunch For My Preschooler Every Day #SorryNotSorry

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preschool-lunchI often feel like a failure when it comes to certain aspects of parenting – mostly the aspects that you can brag about on social media. I am not crafty. I do not have an especially beautiful house with adorable kid projects all over it. But the thing at which I feel like I’m failing most, is sending my kid to preschool with something interesting to eat. My kid goes to preschool three days a week and I pack him the same lunch every, single time he goes. Is it okay that I am starting to make peace with this?

I met his start of preschool with some apprehension. Apart from Gymboree, he’d never been in a setting for an extended period of time where he was expected to follow the crowd. I wondered how that would go. I also wondered if he would sit still through lunch, as my child seems to love touring the house while he eats. After momentarily thinking about whether he would sit still long enough to eat anything, I remembered I was the one tasked with the chore of packing something for him to consume. So I did what any other mom looking for inspiration might do – I visited Pinterest. That was a crap idea, just FYI.

Bento boxes, adorably-shaped sandwiches, pasta salads — there were so many things you could do for your kid’s lunch. I became immediately confused and intimidated. I went to Target and bought an Elmo sandwich cutter that had a little tool that made an impression of his face on the bread. My child was not impressed and his sandwich was flattened and ruined. I decided to go with just regular old PB&J.

One day I asked my child what his favorite friend brought to class for lunch. “Chicken,” he replied. Chicken, I thought. Chicken is on the menu for packed preschool lunches in other homes? I made a pasta salad for his lunch the next day and tucked it into his little Jake and the Pirate’s snack box. His snack box came home full. Turkey and cheese sandwiches went untouched. So did the snap-pea crisps and the carrot sticks. Time and time again, the only thing this kid would finish was a lunchbox full of his favorites; peanut butter and jelly sandwich, grapes, apple slices and apple juice. So I decided that this is what my kid would be eating for lunch. Three times a week. Every week. Without fail.

No, I don’t make cute little peanut butter and jelly sushi rolls and I don’t buy a bunch of new snacks trying to see if anything else will come home devoured. He eats this stuff, he’s four years old, and I’m cool with it.

Finally.

(photo: Hurst Photo/ Shutterstock)

46 Comments

  1. LadyClodia the Modest Rat

    September 15, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    Last year I would pretty much send the same lunch for my son 3 days a week too, and I didn’t think too much of it since it was the same stuff he ate at home. He is a very slow and poky lunch eater even at home, so I wasn’t surprised when he was coming home with quite a bit of it left. Plus, they got a snack in the morning and the afternoon, so I wasn’t worried about how much he was consuming. Then at the mid-year conference I was politely asked by his teacher to switch up the lunches a bit since he didn’t seem interested in eating them. Oof, fail. So I tried, but it didn’t really matter, and a lot of food came home no matter what I sent. So I sent the regular stuff like 2 days a week, and tried to make an effort the other day. It just sucked to know that the teachers really were judging me on my poor lunch packing.

    • guest

      September 15, 2014 at 2:38 pm

      I wonder how much my teacher in 1st grade judged my mom. I was in charge of bringing my snack to school. Hell, Idk if my mom even knew I was supposed to bring a snack. Either way I forgot it constantly and my teacher would always share hers with me.

  2. Spongeworthy

    September 15, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    I’ve got the Elmo sandwich cutter too! I only use it for grilled cheese, though–kiddo will ask me for an “Elmo cheese”.
    Also, I eat the same few things every day for lunch too, and I am a very adventurous eater. Making a lunch is a pain in the butt, and I don’t feel the need to go nuts with it. Dinner is when I’ll get creative, or even breakfast if I have the time, but lunch? Nah.

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  3. Lilly

    September 15, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    Lunch isn’t worth going crazy over since it already has so many limiting factors (portability, access to microwave to reheat etc), it makes it really hard to be experimental or creative.

    • Spongeworthy

      September 15, 2014 at 1:47 pm

      That’s a good point too…you have to pack something that will be ok sitting at room temp for a while or doesn’t need to be served hot. That can limit options.

  4. ILoveJellybeans

    September 15, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    I do pretty much the same too. All three of my school aged kids get a cheese and ham sandwich, a yoghurt, a piece of fruit and some kind of treat like a cookie.

  5. Sari

    September 15, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    This is my kid too. Every day at preschool. 3 days a week. I am totally at peace with this. He did it last year too!! Whatever-he eats!!

