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there is such a thing as a free lunch

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I have two things going on in my life right now. One of them is writing. I'm writing...a lot. More than I thought I would, which I suppose is a good thing, but quite frankly makes me feel like I really haven't left the paper at all.
The second thing is my compulsion, nay, lets call it an 'obsession' with saving money - lots and lots of money. You have to remember that since I've officially left the workplace we are a) down by one-third the income and b) without health insurance yet again...although we're working on fixing that one. So...the budget is tight. It's been tight before and I'm sure it will be tight again, but its tight non-the-less. So I see my real job as saving as much green as I possibly can...and I'm not talking the environment.
One of the things, besides couponing, that I've done to cut down on our overall budget is forgoing school lunches and packing it for them. 
Do you know how HARD it is to make four lunches every morning and still get the kids off to school on time? I mean, really? It's nearly impossible. Well, I guess it wouldn't be impossible if I got up at 5:30 every morning...but I'm too lazy for that. I left the working world remember? I can drive the kids to school in my sweats, sans makeup, with just a brush run through my hair. I'm not about to get up at oh-dark-thirty if I don't have to. So, I've started packing as much of it as I can the night before and then finishing up with sandwiches first thing in the morning. 
Speaking of sandwiches, there's the sheer boredom factor. There's only so many PB&J sandwiches a girl can make before going looney. And despite what they may tell you upfront, kids really DON'T want to eat PB&J every day, all school year long.
I would try some pre-packaged stuff, but its expensive. Besides, so much of it isn't healthy. One of the knocks I've always had against Lunchables is what I've heard and read about them not being good for the kids.
You had the crackers, cheese and meat and not much more unless you bought the bigger packs which just had the juice packets and a candy bar inside. I doubt my nutritionist friend would approve. 
So I'd buy them as treats, once-in-awhile. Maybe for a road trip or something like that.
But never for daily lunches.
Then I got an email about the Lunchables Blog Tour. They would send me a couple of coupons if I would agree to try their product and then write about it.
Like they had to ask twice.
I get out of making lunches for a whole day...AND I get to save money?!
It was a dream come true! :)
I jumped in Blue Mama and headed to store to pick up my freebies - Pizza and Turkey & Cheddar. 
Right away I noticed no juice pack and no candy bars. Hmmm...so far so good. Then, right there on the package, 'made with whole grain.' Alright...now we're talkin'. And there was fruit. Gosh honest fruit! In the Pizza version was a package of mandarine oranges...the Turkey & Cheddar included applesauce and Nilla Wafers.
Sounds pretty good to me. 
The only down-side I could find is that I like my kids to drink milk at every meal. They like milk...I like the added calcium. While the packages include cheese...I really don't like filling the kids up with junk for a drink. The meal included a bottle of water with one of those Kool-aid packets inside. I'm not a fan...and there's no way my kids will ignore my pleas to not dump the kool-aid in the water if I'm not there at the lunch table with them. 
I mean, can you blame them?
The real proof was in the pudding...or maybe I should say the fruit cup. Alek, who as you know is 12, has a new hobby is eating me out of house and home. Every day he comes home from football practice famished. He can't wait the extra half hour until supper, he has to have something NOW or he is convinced he will DIE!
So I usually give in and make him yet another PB&J to tide him over.
He came home that day and didn't say a word about needing anything to eat.
And when I asked him about it he said he wasn't hungry. He could wait a little longer.
That did it! If I can find some coupons on these things I really might consider putting in my kids lunches every so often sans the Kool-aid packet. 
Who knows, I may even splurge and make it a once-a-week deal, just to give myself a lunch-making break. ;)
This is where I was supposed to give away one of the coupons for someone else to enjoy a Lunchable of their very own. The problem is...someone (ahem, me) didn't read the fine print on the letter. So I went ahead and used both coupons. 
Next time, if there is a next time, I promise to share.
Unless of course its chocolate-related and then you all are just out of luck! :)

* I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Lunchables and received the products necessary to facilitate my review. In addition, I received a gift certificate to thank me  for taking the time to participate.

8 salty messages:

lookingforgeorge October 18, 2010 at 8:20 AM  

I'm totally with you on the Kool Aid. Boo, hiss! I think that stuff is awful, awful, awful. My kids have had it, like, once. Well, in our house, anyway. Guess I can't say for sure what they've had at birtday parties and stuff. Now, if you'll forive me, I have to question: Milk at every meal????? I'm not totally anti-dairy, but all the bovine growth hormones and who knows what else in the milk and cheese our nation consumes at an alarming rate . . . ick (unless you're buying organic). And? Dairy turns the human body into a snot factory, especially if one is prone to allergies or colds. I know a lot of people don't believe that, but I've experienced it first hand, first when I gave up dairy voluntarily for a while (a friend did this also, and we both noticed a HUGE difference), and second when I had to give it up due to migraines. The difference truly is amazing. And if your kids are putting milk on their cereal and eating cheese every now and then and lots of dark, leafy greens, then they are getting plenty of calcium. And think of the money you could save by not having them drink milk at every meal! Water rules!!! Okay, I'll get down off of my "milk in great moderation" soap box now. :) And, yes, my kids eat some dairy almost every day. :)

