Lisa Thornbury: Party Mummy


The Busy Mom's School Lunch Challenge

Making lunch out of nothing at all

I'm not much of a gambler, but I admit to playing Lazy Susan Roulette now and then. In this game of chance you spin your Lazy Susan in the hope of finding something (anything!) to fill your kids' lunch boxes. You win if your spin reveals a jar of apple sauce or a hidden can of tuna. You lose if you end up with a jar of maraschino cherries, which when paired with an over-ripe banana does not pass for a "fun tropical fruit salad." Also, water chestnuts are not a reasonable substitution for apple slices, or so I've been told.

We've all been there. At some point Zumba class, followed by lunch with the girls and a few errands delays grocery shopping by a day or five. Then the next thing you know, you're madly playing Iron Chef trying to pull together a healthy, well-rounded lunch from the rather eclectic "mystery ingredients" in your pantry.

Cereal frequently guest stars in the role of "sandwich" in my kids' lunches when we're out of bread or when someone neglects to close the tortilla bag, causing one end of the tortilla to become hard and thus unfit for wraps. Once, due to a complete carb shortage, I really turned up the heat in the Iron Chef kitchen and made egg salad sandwiches with...lettuce leaves in place of bread! Thank you Pinterest.

And can you guess what came home untouched and uneaten? Egg salad sandwiches made with lettuce leaves in place of bread. Curse you Pinterest.

Another valiant attempt that fell short was cranberry sauce sandwiches. We were out of jam and I figured the kids wouldn't know the difference.

At least I didn't send this "snack" to school...

A baggie of croutons does not a savoury snack make. But boy did it make me laugh! The croutons were not my doing, nor was the half-eaten bag of potato chips fastened shut with a clip. And not one of those kitchen clips. I'm talkin' hair clip.

I will own up to sending hard-boiled eggs to school—out of sheer desperation—even though my son has begged me not to. It's not that he doesn't like eggs. In fact, he loves them. It's that they, in the words of a nine year old, "Make the classroom smell like a fart." Sorry kid. Blame it on the class pet?

As a former elementary school teacher, I've seen plenty of LOL worthy lunches, which sometimes provide insight into what may be going on at home. For example, the child who comes to school with fortune cookies in place of Oreo cookies most likely ordered in Chinese the night before. The kid with the butter sandwich? Mom is probably on a deadline and hasn't had a chance to hit the supermarket. And the student who brings a pâté and cracker sandwich with a side of pickles and olives? His mom probably hosted a party on the weekend. Oh wait, that one was me. In my defense, kids love cocktail wieners—plus I totally removed the pointy sticks.

Luckily I'm getting clever in my old age and now have an arsenal of essential anti-lunch-lull supplies on hand at all times. Rations include: muffin mix, crackers, Mr. Christie’s Fruit Krisps cookies, pudding cups, fruit cocktail packed in juice not syrup, frozen yogurt tubes and applesauce. So now when I play Lazy Susan Roulette, I always come up a winner.

Check out How to Beat the Lunchbox Lull  for more stories by moms confessing their amusing, and sometimes embarrassing, lunchbox moments. Plus you’ll find some fresh ideas for fun lunches and tips to get your kids to eat their lunch.