  6. Beth

    September 15, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    pfft–my 2 1/2 year old eats practically nothing…so she gets fruit snacks, a yogurt, goldfish crackers and maybe a fruit pouch every day. Sometimes I substitute the goldfish for crackers or chips. She’s freakin’ camel. She’ll starve before she eats a sandwich. haha

    • Katherine Handcock

      September 15, 2014 at 3:07 pm

      Yep, my 3 1/2 year old eats basically a meal a day, plus a few bites here and there. I will never worry about what’s in her lunch box until she tell s me she’s hungry!

  7. Jen TheTit Whisperer

    September 15, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    I’m not a kid and I eat practically the same thing for lunch every day. It’s quick and easy. Not the most fun of lunches but for lunch I eat to live.

    • Lt, Ft

      September 15, 2014 at 2:10 pm

      I was going to write the same thing. My lunch is the same thing during the work week. I don’t stress about it, it tastes good, and I know how much it costs.

  8. Ursi

    September 15, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a carton of milk for lunch for like 3 years. It’s cool.

    Also I attribute it to my special power as an adult to eat the same thing for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in a single day. If it’s tasty and filling I don’t get sick of it. I’m a good eater.

  9. noodlestein's danger tits

    September 15, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    Oh, reading this, I’m just thinking – my poor mother! In sixth grade she would send me to school every day with a sandwich and side. Chips, veggies, whatever we had. Perfectly fine, filling, no big deal, and incidentally, what I pretty much eat for lunch now. Halfway through the year I asked her if she could “put more stuff in there?” My classmates had Gushers and gummie worms and apples and all sorts of stuff. She complied, and I forgot about it, but now I’m thinking about how that must have made her feel! Here she is, rolling along, working, taking care of everything, and now I’m telling her her lunches are sub-par! Kids are assholes, and I’m sorry, Mother!

    • alexesq33

      September 16, 2014 at 7:30 am

      Ugh I was an asshole kid – my dad used to make my lunches (really great sandwiches, Italian subs, etc) time consuming-to-make sides (like celery sticks with cream cheese and olives – it’s good!) and I always complained because I wanted to eat the crap they served at the cafeteria. I’d often trade lunches with other kids to get their school lunch. I’m so sorry too Dad!!

  10. guest

    September 15, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    This kid sounds like me. I could eat the same thing for lunch everyday of the week and ususally do. For me though, every week or two it changes from like wanting a turkey sandwich every day to wanting a hotdog every day. Most days I don’t care wth I eat as long as my stomach doesn’t growl at work.
    I’m worried I’ll end up with a kid who has tastes like my husband. I make his lunches and he constantly wants different sauces or mayos or mustards and different meats and veggies and this and that. Demanding.

  11. Henrysmama

    September 15, 2014 at 3:01 pm

    My son goes to daycare 3 times a week and I pack the same thing everyday. I don’t have time to pack him fancy, bento style lunches and frankly, he doesn’t give a shit if his sandwich looks like a sandwich or a sushi roll. Let’s be real: those fancy lunches aren’t really for the kids, they’re for the moms to show off with. Besides, my kid is fairly picky and this way, I don’t have to wonder if he’s actually going to eat what I pack for him. Most of the time, he asks for the same thing I pack in his lunch for lunch on the weekends, too.

  12. Shannon

    September 15, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    My preschooler takes a peanut butter sandwich or peanut butter crackers, fruit, chocolate milk and either Goldfish or a cookie every day. It’s what he asks for. Sometimes I offer to make him something else, and he says, “No thanks, mom.” I ate peanut butter and apple jelly sandwiches every school day through 7th grade, unless it was French bread pizza day.

    • surfermom

      September 15, 2014 at 5:18 pm

      Working mother magazine has a recipe for Asian shrimp noodles. For a lunch box! Even in a cooler, that’s risky. But what kid is like, oh hey, I like to mix it up, try something different once in a while? I had to stop reading… Pb and j is delicious, all the time!

  13. AP

    September 15, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    Little kids like routine. Having the same lunch packed every day is probably soothing. Though evenutally, he’ll outgrow it. I started craving freedom from the tyrrany of PB&J, chocolate milk, and 3 chocolate chip cookies somewhere in upper elementary school.

    • Maria Guido

      September 15, 2014 at 4:22 pm

      I’ll never forget my mom’s go-to sandwich: TOASTED bread (yes, hard as a rock by the time I ate it) and giant slabs of hand cut butcher salami. Hardest sandwich in the world to eat and I would still love it to this day.

