Buy school lunch or send it? How do you keep it healthy and interesting?

In related news, we are going to try send lunches to school this year for a couple of reasons.

No. 1– My little guy kept buying two lunches a day to fill up instead of just one for a grand total of $4 a day! I can provide a heck of a lot of food that he likes and is good for him for less than $4 a day.

(Also I just found out they raised the price of lunches this year!)

No. 2 — I just think the lunches at our new school are NOT as nutritionally sound or as lovingly made as our lunches were in Gwinnett County.

Those ladies in Gwinnett made lasagna from scratch and it was good! I could smell it when I walked in the school and I was like “I’ll be staying for lunch today!”

The set up of the new lunchroom isn’t as conducive to children choosing fruits and vegetables with their main entrée. In Gwinnett the kids went down a line filling their tray and everything was together. Here the fruits and veggies are off to the side so you can pick up the main entrée and never go over there.

I have a two-fold plan to help keep lunch healthy and interesting. First off I have set aside a shelf in the fridge and a shelf in the cabinet for acceptable lunch foods for them to pick for their lunch boxes. I think if they are helping to pack then they will be more likely to eat it.

My second idea is to mix it up – sometimes hot food, sometimes cold, sometimes leftovers. I just want to give them lots of options and variety.  To help do this I would love to know what you guys are sending in for lunch!

So here are some of my ideas for lunches so far:

My little guy wants a hot lunch so I am thinking I can make some healthy “fried” rice in big batches. Freeze the large containers and then pull one out a week.

Rose will eat a healthy pasta salad with veggies but Walsh won’t. I could give him just the plain pasta.

Rose likes tomato soup but I’m not sure Walsh will eat it.

Stuff they will both eat:


Ham and cheese pinwheels

Coldcuts and cheese with crackers


Fruits and veggies — grape tomatoes, cucumbers, mini carrots, apples, blueberries strawberries, melon balls, clementines

Lay’s baked chips

That article from last week about how bad take home food is thought families should make enough for dinner to send in leftovers for their lunches, which is probably more economical, healthy and time saving.

I may work on planning my dinner menus with an eye to what I can serve the next day for lunches at school.

Are you sending lunches this year? Do you think the lunches are healthy at your school? Do you think they are well made? Would you let your child buy two?

38 comments Add your comment


August 9th, 2011
1:30 am

I never sent lunch – not once in 15 years. The kids’ school included lunch with tuition, and firmly discouraged bringing lunch unless there was a nutritional, medical or religious necessity. And, honestly, the lunches the school had were wonderful — a choice of two hot dishes (NOT pizza or fast food), a soup bar, a salad bar, a sandwich bar, and a small ice cream chest. NO fruit punch — milk and lemonade. The school chefs were terrific, and really tried hard to raise awareness of the benefits of organic and locally-grown fare. Yeah, there were occasionally some “misses”, but hey, I have those myself at home, sometimes! Even on field trips, the school would send box lunches for the students and we didn’t have to. Did the kids get tired of it? Sure they did. Oh, well. They LOVED having senior privileges and being able to go off-campus for lunch, but quickly realized that off-campus lunch was EXPENSIVE! I only funded the first “away” lunch as a treat — after that, they were on their own. Funny how Wendy’s, Chick-Fil-A and the local pizza place didn’t seem so alluring when it came out of their hard-earned money!


August 9th, 2011
3:54 am

I rarely ever sent lunch. I have mentioned this before, the Gwinnett County Schools lunches look better, when you have seen what other schools served…across the country. ‘Nuf said. We survived on much worse fare.


August 9th, 2011
3:55 am

ooops…sorry for the poor sentence structure above.


August 9th, 2011
8:53 am

I’m glad lunch is included in the cost of tuition; one less thing to worry about. They have two hot entrees, a starch and two veggies on the hot bar line, a sandwhich/panini line, soup and salad; plus drinks and dessert.

