Last Updated on March 20, 2018

(Morning moms need not apply)

It was always this time of year that I’d hit Sam’s Club with a vengeance to finally be the mom whose school lunches were legend. When my kids were small, there was always some crazy mom up at the crack of dawn carving her kid’s bread into flowers, dinosaurs, and smiley faces.  (This, of course, was accompanied by a note with art to rival Picasso.) By middle-school, I just wasn’t hip enough to have discernment when I was in WalMart to know that “all the kids” were carrying Arctic Zone lunch bags. (I learned the hard way that you DON’T send notes in middle school. Gasp!) Now my girls are in high school and I still can’t compete with “Abbey’s mom’s” vegetable sandwiches complete with freshly shaved carrot relish.

It’s just that I’ve never been the kind of mom who woke at the crack of dawn with a song in my heart and a dinosaur shaped cookie cutter in my hand, eager to craft a lunch that might earn me a Mother-Of-The-Year trophy. On the occasional weekday that I was up before the sun, it was because one of the kids was barfing and the sheets needed to be changed. And when I went to put them in the washer, it was already occupied by towels that I forgot to take out a few days earlier. So, then I’d feel the need to soak the mildew-scented towels, and when I went to the kitchen to do that, I’d notice that the dishwasher needed unloaded. This would distract me from the towels and my sick child, inevitably resulting in a need to bring a bucket to clean up the floor, if ya know what I mean. (Oh for some of those vomit absorbent granules the schools use!) Early-bird for the day? Nope. My healthy child still barely made it to school on time and lunch would be a Lunchable I’d grabbed on the way out the door.

While all of this is a humorous dose of reality, I realized something a few years ago: God has equipped me to do all things through Christ. (Philippians 4:13) And, he wants everything I find to do with my hands to be done with all my might. (Ecclesiastes 9:10) So, that includes the stuff that’s not as natural for me as a mom, like packing lunches. I came to the conclusion that God wants even our kid’s lunches to glorify him.

I saw how simple it could be one day when I was at my best friends house in Nashville. I watched her pack her kid’s lunches at 10 o’clock at night and slip them into the fridge. (Pretty sure that when Kate and Grace are adults, they will find slightly soggy turkey sandwiches to be a favorite comfort food!) The next morning was so peaceful as she whipped those lunches out of the fridge a moment before she plopped her girls into her mini-van. Everyone was happy. There was some glory in the simplicity of their routine.

By the time I’d figured this out, my girls weren’t going to be trained to brown bag it with a turkey sandwich made the night before, so I needed a creative solution. The idea of packing the night before appealed to me. And, I am a great cook! I began to craft evening meals with next day’s lunch in mind. Thank God for Ziploc containers! My fridge is generally full of 4-8 options for my girls to grab as they head out the door and….THEY LOVE THEM! I have happily become knowns as “The Leftover Mom!” Not the trophy I was dreaming of, but I’ll take it!

What’s your creative lunch solution for your school-bound or home-schooled Einstein? Share it here. There’s sure to be a mom like me who is just begging to be rescued by your ideas from her lunch-packing drama.

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  1. I loved reading this. I laughed out loud a few times because I'm so there with you! My kids aren't in school yet, but I'm not the bubbly morning mom that I wish I were. Thanks for the ideas. And it's good to know I'm not the only one that finds myself getting distracted or leaving towels in the washer!! LOL

  2. New StepMom says:

    Wow, do I sympathize with this post or what!! That said– I've come to a resigned peace with my role as the lunch-packer. I found that planning meals in advance is a HUGE help for me. It takes a bit of time to get used to, but I now plan a full weeks' meals each Friday (giving me time for grocery shopping, etc over the weekend). I'm an avid Costco shopper, and when I get home, I make it a family activity to put everything into snack-size ziploc bags (be it baby carrots, a single serving of chips, etc). I've found tortilla wraps to be a great alternative to sandwich bread (they don't get as soggy when made the night before). My kids even like that they can pick "colored" tortillas (little do they know they are actually spinach, tomato, and other healthy flavors). (I also find it helpful to create a lunch routine the kids like…Sandwich every Monday, Soup every Tuesday, etc. It gives them consistency, and they can better help me pack when we're not debating every item that goes in the bag.)

  3. Loved this! My 8th grade daughter and her friends all look forward to the daily note I send 🙂 It's either TOTALLY corny, words of encouragement, or a silly joke. Either way, I love knowing that I cause 10 or so 13-year-old girls to smile at least once a day, even if it's accompanied by an eye roll 🙂

  4. Dannah…who knew??? So happy when we get to see a slice of "real life" of those we love and admire! I draw pics on the lunch napkins…and I am NO artist…so it provides much laughter at the lunch table at school. I also at times pack enough dessert for the table..didn't you know food is not just the way to man's heart – food is the way to teen hearts! Teens love to hang out at our home because I cook real food instead of just serving pizza! I'm just sayin…Psst, Dannah, you can just invite them at night when are at your best! {wink, wink}

  5. Dannah Gresh says:

    Love you guys! It's so fun to hear how common the trials of motherhood can be! (And so grateful they are far outweighed by blessings.) Tracey (wink, wink), I'm in for that night hawk action!

  6. I just loved this post, Dannah! My children are 4,2 and 8 months and yet somehow, I can oddly relate to this. They aren't in school.. I think it's the not waking up at the crack of dawn thing. Haha!

    This really did bless me. I'm definitely sharing it!

  7. AllieSomg says:

    With one gluten free child and the other lactose intolerant, and picky, our lunch creativity knows few boundaries. Fortunately the lactose free, picky child, is content to eat the same thing every day with minor changes. My gluten free child, on the other hand will eat about anything. Left overs are a favorite, unless she polished them off for breakfast. Food on a stick is a blast, mini kabobs, a square of meat, square of cheese, a mini pickle, and a grape or cherry tomato, served with crackers (gluten free for us), and fruit. This week our home school lunch has been portabella pizzas (not as fancy as it sounds), ranch pasta (made up in a batch and eaten cold), garden salad and ‘fried’ bananas (healthier then that sounds). Another favorite is burrito bowls and the list could continue into infinity and beyond……….thanks for sharing, at least I am not the only one that dreads lunch!