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Published: Monday, September 3, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

It's time for competitive school-lunch packing

This summer we watched as athletes from all over the world put years of training into action as they competed for the gold. Now is the time for moms in Puget Sound to psyche ourselves up for our own trials: competitive lunchbox packing. The challengers? Time, money, inertia and the pickiest eaters your uterus can produce.

I started training for lunchbox packing this summer by assessing our gear and making sure everything was washed, bleached and properly labeled. Primary lunchbox? Check! Secondary lunchbox for when the first one is lost? Double check! Brown paper bags that I have been hoarding from produce purchases at PCC? Got them! (Every mom knows that you have to be prepared for when both the main lunchbox and the backup-lunchbox are both lost.) I’ve also stocked up on Ziploc, Glad Ware, Rubbermaid, Tupperware and anything else I could find a coupon for in the Sunday Herald.

180 lunches multiplied by the number of your children is a daunting challenge of domestic monotony. I like to jazz things up for myself by giving each lunch I pack a score.

Gold medal lunches cause zero waste. You won’t find any sandwich bags in those insulated boxes; only BPA-free reusable sandwich containers. They include fresh organic fruit; cucumbers cut up into stars, and soy butter and homemade jelly sandwiches (in case somebody in the class is allergic to nuts.) I’m good for at least a dozen gold medal lunches a year, usually in September when I’m still feeling motivated. I even write handwritten notes on my son’s napkin to thoroughly embarrass him. “Mommy loves you Sweetie!”

By October, I’m medaling in silver. The sandwich container lids (but not the containers!) are now lost but I’m still packing the stainless steel water bottle every morning. I have cut up a bunch of carrots sticks Sunday night so there is a token vegetable heading to school every day, which usually returns unscathed. The “Mommy loves you” napkins are also coming home each day unused, so I just leave them in the lunchbox and send them back to school the next morning. That still counts as writing my son a note, right? Score!

By January I’m packing bronze medal lunches: a juice box, peanut butter and jelly, string cheese, an apple, and aging Halloween candy (yuck!). But heck, that was an organic apple so I’m still feeling pretty good about myself as a “mom who cares”. It’s pretty clear by now that neither of my offspring use napkins, so why bother including one? That’s what laundry detergent is for.

Can you blame me if my quality control starts to slip around February? By spring it is clear that I am not an Olympic lunchbox contender. I don’t really know what I’m packing by then. Leftover chili in a thermos? Squeezable yogurt tubes? Come on, it’s not like Jaime Oliver from “The Food Revolution” is going to surprise the Edmonds School District any time soon, and inspect my kid’s lunchbox on national television. At least, I hope not. Jaime, if you do come to Edmonds, could you please come in September?
Story tags » Food

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