The question I have is about sending in leftovers or things that have to be heated; do schools have microwaves for lunches brought from home these days? We never had access to a microwave growing up so you pretty much had to ‘brown bag it’ (i.e. sandwich). My husband takes leftovers to work but I can’t imagine sending that stuff with a kid who had to eat it cold. I used to take my lunch off and on throughout school; mostly it depended on whether my mom had gone grocery shopping for lunches and what was on the menu at school. It got a little easier in high school since we had a salad bar but our choices were nothing like my son’s choices.


August 9th, 2011
10:59 am

We do half and half. I let my kids pick three lunches a week that they want to buy, and then I pack the other two. With lunch prices going up this year, that’s still $12 a week for the two of them. Of course, my older one has figured out that he can buy lunch more often if he “forgets” his lunch box in the classroom when they go to lunch.


August 9th, 2011
1:26 pm

My girls bring lunch from home. The youngest (4th grade) is allowed to eat at school once per week. While the school may offer healthy items, most kids will not eat them. Drop in on lunch time. Take a quick look at what the class is eating in general. My oldest (middle school) states the lunches are awful and refuses to eat anything there. She sees what her friends eat and prefers what she can find at home. As for the restaurant menu of choices – that does not work around here. I keep cheese, deli meat, hard boiled eggs, cereal, pbj and assorted leftovers along with fruit and cut up veggies. They find enough to eat to get them through the day.


August 9th, 2011
3:00 pm

I plan to pack lunches this year with the option of school lunch 1 day a week or so.

There are plenty of gadgets on the market to help keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.


August 9th, 2011
3:34 pm

Pay? Pack a lunch?? Let the government pay for it like they do everything else. You must be the same parents who buy “school supplies”


August 9th, 2011
3:44 pm

@ Tim… the government does not pay for everything. I do believe that some social services are neeeded but maybe not all of them.


August 9th, 2011
3:55 pm

Tim- You are so correct. Both my kids graduated from Henry County schools and were ridiculed the entire time there because they had the money each day to pay for their lunches. Ridiculed by kids w/ Air Nikes, nice cell phones and parents that drove Hummers and Lexus vehicles. This is the crap that needs to end immediately. Liberals will say that I want kids to starve but that is not the case since most families can afford these lunches w/o any problem. The entitlement mentality begins in schools and flourishes in Henry County.


August 9th, 2011
4:01 pm

we do half and half. i keep sandwich stuff, and if i make spaghetti or chilli i make extra. my son in highschool can take it to school and microwave it. and 2 or 3 days a week, they eat at school.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

August 9th, 2011
4:59 pm

tracey that’s nice they have the microwave at the high school level. The elementary kids would be blowing stuff up!


August 9th, 2011
5:36 pm

@ Smokewagon, I hope HB is reading. I have been trying to enlighten her for years about those who abuse free lunch and she continues to say it is not so. Others here have shared their version and I thank you for sharing yours. It really riles me up when we are thrifty and pay taxes so others eat free and can have what we would never would purchase for ourselves!


August 9th, 2011
10:56 pm

Ok…based on the comments I see the following…

1. The application for the program needs to be tighter and tied to verifiable need.

2. If you are poor and in need of help, conservatives want you to look and dress poor?

I this economy, I don’t judge so quickly. Some people has fallen on hard times but had vehicles that were paid off. Now, it is cheapter to keep the hummer and pay the gas vs. getting a new car + gas + new insurance.


August 10th, 2011
8:52 am

@lwa…I have never made a payment on a Hummer nor a Lexus so I cannot know if it is “cheaper to keep the hummer and pay the gas vs. getting a new car + gas + new insurance” I guess if you own one tire and are paying the entire thing off for 10 years or more, you would not have enough equity for a bicycle and you hang on for dear life? That indicate some financial misgivings too.
Perhaps others will know this. I AM curious. I do understand those who have hit a rough spot and would not give trade their clothes for rags. Shoes do tend to wear out and when kids continue to get new shoes ( every year) that are $100 plus, this is telling. Is it not? We do not wear those kinds of shoes here.


August 10th, 2011
9:56 am

I have NEVER said there is no abuse of the system, MJG, and you know it, so please stop lying. I have asked you how you knew the people you said were driving fancy cars at your kids high school were receiving free lunch and you explained you just assumed it based the percentage of expensive cars in the lot compared with the percentage of kids on free lunch, but you failed to account for kids who rode the bus (duh). I’m with lwa — by all means step up income checks for free lunch, but don’t assume that at a glance you know everything an individual’s situation.