  14. Greta Young

    September 15, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    I have mini panic attacks when I think about lunch-packing. Right now I’ve been employing a strategy of 100% AVOIDANCE. My daughter’s daycare provides breakfast, lunch & snacks; there is always fresh cut fruit in the morning and all the lunches are catered in from local restaurants because they don’t have a full kitchen or there’s some weird licensing obstace to technically serve food; I forget exactly what but they can only prepare snacks in house, hence the catering. It’s all stuff I’d feel okay eating myself like sub sandwiches, pasta bake, Chinese take-out, and pizza; it’s definitely no home-cooked meal though. I don’t know what I’m going to do when she gets to be grade-school aged… those school lunches are god-awful, plus it’s a miracle if I can remember to bring dinner leftovers for my own lunch in the office. :-/

    • Maria Guido

      September 15, 2014 at 4:20 pm

      Oh you are so lucky!

    • Greta Young

      September 15, 2014 at 4:39 pm

      I didn’t even consider daycares that would have made me pack a lunch every day. Is that bad? I just knew it would be unattainable. The cost difference in care was negligible in our area and really not worth the blow to our time & sanity. Between all the challenges of single parenthood, I wasn’t trying to add one more source of stress to her dad’s life and mine. I’m sure I’ll be kicking myself come kindergarten when neither of us are in the habit though… ha

  15. mediocrity511

    September 15, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    I used to have the same sandwiches for lunch every day, cheese and Branston pickle. Then one day, someone must have had the same Mickey Mouse lunchbox as me, because the lunch that was left wasn’t mine. It had cheese and mango chutney sandwiches. I spoke to a dinner lady and had a school dinner that day as someone else had eaten my sandwich.
    Of course when I got home my Mum explained we were out of pickle, but to 5 year old me this just wasn’t a possibility.

  16. bookworm81

    September 15, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    This is so not worth worrying about. My son has been eating the exact same lunch at school every day for about 2 years now; peas, grapes or cantaloupe, and banana muffins made with quinoa flour (this is his protein and fat). He’s on a restricted diet that is further restricted by his sensory issues but I know if I send this lunch he has a healthy balanced meal that he’ll actually eat which is ultimately what’s important.

  17. Allthingsblue

    September 15, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    My kids get the same thing for breakfast everyday because they will eat it and it’s filling.

  18. joanne

    September 15, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    From 1st grade – 6th grade my dad made me the same peanut butter (no jelly I don’t like jelly) sandwich, 1/2 little debbie snack cake (you know how they come with 2? we got 1 of those 2), apple or orange and 15 cents for milk. On very rare occasions we’d get a lunch meat sandwich if lunch meat was on a good sale somewhere. But even then it would be a sandwich, 1/2 little debbie snack cake, apple or orange and 15 cents for milk. He never felt angst over whether or not my lunch was interesting or varied enough. I never felt angst that my lunch wasn’t interesting enough. It’s lunch not a life or death situation.

  19. AnonyMouse

    September 15, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    Hey, if that’s what he eats, that’s what he eats. You shouldn’t have felt bad about it. Kids have different tastes. My brother went through a phase where all he wanted was chicken nuggets, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, every single day. I think my mom was about to pull her hair out.

  20. whiteroses

    September 15, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    All the super cute food in the world won’t make a damn bit of difference if your kid won’t eat it.

  21. Cindy Ailey

    September 15, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    Sounds like a pretty good lunch for a preschooler. It’s got almost everything you would need – grains, protein and fruit. Missing the dairy but no biggie, you ask me the recommendations for dairy are kinda high in the first place.

  22. Patricia Stringel Shepard

    September 15, 2014 at 6:31 pm

    You can send peanut butter to school? LUCKY!!! I thought it was banned everywhere nowadays. It’s truly a lifesaver with a “camel” (love that), oxygen-diet, food-indifferent 3 year old.

  23. Linzon

    September 15, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    My kid just started preschool. He gets a snack rather than a lunch and on the first day I packed apple slices and homemade super healthy zucchini bread. The first words out his mouth when I picked him up were “can I have a granola bar next time? You get to open it with a pair of scissors!”

    In conclusion, kids (especially preschoolers) don’t need fancy.

  24. K2

    September 15, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    PBJ must be an American thing, because I’d never heard of such a combination until I started being grown up and visiting websites about kids’ foods.. heh. (Also I used to be very confused as to how jelly could stay in a sandwich.. then I realised it’s your word for jam! 😉 ) I think my lunches were mostly ham sandwiches or something like that. With a cereal bar or something similar, and a juice box. I think. It’s been too long.

