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Wasting Food (aka Well, I Screwed That Up!)

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

I'm trying to avoid food issues with my DS (5). He will go on picky streaks (normal, I know) and decide he doesn't like things he's always eaten. Then some outside influence (another child, usually) will come along and he will see them eating something, and he'll decide he likes it. For awhile. Then not....


I pack his lunch for school every day. He started out coming home with half of it uneaten, and I'd let him have that for snack after school since he came home "starving." He whined about it, and I told him that if he didn't LIKE his lunch, that was fine, but that he shouldn't have asked me to make that lunch for him. And now I know and won't make it again, but we are NOT going to throw away food every day just b/c he asked for ABC in the morning and then decided he only likes B at lunchtime. 


I really don't like to waste food. Not only is it a money thing, it's a conservation thing. I'm VERY conservative. I don't like to waste anything. I'm trying to teach him that our food is actually valuable and not something we should just toss b/c we changed our mind.


Suddenly he started coming home with an empty lunchbox. Every day. Of course, I'm suspicious and I asked him if he ate his whole lunch and he said yes every time. 


Yesterday he came home without the container his leftovers (which HE chose) in his lunchbox. That thing was not cheap -- I don't do plastic, so I can't just use Take-n-Toss stuff (and wouldn't anyway -- see "conservative," above!). He decided he didn't want his lunch and threw the whole dang thing away in the trash, including the container! He knew I'd be upset, primarily b/c I got upset as soon as I saw it missing. Then I calmed down, and asked him to help me figure out if I needed to look for it at school or if it was in the trash can. He wouldn't admit to throwing it away right away, but made it there in a roundabout way (lots of "I can't remember" whining).


So, I'm mad about the container being gone. I'm mad that he's throwing away food that he asked me for (I always give choices, unless there isn't one to be made, and yes I get not being able to know what you'll be hungry for in 3 hours, but we all eat stuff we aren't completely in love with sometimes). I'm mad that he's lying to me about it (although who can blame him? He knows I'll get mad! So I've screwed that trust up already....)


Where do I go from here? I know what I want for the goal (for him to eat his entire lunch or at least not throw it away in the trash), but I have no idea how to get there at this point. I need to mend his trust in me, but I know that's a long time coming. I did apologize for being angry with him.


Natural consequences: No more container, no more leftovers. Okay, so sandwiches only. Which he'll continue to throw away...


What else am I missing? I have to give him snack after school -- he eats lunch at 11:30 and dinner isn't til 5:30. Normally snack would be his leftover lunch, but he's taken to throwing it away so.... where does that leave the consequences?

post #2 of 17

Food eaten by someone who isn't hungry is no less wasted than food in the trash so making himself eat a more food than he is hungry for at lunch is about the same as throwing it away.  If he has leftovers (enough for a snack) every day, you are sending too much. Stop giving choices and send much less food.  All those choices are just contributing to the "picky" problem and he's showing you that it's too much food at one time.  You don't have to send stuff you know he doesn't like but  it's hard to have a "eat what you're hungry for" attitude alongside a "don't waste anything" attitude, especially in a child so young.  He is probably going to be hungry after school no matter how much he eats at lunch, so send less at lunch and have a snack after school.  We also eat dinner pretty early, so our after school snack is always fruit.

post #3 of 17
Thread Starter 

I don't send that much! He has complained when I didn't send enough and he was hungry, so I sent more and told him that he didn't have to finish it all. I typically send 1/2 sandwich, veggies (1 whole carrot, handful of baby tomatoes, or 1 small cucumber, etc.) and a piece of fruit. The veggies and fruit get eaten, but the sandwich gets tossed. If I send a whole sandwich and he doesn't finish it, but eats some of it, I don't say anything. So I'm not telling him he must eat EVERY CRUMB I prepare for him. And he has always been fine with eating whatever veggies were leftover (that hardly happens, even if I send 1 fruit and 2-3 veggies) for snack -- it's the "main course" that has been the problem. He has a love/hate with sandwiches. Fine, but don't ask me for one and then refuse to eat it at lunch AND at snack. He freely admitted to me one day that he would rather be hungry than eat the sandwich. Then the next day, he asked for a sandwich! Since he is tiny and I worry about him getting enough protein and fat in his diet anyway, I NEED HIM TO EAT THE DANG SANDWICH. (Tongue in cheek) And so if he wants last night's leftovers, I give him that, because it's usually meat or beans or chicken.


