I must say that food was easier, cheaper and more environmentally friendly when we were homeschooling. When we wanted a treat (that would be every day of course), someone would whip up a cake or a batch of pancakes. Sometimes I would even claim it was part of the curriculum (sounds better than sheer greed). Twice a day I would cut up a bunch of fruit and veg for morning and afternoon tea (that would be to cancel out the nutritional effect of the treats). No packaging, cost pennies, and the children did most of the work.
Then the children started school and started asking for the stuff in packets that every other child eats. Now my kids aren't brats - they just want to fit in. And also, slurpable yoghurt in neon packets looks more fun in a lunchbox than mandarins. I held out for a while, citing their health and saving the planet. They looked at me with puppy dog eyes. I broke down and started buying muesli bars as possibly containing some nutrition. They raised the bar and started lobbying for chips and lollies, which all the kids have (and many of them do). I couldn't bear the endless claims that I was a MEAN MUMMY and that their lives were blighted. How much can a koala bear? Under sufferance I instituted Junk Food Friday, when a tiny packet of chips and the smallest packaged chocolate money can buy joined the lunchtime sarnie.
To add insult to injury, Posy refuses to eat fruit at school. She eats it after school, for breakfast and lunch on the weekend. But not at school. Also, she will never eat a banana or apple, and last week decided that mandarins are too squishy. That leaves berries, so thankfully strawberries are still in season, she likes grapes, and we picked almost 10kgs of blueberries at the blueberry farm in January ($6kg, I love Tasmania). So each day I pack exactly one strawberry, four grapes or six frozen blueberries for her to take to school, feeling exactly like the mother of the not-very-hungry caterpillar. And most days they come right home again.
Clearly I was under prepared for this aspect of school life. But I am slowly learning some school lunch truths. I bought the girls fancy schmancy lunchboxes with five compartments, room for an ice brick, and little pots for snacks. I dutifully filled them up with various healthy snacks (and that fruit..) and lots of it came home to me in the afternoon. I have discovered that just because a lunchbox has five compartments, doesn't mean you have to fill them all up. I used to make healthy and delicious salad sandwiches for hours each morning, but really, all of them prefer cheese and Vegemite because there is nothing squishy or soggy in it, and nothing falls out. That's OK, they get salad for dinner. Sometimes they like plain cooked pasta with grated cheese, which is fine with them as long as there are no yucky healthy tomato sauces or anything like that on it. Sometimes we run out of everything they like (not hard, as the things they like change by the week), so I just send a sandwich and fruit, and somehow they survive.
I remember the school lunches of my childhood which never contained a packet of anything, just sandwiches, vegie sticks, sometimes crackers or biscuits, and I remember that school lunch was about playing, not eating, and I should maybe just calm down. And also, I should never, never have looked at that bento lunchbox site. Anytime any normal person wants to feel like an inadequate parent, just google 'bento lunchboxes'.
Anyway, here is a very short list of snacks my girls almost always like:
Jelly. Rosy makes some every couple of weeks, sets it in the little snack pots, and tops it with fruit just as it is setting. The only fruit Posy will eat at school!
Exotic popcorn. This is our Wednesday snack. Popcorn with bits of dried pineapple/pawpaw and tiny choc bits. It makes a little bit of dried fruit and chocolate go a long way.
Trail mix. No nuts of course, and the girls don't like sultanas. I like a mixture of soy crisps, banana chips, choc chips, bought dried fruit, home-dried fruit, the occasional sunflower or pumpkin seed... sometimes they like it too.
That's it. Yes, it is a very short list. Apart from that they take crackers, and whatever we have baked that week (if they decide they like it on the day). I would love more suggestions.
One last very important thing. Anything they don't eat for lunch gets served as the first course of afternoon tea. I didn't get that MEAN MUMMY label just for nothing...