School Lunches | Beyond Peanut Butter and Jelly


School Lunches | Beyond Peanut Butter and Jelly

I will confess, I am a total newbie when it comes to the school lunch thing. My oldest started Pre-K3 in November (after I finally got her potty trained). You can imagine my confusion when I found out I could not send her to school with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich everyday (as my mom had done with me), because it was against the rules. No, not the mom rules — though we will get to those. Her preschool is “Tree Nut Free.” I didn’t even know that was a thing. Did you guys? But apparently it is becoming more commonplace. Which is great. Keeping kids safe is important, and I am sure it can be challenging to keep up with everyone’s allergies. But come on. My kid loves peanut butter and jelly. And she is a picky eater. Probably one of the pickiest.


So what was a mama to do?

Thankfully we found something called Sun Butter in the fancy, organic section of the grocery store. It’s made from sunflower seeds, and looks and tastes (surprisingly) a lot like peanut butter. It just costs about two times more than the regular old jar of name brand peanut butter we normally buy. I found this out when I made the mistake of sending my husband (the engineer) to the grocery store in search of the Sun Butter.


It was then and there that we decided our children would not be eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches everyday for lunch. Why? Not because I am one of those crazy, Pinterest moms (no offense) who feels the need to create lunchtime masterpieces on the daily for my preschoolers. Olaf bento box, anyone? But because it was no longer cost efficient. So I realized I would need to get creative. But not too creative, because as much as I love my kids, that’s really not my thing. (I swear, I am not hating on moms who love this. We all have our gifts. This is not mine.) Also, my kids still tear their food apart and throw it all over the floor/themselves during most meals. We’re working on it.


With the new semester beginning, I must confess, I consulted Pinterest to see what I could find. Just as I had imagined, it was chock-full of all kinds of ridiculously unattainable ideas. Completely overwhelming for a mom like me, to say the least. But I was able to locate a few gems. Here is what I’ve found to be true.

  1. My kid will never have the coolest or the most creative lunch. I have accepted this. She would be wise to do the same. I can, however, help her with her English homework. Plus, I pledge to support her, love her, and encourage her to follow her dreams. See, I’m not a totally terrible mother.
  2. Preschoolers love crackers + cheese + little bite size pieces of lunchmeat. Anything they can stack and create themselves is always going to be a winner. And if you really want to, you can always cut out the meat and cheese into cute little shapes, using seasonal cookie cutters. Hashtag, you go girl!DSC_9026
  3. Bento boxes are actually pretty neat. You don’t have to fill them with “pretend sushi” or miscellaneous Disney characters. But you can! They are wonderful lunchtime organizational tools. You can also put normal things like goldfish and fresh fruit in them, too. These are fantastic for littles who don’t like their food touching.
  4. English muffin pizza is totally a thing. You can send ‘em baked, or allow your preschooler to create her own. Simply pack up all the ingredients, and let little Susie go-to-town. Don’t forget an extra napkin! Or maybe some wet wipes.
  5. Breakfast for lunch is always a good idea. Got any extra chocolate chip waffles? Perfect. Throw in some blueberries and a string cheese. Done and done.

I am beginning to realize that like most parenting issues, packing a lunch (that meets school safety guidelines and also keeps my preschooler from starting World War Three) doesn’t have to be intimidating. It just requires some planning ahead, and intentionality. What are your favorite school lunch go-to’s? Have any advice for new(er) preschool mamas? We’d love to hear! Feel free to share in the comments. Or tag us in your most Pinterest-worthy school lunch pictures using #lunchwiththebabychicks!

About the Author /

Wife, mommy to three precious little girls, currently pregnant with baby a boy, and owner of The Plaid Pony!