August 10th, 2011
10:36 am

HB…I do not intend to lie to or about you. I have no reason to do so. I feel that you are not aware of the simple magnitude of this problem. I do not have facts. I have stories, from teachers across the country, who are angry that students eat free lunch and yet can bring in $1 for ice cream
( quite often) but never have a pencil or crayon from home.

If people are TRULY hard on their luck. we absolutely need to help them. I have seen a lot and my intuition has more often than not been correct. I have also been known to be wrong and this is why I speak with people everywhere to learn more information. SO MANY tell me they are fed up with paying for those who have never paid for themselves. A dry spell is a different story for sure.

Even our own government does not seem to understand that when you spend more than you have, you are in trouble! It is a BIGGER problem than many realize!

I am all about charity but not for those who have never helped themselves nor intend to ever do so.
I am not the only one who sees it. Kids who laugh at other kids that actually bring lunch $ to school
( per smokewagon) are perhaps not the kinds of kids who will be making a lasting contribution to our economy…again this is my intuition and I do not KNOW the entire situation.

BTW…there are fancy cars at my kids HS but this is not the school I referred to, when I made the comment a few years ago. . Re: Free and Reduced… Our HS has 30% and the Elementary School I mentioned has 64%. So, yes, those driving Hummers COULD be in the 36% who are paying the full price for lunch…you are certainly correct on that!


August 10th, 2011
10:40 am

@HB, ws that article supposed to do anything other than make me wonder who reads the NY Times and takes it seriously? Being poor isn’t illegal; peeing in the streets, walking through traffic, and harrassing people is (for the record I don’t agree with bans on begging).

The article makes it read as if the people laying in their own filth on the streets of NYC were recently laid off construction workers. It’s propesterous.

As for free lunch, here is some food for thought.


August 10th, 2011
11:24 am

You do intend to lie, oversimplify, and misrepresent what I’ve said, so just STOP. Where do you get off coming on here and telling people what I think despite your best efforts to “enlighten” me with your wisdom? Yet when presented with arguments you can’t counter with actual info, your responses have been 1) your stupid sidewalk analogy, 2) your client satisfaction stats, and 3) I’m not a mom so I shouldn’t be here to begin with (you spent months on that one even complaining about a non-mom posting here on the Get Schooled blog).

I have no doubt there is abuse of the system by some. I also have no doubt that there are some people with higher incomes who write off portions of their homes and equipment purchases as work expenses while using much of that space and equipment for personal and family activities. You speak with a lot of people who feel the same way you and gather anecdotal evidence but choose to ignore stats I’ve posted here numerous times showing that most poor people do indeed work and that fraud in the welfare system is fairly rare. Free lunch programs apparently are not checked closely, and I agree that leads to more fraud, but my understanding is the lack of verification is often due to the belief that enough fraud won’t be caught to pay for the verification process. It comes down to practicality (spend less overall) vs. principle (pay more, but decrease fraud). It’s not a simple decision to make.


August 10th, 2011
11:40 am

Jarvis, I disagree that the article makes it sound like people living on the streets just recently lost their jobs. It sounds to me like many hit bottom years ago and can’t get their lives going again. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to have no place to sleep nor a bathroom to use (and then face arrest when you sleep or pee illegally). Can you imagine trying to convince someone to hire you when living like that? Many people seem to think poor people are poor simply out of laziness, but I thought this article provided a closer look of what obstacles they face.


