Pack that lunch

Well, we tried, and then we tried again, but the LAUSD doesn’t seem to be able to make a lunch that my child would like to eat (save the calzone with salad).  My kid is vegetarian-leaning (she was vegetarian until age four, when she opted out) but doesn’t like turkey and most beef (and most fish; so much for her forays into omnivorous eating).  I asked her what the other kids thought and my daughter told me: “They all hate it.”  The salads are usually okay, and she said that now the fruit is more edible (good job there, LAUSD — it’s not easy to serve 650,000 meals a day, I know), but the vegetables are often inedible when they are cooked (unless they’re potatoes).

For the record, my child is one of the most naturally healthy eaters I’ve ever seen (balanced by a sweet tooth that rivals even mine).

There are no vegetarian options on the LAUSD menu except for peanut butter and jelly, and I’m not sure they’re even giving kids that choice any more.  There used to be two choices for the lunch entree, now there are one.  So, though it’s a good deal financially, having my child return home with a rumbling stomach during one of the biggest growth spurts of her life isn’t worth the trouble.

What to pack?  It gets quite repetitive after a short period of time, and then I start to have even more sympathy for the LAUSD.  There is also the matter of food safety, which of course I take very seriously (egg salad sandwich, I’m talking to you).  So far I have a very limited menu, but there is always fruit and I don’t pack too many vegetables (other than carrot sticks) because we eat at least 2 cups of them each at dinnertime.

Here’s what she’s had thus far:

  • Main dish:
  • Peanut butter or sunflower butter or almond butter and all-fruit jam on whole wheat (her least favorite entree at this point)
  • Cold pasta salad with beans mixed in and either ranch dressing instead of mayonnaise, or Vegenaise instead of mayonnaise.  Packed in a thermos mug with our girl Hello Kitty on the side.
  • Hummus sandwich with liberal lettuce leaves on Orowheat Potato bread.
  • Organic short grain brown rice with a package of nori seaweed for wrapping (she told me her friend brought this and I thought it was marvelously good)
  • Muenster cheese sandwich packed on frozen bread with liberal refreezable ice (it all defrosts by lunchtime)
  • Salad with a side of dressing (but not often, because we have salad a lot during the summer at home).

Side of Sun chips, or crackers, and a fruit — lately blueberries, nectarines, grapes or clementines rounds out the lunch.  Cucumbers and carrots and the occasional celery are welcome as well.  She gets a trail mix bar in case she stays after school and gets hungry.

I am not delusional, and know that sometimes she is trading grapes for Choco-pies (some of her friends come with only processed junk food for the whole day, and trade it away for her healthier fare.  Really.)

I am considering the very unsavory idea of having a lunch meat like ham for her once a week (the dog is holding up a sign on which she has scrawled YES!).  But don’t even mention Lunchables as a solution to me, or I may drive over to your house and explain the label to you until you cringe in disbelief.

Also, I pack my kid’s lunch in a lunch tote the size of an adult tote, because everything — usually down to the handmade cloth napkin — is reusable.  And reusable containers take up quite a bit of room.  They also keep the grapes and blueberries from getting squashed on the trip.

What do you pack your kids for lunch?  How do you keep the lunch adequately cool/warm?

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