coconut_granola_bark /

From the moment they are born, children are relentless in their need to eat. It’s a bit of a shock, really, when it sinks in that you are responsible to feed your child…

Three meals a day.

365 days a year.

With snacks in between.

Until they are fully grown.

If you are contemplating parenthood, it’s best not to do the math on this because it comes out to a staggering nearly 20,000 meals.

That’s just for one child.

Among those many meals, parents often find packing school lunch the most tiresome, second only to washing dishes as the most dreaded task in the kitchen. Filling a lunch box is booby-trapped with challenges: keeping spaghetti hot and yogurt cold, or preventing a sandwich from going soggy, apples from browning, and peaches from bruising. And it all feels so dire when half of those foods come home, still in their containers, virtually untouched.

Practicalities aside, the biggest complaint about school lunch is a lack of inspiration. I recently ran an informal poll of parents, and the most common refrain was that they’re in a rut, packing the same handful of foods, day in day out. They’re sick of making them; their kids are tired of eating them.

This is exactly why I wrote Best Lunch Box Ever: to give school lunch a shot in the arm and to bring ease to one of parents’ least favorite chores. It doesn’t have to be so hard.

  • You can get a pot of applesauce bubbling on the stove in the time it takes to brew your morning coffee (really). Spoon that warm and homey sauce into little containers for lunches all week long.
  • Set aside 30 minutes on a Saturday to bake a batch of granola bars with your kids: quality time with delicious results.
  • Make use of that leftover spaghetti, repurposing it into sesame noodles studded with crunchy vegetables good enough for your child’s lunch box, and yours too.

It doesn’t require much to take the sting out of school lunches: a little planning, a little creativity, a little love. It can bring you joy. After all, you’ve got 20,000 meals to make, might as well enjoy the time in the kitchen.

For the recipe, head on over here, where it’s being featured on the Chronicle Books Blog.


Photo by Jennifer Martiné