The food at school is not great, and Claire really likes to bring her own lunch rather than eat cafeteria food. I am in favor of this wholeheartedly. However, coming up with a kid lunch made up of "real food" that doesn't need refrigeration, doesn't have to be microwaved, and that she will eat and not waste is difficult.
Here are some of the items that we both can basically agree to have in her lunchbox:
--homemade applesauce (both)
--mini pepperonis (her suggestion) and cheese cubes (my suggestion)
--pbj sandwich with homemade bread, natural pb, and all-fruit jam (me) and the crusts cut off (her)
--yogurt cup (both)
Here are some of the things I pack for her that she doesn't really like but suffers with:
--bananas (I usually pack these as "snack" so she is faced with eating it at midmorning and can't ignore it like she could at lunch time)
Here are some of the things I pack that neither of us is crazy about, but they're easy and expedient:
--container of "trail mix" type stuff (nuts, goldfish crackers, pretzels mixed, raisins, etc)
Here are some of the things that I pack for her that she does not want and will not eat (they come home still in the package, untouched):
--baby carrots (yes, I've tried including dip)
--any fruit that requires peeling or purposeful biting (whole apples, oranges, pears)
Here are some of the things she says she will eat, but then they still come home in the lunchbox uneaten:
--green pears D'Anjou
--nuts (hit or miss, sometimes she eats, sometimes not)
--grapes (hit or miss)
Have not tried celery sticks yet. Not sure there's much nutrition in a celery stick anyway. If I make it into "ants on a log" she might eat it more readily. (Probably about the same nutrition as what's in a pickle though!)
One thing that definitely happens is that she'll see something in the lunch that she does not like, so she won't eat it, but then she'll end up ravenously hungry by after-school time. The after-school program, bless their hearts, feeds the kids pretty poor-quality snacks most of the time, although sometimes I am surprised by a good offering here or there. So by after-school time she's starving and the snack is usually engineered food in a pretty package. She ends up with an overall school-hours food profile that is nothing to be proud of. I've seen the after-school program offer everything from packaged honey buns (sick) to some sort of bagel bite thingie that I couldn't identify (sicker) to chips (not looking so bad now are they?) to whole fruit. It's really hit or miss. I've also packed extra after-school snacks for her, but she'll forget them or eat them for lunch...
So, the best thing to do is to really concentrate on getting a wider variety of healthful foods into the lunchbox, and hopefully these are things that she'll eat over the course of the day.
Now, depending on what we put in there, a homemade healthy lunch of "real food" is probably not cheaper than buying from the cafeteria, so I'll have to code this as a win for planet. (However, truth be told, I think this is one of those cases where I don't really care about how "cheap" it is, because it's so much more healthy and wholesome to fix her a high-quality lunch than to save a few cents buying cafeteria food.)