Back to basics: The Lunch Lady

 Posted by on April 13, 2010  Add comments
Apr 132010

“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?” ~ Winnie the Pooh

It’s a weekday and my brain stretches through grammar. Next, I cheer on handwriting. All the while, the ongoing, precious pounding of the piano. The youngest plays the Bee Bop Band accompaniment. Later, we clear the hurdle of fractions while the little ones have room time. Late morning, I try not to trip over discarded flip flops as I tote an armload of laundry to dump in the family room chair. I spy the puzzle pieces on the floor, again.

I admit it. Of all the meals of the day – lunch tends to be a scramble. And here’s why. It’s not until someone tugs on my sleeve, asking, “Can I have a cheese stick?” that I realize. My! Is it noon already? What’s a mom to do? How can I avoid becoming the lunch lady, again?

A short, easy solution. Simple for a mother’s brain stretched from a school morning.

What about a nibble tray? These handy bite sizes are a success story equal to a homemade Lunchable. Only healthier. The best part? My children argue over who gets to fix lunch. Because when you fix, you get to choose what is served. The only requirement is you must cover at least three food groups.

  • Dairy – Yogurt/Gogurt (can be used for dipping), cottage cheese, cheese blocks
  • Fruit – grapes, banana slices, apple, canned peaches
  • Protein – Sunbutter, sandwich meat, chopped cooked chicken, hot dog slices
  • Bread – crackers will do but you can have homemade wheat bread or store-bought on hand. A pinch of fruit and grain bar works. We’ve also been known to finish off the  bottom of the box of favorite cereal.
  • Veggies with dip or dressing
  • Usually potato chips thrown in there.

Presentation. I once saw in a magazine, small portions served in mini muffin trays (as shown in photo above). These are perfect for toddlers and big kids alike. You can even sneak in a bit of green vegetable. Dipping sauce just may encourage your child to try something new.

The Benefits. Use up fridge leftovers. The oven need not be turned on. Usually don’t even have to use the microwave. Children are doing the fixing. Yes, children make a mess. But it’s already a mess from the school morning 🙂

Bonus Hodgepodge tips: (1) Avoid being the predawn lunch lady. Fix your husband’s lunch while cleaning up the supper dishes the night before. It’s already a mess then. (2) Enjoy a weekday vacation by making a big pile of lunch yumminess over the weekend. Some Saturdays I whip up enough pimento cheese for the week. In the summer, cucumber salad. In cooler months, potato soup.

Certainly, other days we are having grilled cheese, leftovers, a bagel with cheese and fruit.

Further Resources for inspiration:

Make it fun. Learn the food pyramid! Click over to HomeschoolingHomeschool Share (scroll down toward bottom for recommendations for a child’s diet as well as a discussion of an athlete’s dietary needs) or

Print out Let’s Play Restaurant and pretend every now and then.

Menus for Moms Lunch ideas

Sprittibee’s Homeschool Lunch

Betty Crocker’s Cookbook for Boys and Girls

a major overhaul from the 2008 Hodgepodge archives

-Tricia homeschools five children from preschool to middle school. She’s forsaken life in the drive thru lane for the road home. She’s saving bucks and her sanity with the frugal recipes and sock it away strategies of her Southern roots. You can find her facing that daily dose of chaos at Hodgepodge. Tricia is a.k.a. Hodgepodgemom.

I hope there is some inspiration for you here. Now it’s your turn! Please share your best avoidance tactic for becoming the week-day lunch lady. A recipe maybe?

  14 Responses to “Back to basics: The Lunch Lady”

  1. Ah, you have discovered my secret. Sometimes we have nibble trays fro breakfast too. Some of our favorite things to nibble: olives, macaroons, bell peppers, sugar snap peas, boiled eggs, toast squares, pickles, chick peas. For dips we like: balsamic vinegar, honey mustard, yogurt cheese, and vinegar.

  2. I love the nibble trays! We have our own version called a snack plate, but we’ve not used the muffin tin – a fun idea we will try.

    A favorite easy lunch is mini-pizzas. We have two versions we choose from depending on what we have. 1)Ritz crackers, mini can of tomato sauce or leftover pizza sauce, a sprinkle of whatever cheese we have on hand – microwave a plate full for about 20 seconds.

    2) Biscuit version – peel apart flaky biscuits before baking, (about 3 per biscuit), spoon sauce on, sprinkle cheese, bake according to can. Yum!

  3. My metal muffin tray is too rusty BUT I do have a rubber one and pampered chef one. How fun to think that our job description includes lunch lady! I always loved mine in elementary school. They were always so sweet and kind….oops….I need to focus on being sweet and kind during lunch! My oldest dreads lunch because I am a mom that serves sandwhiches every day pretty much. If I have leftovers, they are an option. He is my warm foods guy. My youngest is the EASIEST to please. Sadly, I hate to serve warm lunches because I want to save that for dinner! I need to remember those kind lunch ladies served up warm lunches too (and a cookie!).

    • Thank you Jenny. I also have warm memories of lunch ladies 🙂 I, of course, meant only kindness towards them… thank you for painting that sweet picture. Sometimes we have a surprise muffin cup with a cookie or a bite of chocolate. Yeah!

  4. Boy I got behind reading and I missed some really good ones. Trying to catch up and I am glad I did. This is a greatone!

  5. Skipping over from the Homeschool Showcase…

    Yes, sometimes I neglect my lunch-lady duties too. But we use our muffin tins a LOT – both as impromptu nibble trays, and with fancy, themed meals too. (See Muffin Tin Mom for inspiration!) My kids love when we do all foods of one color – they’ll try things they might otherwise refuse. 🙂

  6. very cute! The cookbook is downloadble for free on google books 🙂

  7. That looks fun and well balanced!

  8. I love the nibble tray! Thank you for the idea. I think my girls would go for that. We’re all a little burned out right now. Sandwiches and cold cuts only take you so far!


  9. LOVE the nibble tray!! Giggling @ the lunch lady … I kind of forgot that that was my job too. 😉

  10. I love this idea and have been looking for cheap muffin trays (6 sections)to do this with my kids. I can’t seem to find any on sale. Boo.
    I have used the Ziplock rectangle compartmentalized containers a few times, and it works well.
    Thanks so much for more ideas when it comes to this!

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