    • Ursi

      September 15, 2014 at 7:36 pm

      I once had a Russian friend tell me that they don’t eat peanut butter much. My reaction? “But what do kids eat for lunch in Russia?”

      Oh the laughter. Such laughter. Seriously though, what do I know? That was pretty much 50% of my diet as a kid.

  25. kittymom

    September 15, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    I prefer PB and J to any other sandwich for lunch. I am 29. I like your kid 😉

  26. simoneutecht

    September 15, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    My 6 almost 7 year old son is on the spectrum and had had the same lunch for all of last school year and for the 2 weeks so far this year with no complaints. The only time he didn’t was when they went to Wendy’s after a trip to the zoo this summer and even I can understand that. But he gets a pb and j sandwich, granola bar, fruit roll up, chips, 2 juice boxes, a refillable bottle of water and either an apple cut up or grapes. He’s super picky and at this point I just want him to eat he even gets this lunch on the weekends. I’ll change it when he stops eating it.

  27. C.J.

    September 15, 2014 at 11:07 pm

    My younger daughter wanted bologna sandwiches every day for her first 2 years of school. I felt awful for giving her the same lunch every single day but I wanted to make sure she would eat it. I gave her other options but nope, she wanted a bologna sandwich. She finally got tired of them and now she doesn’t want any kind of sandwich. Now she wants quesadillas, chicken or turkey wraps (not lunch meat), soup, cold chicken and veggies or home made lunchables. I miss the bologna sandwich days.

  28. ChickenKira

    September 16, 2014 at 6:10 am

    You know what I liked in my lunch boxes as a kid? Cheese and tomato sandwiches. Every time my mother tried to steer me towards a new sandwich filling, it came straight back home again, untouched.
    It wasn’t that I didn’t like the other sandwich fillings, at home I would happily have a tuna, cucumber and mayonnaise sandwich, but at school it HAD to be cheese and tomato.

  29. koolchicken

    September 16, 2014 at 7:23 am

    I was the exact opposite of your kid. I would never have (and still won’t) eaten a pb&j. I have no idea why people like that vile sandwich so much. I’m not much of a sandwich person anyways, so that probably plays into it. I do enjoy the occasional grilled ham & cheese, or BLT, but that’s it though.

    My Mum used to pack me lovely lunches, even in preschool. I had hot soup, and roast chicken. Steak and potatoes, stews, ham, pasta and more. Basically she just packed “real” food because I wouldn’t have eaten anything else. I imagine in a couple of years I’ll be picking her brain to learn all her little tricks for keeping things hot and such. It’s been so long I can’t remember. If my son stays on track I doubt he’ll be any easier to feed. As is he’s never had a sandwich and for the sake of my stomach I hope he doesn’t start requesting them. Even if it does mean extra work for me.

    • Aussiemum

      September 16, 2014 at 10:31 am

      My mum used to send us to school with soup on cold days, or she would turn up on days it was freezing with hot milo and cupcakes just out of the oven.
      If you go to your local store (I don’t know where you are but I go to big w or Kmart) and you can buy little kid thermos’s. They come in cool kid designs and colours, and you can put soups in them, or if you buy one with a wider opening then you could send spaghetti Bol or other pastas.
      Or hotdogs! Altho my kids are fussy and would prefer BBQ sausages instead of hotdogs, hence why we have sausage sizzles on Friday nights instead of hotdogs.

    • koolchicken

      September 17, 2014 at 4:28 pm

      One of the houses we were looking had the elementary school just behind the house. And you can bet your lots I’d have been doing the same thing as your mum if we’d picked that one. As is we’re less than a mile away so it’ll probably still happen, just not as often.

      I’ll probably be investing in a few thermoses before my son is old enough for school. In the year prior I’ll probably start looking so I have a few good ones on hand when he starts. I’m sure there are other options these days as well. I used to frequent bento blogs and they have a lot of good tips. Mostly for keeping stuff cold though as apparently many Japanese classrooms have toaster ovens and they’re happy to heat the kids food.

      And I’m totally with your kids on hotdogs, ick! I’ve never liked them. I love Aidells sausages. They’re chicken and come in all sorts of flavors, my favorite is bacon pineapple. 🙂

  30. Simone

    September 17, 2014 at 8:14 am

    Oh good. Me too.

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