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Challenge: Lunchbox Hero

The Power of a Cold Lunch

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Every morning throughout the school year, for 180 days, we pack a lunch box. Actually I take it back, we pack FOUR lunch boxes! We (me and my husband) have the McClelland-boy-lunch-box-packing-routine down to a science, we completely divide and conquer!

My husband takes care of the “big ticket” item, that’s what he calls it. It’s the main dish of the lunch box.

I take care of all the “side dishes!” I always laugh when we’re packing the lunches together because each of us thinks the other has it the easiest!

For us, there’s one common goal – pack a lunch they will eat.

I know that sounds like a silly goal, but it’s the truth. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to retrieve a lunch box when the boys get home from school, only to find many items not even touched. We want their lunches to be yummy and exciting for them, not stale and boring. I’ll never forget my oldest son telling us, “You just pack the same thing every single day for me, it’s not fun.”

And I got it. I wouldn’t want to eat the same thing for lunch every single day. It would get stale to me. It would get boring to me. Lunchtime is a fun time to be with friends and converse and fuel up for the afternoon. It’s a time I want them to be ready and geared up for…not dreading.

So…I came up with an easy strategy ½ way through the school year last year. I created a “cold lunch menu.” There’s a hot lunch menu that my sons drool over and always beg to take advantage of, so I thought – let me just do THAT for cold lunch! Every Sunday I hang on the bulletin board a little piece of paper giving the boys ideas for “cold lunch” for the week.


I replaced a PB&J (which I would pack every single day) with… items that I can store in containers to keep foods warm like soups, pastas, stews and meatballs.

I replaced just chips in a bag with…salsa and chips paired together.

I replaced money for milk at school with…fun Thermoses that we can put the milk in ourselves at home (Henry loves his Transformers Thermos!).

I replaced just an orange or an apple with…the fruit already peeled, sliced and cut into fun shapes.

I replaced yogurt with…fun yogurt tubes that come in a variety of different flavors!

My kids ALL responded amazingly! Lunch wasn’t just this boring thing that happened every single day at school around 11:45AM; it became an exciting time to open their lunch box.

Also an extra treat – we started adding little notes inside each lunch box, too. A little quote or a funny little story or just an “I love you.” It’s pretty incredible how being a little extra creative and NOT adding any more time into the morning can change a child’s outlook on lunch.

Let me tell you, too – we bang through lunches in the morning and we prep the weekends before, so we have it down pat! And the best part, we have been using all dinner leftovers for those “hot lunch” containers, so we’re not wasting any food.

So… back to school time, bring it on! We’re ready for you!

Audrey McClelland is a contributor for JOHNSON’S®, the sponsor of this community, and compensated for travel and attendance at events. Every idea and word written is her own.

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