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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Lunch should be a four-letter word.

I don't know how I felt about lunch before my son came along. I don't think it held any special power over me. I'm pretty sure I just ate stuff, without thinking too much about it. I may have enjoyed the midday meal BK (before kids). I may have even uttered the phrase "Let's do lunch!" with a carefree jubilance. And now? Now I think I'd sooner read Goodnight Moon 17 times in a row (that is a special kind of painful) than make lunch.

If you're a SAHM (stay-at-home mom) or a SAHD (stay-at-home dad), maybe you can relate to this. I don't think I'm overstating it when I say that I now despise lunch with every fibre of my being. I'm not talking about lunch with the girls - the patio, the frosty drink, the toughest decision required being what someone else will cook and serve for me; love those lunches. I'm talking about the everyday lunch. The "Mom, what's for lunch?" lunch. The, "What a lovely morning it's been. I guess it's time to go home and ...<sigh>... make lunch" lunch.

Ok, I can do this, I tell myself. It's just lunch, for Pete's sake. I've tackled far greater obstacles. If I let my son decide, it's actually pretty easy. "Jack, what would you like for lunch?" The answer is either (a) PB&J or (b) macaroni and cheese, without exception. (Okay, there's one exception. If I drive past a Wendy's, the answer is guaranteed to be "chicken fingers!!!!") If I thought I could live with myself, and if I could stand to eat it that often myself, we'd simply alternate between these two meals every other day. Problem solved. It's a good fall-back position, for certain. But surely, being the resourceful, educated woman I am, I can come up with something more creative. There's almost always something in the fridge and pantry that can be made into a meal, even if I haven't managed to get out of my PJs and to the grocery store in days. Ok, let's see, I've got a box of raisins, two fish crackers, and a hunk of celery. Done!

Maybe it's just me. Maybe lunches just aren't my thing. Other things are my things, and maybe I ought to focus my energy on them and feel good about what I do well. Lunch is just going to be one of those have-to things (like washing dishes, scrubbing floors, or cleaning peanut butter off of the cat) that we do so that we have time for the want-to things. Whatever your "lunch" is, may you find the strength to continue to do a satisfyingly mediocre job of it. Remembering to take time for the want-to things can help to provide that strength.

Here is a list of possible lunch menus - a personal gift from me to you. I hope you can find some inspiration here. I haven't included PB&J or macaroni and cheese in this list, because it is assumed that you will simply insert these into your lunch rotation at regular intervals. You'll notice that these suggestions are not particularly Martha-Stewart-esque. There are no fancy sandwiches shaped like dinosaurs or happy face pancakes on this list, but if you are so inclined almost anything on this list can be made to look less like food and more like your child's favourite Disney character. You are only limited by your imagination. If you're like me and have no lunch-time imagination, this list will help you to just get 'er done.
  • brown beans, grilled cheese sandwich and cherry tomatoes
  • ham and cheese sandwich with carrot sticks
  • tomato soup, fishy crackers and cucumber slices
  • mini pizzas - English muffin toasted with leftover pasta sauce, cheese and whatever else you enjoy (examples: pineapple, tomato, pepperoni, ham, olives, sweet pepper)
  • cream cheese on a toasted bagel with fruit salad (slice some banana and apple and chuck in a few grapes - voila!)
  • poached eggs and toast with veggies and dip (hummus makes a great healthy dip)
  • muffin and a cup of plain yogurt with fruit (keep a bag of frozen fruit in the freezer - pop a few berries into a container of plain yogurt, store in the fridge, and enjoy the next day)
  • egg salad sandwich (hardboil the eggs and store them in your fridge for up to a week) with peanut butter celery sticks (spread the peanut butter in the hollow of the celery stick - you can also use a soft cheese)
  • and let's not forget leftovers - hooray for leftovers!
I hope that this list eases the pain of lunch for you, as it has done for me. I'd love to hear your ideas too!

Let's do lunch!


  1. Hi Sue! One of our favourite fall-back lunch (or even supper) options is what we call a "snack plate"...I grab one of those plates with lots of sections and run around filling them with whatever I have in the fridge (making sure to include some favourites) like: cheese, crackers, pickles, raisins, nuts, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, fruit, ricecakes...even cereal! They love it and I figure the variety will ensure that at least some nutrition makes it in there. Another current favourite is lipton chicken noodle soup with cubes of cheese thrown in and crackers or bread on the side. Enjoy!

  2. Great ideas, Lisa. We've done the snack plate thing here too, often on a lazy Saturday combined with TV trays and a DVD! The soup/cheese combo sounds great, and I bet Jack would love it. Added to my list!

  3. Ah Sue, where was this list six months ago? I'll surely print it out and put it right next to the "dinner idea" list on the inside of my cupboard door!

    We do fried rice quite a bit for lunch using leftover or 'fresh' rice, scrambled egg, green peas and a few dashes of light soy sauce. Works in a pinch and hits three food groups.

  4. Becky, thanks for the fried rice tip. No more throwing out leftover rice!

  5. I am with you 100% here! The thing about lunch is it is just so daily!

  6. Could it be that we are raising the same child? Because I detest lunch, and if given the option, my son would choose PB and J or maracroni and cheese EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

  7. Laura, maybe we ARE raising the same child! You'd think that would make mealtime prep easier... sharing a child, and all.

  8. Ummm... NO! You're definitely not the only one! And all kids must be born with the exact same taste buds, because that's exactly what my kids always want + the ever so "healthy" Grilled Cheese suggestion! Blessed with less than stellar eaters, I pretty much detest any meal of the day. I gotta say though... if your kids will gobble up foods such as pepperoni, olives, & sweet peppers; you must be doing something right!

    Thanks so much for linking up with us for Ghosts of Blogging Past! :)

  9. This post made me cringe only because you said "lunch" so many times. I despise lunch time. I feel like I just get some kind of rhythm to my day and WHAM lunch time. I am going to have to try some of your ideas, hopefully it helps some.

  10. The worst part about having kids? Feeding them. I HATE it! Make breakfast, clean up breakfast, make lunch, clean up lunch, make dinner, clean up dinner... all of which they likely didn't even eat. BAH!! Some good ideas though. I've given up on variety. I make sure to rotate in a Panera and lunch with a grandparent as often as possible.

  11. I stress about mealtimes too lately. My kid is getting pickier and pickier. His meals don't even make sense to me anymore, but if he'll eat some cheese and bread, I consider it a success.

  12. Mommy2¢, since I wrote this post the little guy has gotten even pickier... if it's possible to imagine. Sigh. Love the linkup idea!

    Motherhood Truth mommy, I hear you and I apologize for even bringing the topic up. But first, we need to admit there is a problem... then we can ignore it! ;)

    Jamie, variety is overrated where kids are concerned. But the lack of variety - having to do this same task again and again - is what drives me nutty!

    Julie, mine is getting pickier too. Frustrating!

  13. I hate cleaning peanut butter off the cat. :) Love the fruit and cream cheese on a bagel idea. I might try that with my husband (who also loves pb and J and mac and cheese...and chicken nuggets. yikes)