The School Lunch

The School Lunch
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School lunches are much different than when I was in school during the 1970's.  I remember working in the cafeteria one year and helping to bake homemade biscuits for hot turkey, and I always made sure I ate hot lunch that day because it was delicious. 

Many schools now serve chicken nuggets, pizza and pre-made foods. Once kids enter high school, and sometimes earlier than that, they may be offered salad bars with vegetables and fresh fruit but junk food is also available.

I've found that while school milk is still a good deal, the sports drinks, soda or bottled lemonade offered aren't. These will run $1.50 or more per bottle, added on to the price of lunch. Multiply this by five times a week, and it takes a chunk out of the monthly budget.

I sit down with my kids and go over the menu for the month. We decide what days they want to eat lunch. I also buy refillable water bottles they can take with them to school. Talking to teens and preteens about how junk food raises the possibility of more acne and extra dental visits stays with them longer than talking to them about saving money. We talk about alternatives to junk food such as salad and fruit. If they don't like salad, baby carrots and cucumbers are a good alternative with whatever else is being served, and usually one or both are on the salad bar.

Bringing lunch to school from home is much easier now, compared to those years when brown bagging it was the only option. Insulated lunch bags and small ice packs keep just about anything cold until lunch. I liked these tips from Foods and Home Making, written by Carlotta C. Greer and published in 1933. The author gave some really good ideas for my own lunch, as well as school lunches.

A box lunch becomes uninteresting when it contains:

1. dry foods only
2. cold foods only
3. the same foods every day

A box lunch needs at least one "juicy food". One of the reasons why fruits are such a desirable lunch box food is that they are juicy. It is fine to have hot food, such as soup or cocoa, in the lunch box. This is possible when one has a vacuum bottle.

By changing the sandwiches daily and the dessert often, you can keep the box lunch from becoming monotonous.

She goes on to suggest changing the type of bread used for sandwiches plus the fillings. The author has great variations.

1. Cold Meat: ham, beef, meatloaf, chicken

2. Bacon: browned and placed on bread.

3. Cheese: cottage, cream or hard cheese that are sliced or grated and added to the sandwich.

4. Eggs: hard cooked, sliced or chopped and mixed with salad dressing and nuts, if desired. A recipe is shared for egg salad that was very different from the plain method I usually use:

1 hard cooked egg
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. mustard
few grains cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. melted butter
1/4 tsp. vinegar or lemon juice

5. Peanut butter as a spread mixed with raisins, dates or other fruit.

6. Lettuce: tear the leaves in pieces. Cover each buttered slice of bread with lettuce. Spread salad dressing on one lettuce covered slice.

7. Fresh tomato: Slice and place on buttered bread. Spread with salad dressing or season with salt and pepper plus a few drops of lemon juice. Place lettuce leaves between the tomato and bread to prevent the moisture from soaking into the bread.

The last thing she suggests is bananas, raisins, dates or nuts combined in various ways and moistened with lemon juice before putting on the bread. This would be really good with raisin cinnamon bread.

Some children simply don't like traditional sandwiches. Instead of engaging in a battle of wills, try different ingredients and leave out the bread. Tuna salad, egg salad, peanut butter, or can all be spread on crackers. Pretzels, baby carrots/carrot sticks or celery can be used to scoop up any filling that is spreadable. One of my children loves to eat tuna salad in a small bowl with a spoon. Deli meat and cheese can also be put on crackers of any type. If it works and it’s still healthy then it’s a good thing.

Fruit is one of the best desserts for school lunches, but homemade quick breads, cookies or bars made with oatmeal, peanut butter, nuts, and other nutritious ingredients are also good alternatives to junk food.

Getting your child involved in his or her school lunches is the best way to make sure they eat a good, healthy lunch during their school years. Be as flexible as possible, without giving into their cravings for chips and sweets, making those items an occasional treat.

You may also enjoy:

After School Snacks
Back To School Clothes Made Easy
Cookie Jar Cookies


About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at


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