Tami October 18, 2010 at 9:07 AM  

While I understand (and appreciate) the arguments against store-bought milk, on this one, I think we're just going to have to agree to disagree. ;)
I'm sure the anti-snot factors are true. I'm living proof right now with this lovely cold. And I could probably do without all the extra milk I drink. But for me, the pros of having the kids drinking milk goes deeper.
Since all of our kids, by and large, missed out on dairy for at least the first year...and since they are all waaaaaay undersized I keep it on the table. Thankfully, they don't seem to mind. They probably are getting all the calcium they need through other sources - yogurt, cheese, etc. (although we're not doing very well in the dark, leafy greens department). I'm more interested in the fat content (gasp!). ALL of my kids have to cinch up their slim jeans. With Maddie we have to add a belt! I can't keep weight on these kids - especially Maddie and Nick whose ADD medicine suppresses their appetite (that's a whole other post). Now, with that said, I don't want calories for the sake of calories. I don't want a bunch of sugar (from the Kool-Aid)...I just want the calories they do take in, to have some nutrient value. Milk does that for me, in spades. Not only does it give them the calcium...it provides Vit. D. Did you know 70% of all Americans are not only deficient in Vit D., but DEPLETED?! Each of our kids were borderline ricket cases when they came home (Alek actually HAD rickets on his Russian medical chart). Since Americans slather sunscreen on the kids every time they go out to play (and rightfully so), they can't absorb the Vit D they need from sunlight. They can get the D from other food sources, just not any that our kids are willing to eat every day (fish, leafy greens). Milk is a nice place for our family to get that extra D without having to pop a pill.
Okay...I'm off my box now too. BTW - I'm with you on the water thing! I LOVE water! Of course, since we're in a farming community, I buy bottled. I hate to think of what kinds of pesticides are in our water! :)

Zack & Jennifer Dove October 18, 2010 at 1:40 PM  

Both of our boys take their lunch to school. Too much junk being served in the cafeteria! I let William pick one day a week to buy his lunch, and most of the time he comes home saying it wasn't that great!
Both boys got really tired of the sandwiches Every. Single Day. And I am not a big fan of lunchables. Too much money and William typically won't touch the cheese - sending a quarter or more of the investment to the trash.

So our solution is homemade lunchables. It's less expensive, I can put them together the night before, and there's less waste.

I use a reusable plastic sandwich box, put the crackers into a plastic baggie, and cut up some meat and cheese. They both love this. Daniel still wants a sandwich once or twice a week, but not William. So I'm giving him less artificial stuff, and putting less waste into the garbage or recycling bin, too!

Annie October 18, 2010 at 1:46 PM  

I'm not sure if it is age or incapacity, but I am not nearly as controlling about my children's eating as I was with child A and child B.

But, I realize, that is because they all WANT to eat healthy, and do. They are not enormous fans of milk, but all drink a glass a day at least without being asked. They generally like tea (what can I say, they're Russian) or water. But, they'll always choose fruit and vegetables over junk.

I just think lunchables are awfully meager for the price. And, now for $3 a day their school gives them a real, healthy, cooked-on-premises-by-a-woman-they-call-"Grandma" lunch. I can't beat that. I just have to pay this benefit off by getting up at 4:15 to teach Korean people English for a couple of hours. It works out perfectly; that paycheck covers lunches....and I'd rather be teaching than trying to think of something as nice as a hot, healthy, homemade lunch, that's for sure.

Tina in CT October 18, 2010 at 7:52 PM  

I always pack the night before. I also bring my breakfast to work.

I used to pack my daughter and ex's lunches the night before while dinner was cooking.

If I bring sliced tomato or lettuce for a sandwich, they are in separate baggies.

For variety, how about meatloaf sandwiches or roasting a turkey for dinner and then you'll have leftover for suppers and sandwiches?

Mama November 1, 2010 at 5:54 PM  

I was lucky when I was a kid. I went to a small Christian school and we had a microwave in our lunch room. More often than not, I had leftovers from dinner the night before. Mom also would make us homemade lunchables. My friends were so jealous when they would see my Ritz crackers and turkey/ham instead of a sandwich. I still love cracker "sandwiches" :)

Stefanie and Bill November 14, 2010 at 7:23 PM  

We pack all FIVE of our Boys lunch. It's cheaper and healthier. Raising children well is hard work. We figure it is not forever and you only get one shot at it!

Justine November 20, 2010 at 7:37 PM  

Talk about long comments!! All on food? LOL!! All I have to say is: They only gave you TWO coupons to write a review! That review deserves a heck of a lot more for that advertising! lol! I might just have to write them and complain! :o)

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