August 10th, 2011
12:27 pm

You can try chickpeas (or any other bean) with brown rice, a fruit, and a veggie. :)


August 10th, 2011
12:33 pm

just bounced back over here b/c mjg said too. I missed this whole thread. Sure you can never tell what someone’s financial situation is by how they dress etc…but….I can assure you that the majority of kids getting free lunch would not starve if their parents had to pay. This is just another way that our liberal society coddles people. Seriously, when did it become okay to not be able to feed your children…don’t worry, we’ll do it for you. I visit homes of low income people all the time. The majority have decent furniture and almost all have a very big, flat screen TV. Almost all of them smoke and/or drink. It costs about 50 cents a day to send your kid to school with a p-nut butter and jelly sandwich and chips. ANYBODY can and would do this if they had to. But they don’t have to. So why should they? I got in the biggest pissing contest with a woman recently because she absolutely refused to pay 9 dollars to get an apparatas for her daughter’s asthma medication. 9 dollars! Her ER visit was free and the doctor gave her some sample medication. All she needed to do was pay 9 dollars for the contraption to put the medicine in. She kept saying she just couldn’t afford it. Call me mean but if you can’t come up with 9 dollars to keep your child alive, you don’t need to have a child. (btw..she smoked, which was contributing to the child’s asthma). She finally payed the money because I told her she was being neglectful and needed to figure it out. We shouldn’t pay for school lunches at all. If people qualify for food stamps, they get plenty to send their kid to school with lunch. If they don’t qualify for foodstamps than they shouldn’t qualify for free lunch. It’s that simple. Isn’t it funny that these kids don’t starve over the summer???


August 10th, 2011
12:48 pm

AND Homeschooler – don’t forget all those back packs that go home loaded up with food for the weekend……..

I have been a single parent since day one. I have NEVER EVER EVER asked for or received any special funding, WIC, medicare, food stamps, etc. I took care of my daughter, financially, mentally, nutriousishly (if that’s even a word)..etc. I have paid my own way in this world all of my adult life. I get up every day, go to work and take care of mine. And trust me, it aint easy, but I do it. That’s how I was raised!!!!


August 10th, 2011
12:54 pm

Good for you, JJ. What people don’t realize is that people get a sense of pride when they care for their lives and their children themselves. Our government is constantly saying, “we know you can’t do this”. Whether it is intentional or not, it truly keeps people down.

(btw… just noticed all the misspellings in my post. (should be “to” and “paid”) Hate when I don’t proof read until after hitting the submit button.


August 10th, 2011
1:13 pm

@homeschooler….great information!

@ HB, you live in a different world than I do and most times we do not agree. This is nothing new. I do not intend to lie about anyone. I am sorry if you feel this way about me.

@JJ…kudos to you. WE may not agree on things but I respect the fact that you seem to be a very hard working person who does not depend on others to provide for you. I have never been a single Mom ( nor been on that sidewalk) so KUDOS to you for hanging in there alone! Any update on your daughter? I have seen several HIRING signs but do not want to annoy you. We ate at Mimi’s MOG on Sunday and our waiter told us he had been there for two weeks. He was great and I even mentioned it to the manager.


August 10th, 2011
1:29 pm

Disagreements are fine, good even. Calling me out and stating I said something I have NEVER said is not. There was really no reason to point me out at all this morning before I had even said anything, especially to say you hoped I was reading because you had tried for years to get through to me and failed to “enlighten” me. It was condescending and obnoxious.


August 10th, 2011
2:08 pm


I got called out last week ( what makes a good school), before I even hopped on the blog and luckily some friends here came to rescue me. It happens on this blog often. For the record, I do not think you have seen the broad abuse of free programs, as some of the rest of us have. At least, that is the impression I get when I read your posts and you continue to defend those who rely on government aid. If I am reading you wrong, then I am reading you wrong. Then I AM wrong. It has happened more than once for sure!


August 10th, 2011
2:42 pm

You were not called out by me before you said anything. You complained, though, when someone else did, yet that didn’t stop you from turning around and doing it to me (and you’ve done it to me before). And yes, I do maintain that most receiving government aid are in great need of it (and have posted stats to back that up). I disagree with your perception of the extent of the abuse, but I have NEVER said it doesn’t happen. I do believe it happens more with free lunch than any other program and have said many times that I have nothing against verifying income. If you are simplistic enough to think that defense of people receiving aid and recognition that research shows extremely low rates of fraud means I think the system is perfect and no one abuses it, then really I don’t even know how to have a conversation with you.

I do think homeschooler makes a valid point that maybe school lunch should fall under food stamps, either by having families buy their own food to send in or setting up a system where food stamp money can be applied to school-prepared lunches rather than having two application processes that have to be verified separately. As for ice cream, I don’t think schools should be selling it, period.


