Stick This in your Sanctimonious Lunch Box

I have a bone to pick with the people at Scholastic Books – they recently tricked me into ordering one of the most irritating books of all time.

The Lunch BoxIt’s pages are filled with perfectly styled, perky images of food that has clearly never been in sniffing distance of a battered old lunch box.  But I’ll save my ranty-pants exposé for another time, and another post.

Right now, I’ll just want to get on my school lunch soapbox for a bit, and explain why the whole process is such a momentous brain drain (and why I’ve never had the inclination to tie up a pita wrap in coloured paper and string).

You might imagine that after five years of nutrition training, I’d be able to come up with some pretty awesome school lunch ideas without the help of a book.  But being a dietitian hasn’t equipped me with any superpowers in creative lunch box planning, or the patience of a saint.

There are three main issues I have with the whole Lunch Conundrum:

1.  There are just far too many variables involved, and too many points at which the whole process can fall down.

As is clear from the flow chart I’ve created (see Figure 1), the execution of a successful school lunch is dependent on a number of consecutive variables all being met.  These encompass the pre-planning stage, the actual assembly and transit, and the oft-neglected stages of disassembly, sanitizing, and debriefing.

The middle spheres shown in Figure 1 (below) depict the integral role of various containers and temperature regulating devices in the school lunch box.  This paraphernalia must first be procured, and then clearly labelled and stored (in the perpetually chaotic ‘Tuppaware cupboard’).  And as losses are inevitable, stock-take and replenishment must occur on an ongoing basis.

The orange markers draw your attention to some of the danger points in the school lunch cycle, and key stumbling blocks where the whole process can come undone.

School Lunch - Stages of Readiness

2.  Most children I know are as fickle as all f*&%.

I’m sorry for swearing, but the school lunch process brings out the potty mouth in the best of us.

This week they love orange segments, next week they’ll make the ‘why don’t you just make me eat vomit?’ face if you suggest orange.  They beg you to buy salami because their best friend is allowed to have it every day, but within a few days it’s old news, and coming home all greasy and gross in the bottom of the lunch box (or worse still, just loose in the school bag).  Now what are you supposed to do with the large salami stockpile, which you bought in bulk because it was on special?

This is the reason that Stage 4 – the debriefing (see Figure 1) – is such a key point in the cycle.  If you unwittingly skip this step, there’s a high likelihood of ending up with a kitchen stand-off and a rejected lunch box the next morning.

3.  School lunches will never end.

The fact is, that only a number of hours after you’ve engineered and assembled the lunch(es), you need to be locating and washing the containers, and planning for the next day.  This is where I frequently come undone.  I generally feel so relieved that one set of lunches is done and dusted, that I neglect the fact that it all needs to happen again the very next day.  It’s quite frankly exhausting – and one of the reasons that weekends and school holidays are such things of joy.

And I just calculated that I’ve got another 12 years of this ahead of me.

I’ll leave you with this meme I created.  With any luck it will go viral and I’ll be commissioned to write my own smug 101 fast fun and fabulous school lunches book by this time next week 🙂

Death and taxes (and school lunches)

Meme by Marnie (a meme and a flow chart in the one post – how’s that for value?!)



9 thoughts on “Stick This in your Sanctimonious Lunch Box

  1. He he.
    I remember it all too well. I thought all my Christmases had come at once when I sent my kids off the alternative/hippy/expensive school where lunches are provided. But now my son comes home having eaten either nothing at all or five bowls of sultana bran. Sigh.

  2. And I say please, bring on the ‘ranty-pants expose’, because the star shaped sandwich alone makes me want to scream… Don’t get me started on the wrapping of food products in two different types of coloured (and textured) paper and cutesy string. Bastards.
    My husband had to say to me (when I was having a spaz attack about not having anything ‘exotic/covering all aspects of the food pyramid/organic/healthy choice/everyday with a hint of sometimes food’ enough to put in a sandwich one morning) – “there isn’t anything wrong with a vegemite sandwich you know”. Hamish has been very happily alternating between that and salami(!) for the last two weeks (along with the abundance of chopped veggies/fruit and a ‘surprise’ that makes me feel like I’m doing the right thing if subject to a random assessment). Shudder. If Eloise is now 3… I guess I’ve got 15 years to go…

    • Sal – bring back the Vegemite sandwich! That’s what I’m talking about. I mean – twine and two types of coloured paper!!!? I’m glad you’re on board and feeling my pain …

  3. I came across this in May 2016 – many years after I had to sort out lunch boxes. I have to be honest and say that I taught mine to makes sandwiches at a very young age and left them to it. I am a bad mother. I hated the whole process. And then I discovered that one daughter was swapping her yoghurt with a friend who had a very serious medical condition (PKU) and wasn’t allowed yoghurt – my daughter was having her friend’s prescription only special biscuits.

    • Omg! Swapping yoghurt for prescription biscuits! I don’t think PKU is funny at all it’s obviously a serious metabolic condition. And yet that made me laugh! See you can’t win either way. The little devils..

      • Apparently they had been doing it for ages, and it was only when we were shopping and I suggested a particular flavour to yoghurt and my daughter started to say her friend didnt like that flavour that it came to light. To be fair they were only 8 or 9, but they both got very told off. Fortunately her friends mum kept well to the dietary restrictions, and no harm was done. And I made sure the dinner ladies made sure they didnt start doing it again. To some extent this is one of those occasions when “healthy food” isn’t healthy for everyone. I am celiac and have exocrine pancreatic insufficiency and if anyone else tells me that I should try Spelt Bread, or suggest I take such and such a supplement with every meal I will be fine. And someone once suggested that if I stopped taking the enzyme replacement medication the insufficiency would go away!

        How do I subscribe to this blog, I went through quite a few back ones yesterday and really did laugh, I love it.

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