August 10th, 2011
2:58 pm

No, I was not called out by you. I have been called out and defended often on this blog.

Simplistic….yes that is me :) On vacation in May, I met two ladies with newly minted Ph D’s. They were much younger than I am and knew a lot about the topic above.
They were initiating a project on farm to table for food with kids and getting them to eat more produce instead of chips and fruit roll ups. They told me that while my ideas about correcting the misgivings with food stamps and free lunch were good ones, they ( being too simple) would never fly as no elected official would risk political suicide to stand up and make the cuts needed or even educate the voters about all the fraud. So yes, I guess I am simplistic.


August 10th, 2011
3:12 pm

“No, I was not called out by you. I have been called out and defended often on this blog.”

Glad to better understand your rules of the blog. It’s ok to go after me this morning without my even saying anything because someone else did it to you last week. Since they did it to you, I deserve to be treated in kind (it’s gonna take me a while to wrap my head around that). Nevertheless, I’ll refrain from doing the same back to you next week because I don’t think it’s right (apparently you only think it’s wrong when someone does it to you).

Good for those women trying to get fresh food into schools. I’d love to see the government stop contracting with factories to supply junk to schools and support local agriculture and good health instead.


August 10th, 2011
3:30 pm

I have never known or read the rules for this blog. I have e-mailed TWG and she has never indicated that my posts are a problem, whether in content or length. We are pretty much polar opposites in many things. Oh well…


August 10th, 2011
3:48 pm

Just can’t bring yourself to say that you shouldn’t have picked on me before I showed up to dance, huh? Can’t extend the same courtesy to me that you seem to want from others…odd…


August 10th, 2011
4:24 pm

Okay MJG and HB…..ENOUGH ALREADY!!!! MJG… know I love you dearly but quit responding to HB!!! HB…..we get it….you are mad at MJG….LET IT GO ALREADY!!! Both of you go to your rooms!

sorry TWG….I just couldn’t take it anymore : )


August 10th, 2011
8:03 pm

@MJG -I thought of you the other day at my oldest son’s new school. We were at orientation and they were taking us through the packet and all the paperwork. We got to the school lunch form and they asked everyone to fill it out and check “no” if you didn’t want reduced or free lunch, but to fill it out just the same. This woman who was sitting so I could see her form filled it out for three kids to have free lunch. I paid special attention to her because of her Coach bag. It wasn’t a fake. I was close enough to really check it out, and I love Coach leather. Her nails were professionally and freshly done, hair perfect and her clothes very nice -including a pair of True Religion jeans that I priced at $160 at their OUTLET store! It is a VERY abused system. Saw it when I taught and now I see it all the time with a school-aged child. In prek last year, they all received lunch and breakfast, but I saw many free lunches go to kids who were in carpool in Cadillacs and new Yukons.

Sk8ing Momma

August 12th, 2011
2:50 pm

Theresa — Why are you still making your children’s (at least your oldest two) lunches? They are certainly old enough to make them own. Train them to make healthy choices and turn ‘em loose! Remeber: You’re training/raising little people who will one day grow up to be self-sufficient adults ~ we hope!

My children are 9yo and 12yo…They’ve been making their own lunches for YEARS! I can’t remember the last time I made their lunches. In fact, if I need a lunch and I’m running a bit late, I can ask either of them to make MY lunch…Love it! :)

Sk8ing Momma

August 12th, 2011
2:51 pm

Oops! Theresa — Your children are old enough to make “their” own. I hate typos ~ grrr!


August 13th, 2011
5:53 pm

As a teacher I see first hand the abuse of the free lunch system. None of the information is verified so people feel entitled. To MB and MJG, how would you feel if your children acted this way?????

Mr. Ed

August 14th, 2011
8:00 am

I wanted to thank MJG and MB for providing me an amusing distraction today. Usually, to witness this much inconsequential manufactured drama, you’ve got to tune in one of the “Real Housewives” episodes. I look forward to watching the continued feud to play out on the blog ladies. It’s been an entertaining “catfight” thus far.