So yeah, I can lessen my frustration by not giving him a choice, but he will still continue to throw the food away and not eat it, then ask for a huge snack after school. I do set limits on snack so it's not a replacement meal (he will eat his leftovers then a piece of fruit then ask for nuts....), but OTOH he needs the calories and just isn't going to make the choice to eat his lunch b/c of that....

post #4 of 17

How about instead of a traditional sandwich, you make a 'roll up'  with a tortilla or crackers and deli meat and cheese (like a lunchable type thing).  It could be he isnt hungry at 1130 for lunch and is having a snack at that time but when he gets home he is hungry.  Maybe he wants the sandwich because all 50 other kindy kids have a sandwich?

post #5 of 17
Thread Starter 

Yes, I'm sure that the other kids influence what he wants. No doubt. But then he doesn't eat it!


He does love tortillas, but not the whole wheat ones. And I try to avoid refined flour/sugar in his diet. I look at all the bento box ideas on Pinterest, etc. and have tried that kind of thing with limited success. He always eats the veggies and fruit (I know, weird complaint to have) and has little interest in anything else. Which is fine with me, but at some point he needs the protein and he won't eat it at snacktime at home either. Sometimes he will eat deli meat, sometimes not... But I don't want him eating that every day anyway, with all the chemicals in it. I guess we're shooting for a whole-foods diet here. 


Maybe I just need to figure out what is more important, getting calories into him or keeping him limited to healthy food. And maybe I just need to make lunch the "veggie meal" and the snack be all protein, instead of trying to have a little of everything each time....


Of course, even if that solves the wasted food problem I will have no way to know because he is throwing away whatever he doesn't eat, and tells me he ate his whole lunch. I was almost believing him, too, until the truth came out yesterday when he trashed his lunch container.

post #6 of 17

What about a protein dip for the veggies/fruit?  I.e. peanut butter, hummus, or yogurt?  And maybe add a handful of crackers and cheese slices?

post #7 of 17

How about a bigger breakfast?  

post #8 of 17
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by greenemami View Post

What about a protein dip for the veggies/fruit?  I.e. peanut butter, hummus, or yogurt?  And maybe add a handful of crackers and cheese slices?

We need to be careful of dairy b/c too much gives him a stomachache. For all the ease I have in getting veggies into him, he is picky about savory stuff -- doesn't do dip or hummus or guacamole or anything like that. I can get him to eat yogurt SOMETIMES. 


Breakfast he gets as much as he will eat. I don't put limits on amounts of anything except snacktime after school, b/c he will eat an entire meal's worth of food then and then not eat dinner. Which is probably better health-wise, but then he's starving in the morning. And then I'm a short-order cook, which I just don't have time for.


So if he's eating yogurt or an egg for breakfast, nuts for snack, and meat at dinner, is that enough protein if he just eats fruits and veggies for lunch? Maybe I'm being a little too crazy about balanced meals....

post #9 of 17

That sounds like enough protein.  Every meal doesn't need to balance.  They just need to balance over days or weeks.

post #10 of 17
When my husband is away for work I feed my kids dinner at 4 PM. And then they have a healthy snack before bed. It works out much better for them and I. I prefer stuff they don't like and I tend to eat all my meals "later". It's just how my body functions. But 4 PM works better for them.

Even when my DH is home and working he's not home until later so I feed them by 5 or 6 so dinner isn't too cold for DH and they are miserable.

I would change how you are thinking about what and when he eats. A child's diet needs to be balanced over a week and not a day. We can't always eat to what we are hungry for if we are trying to not waste for or money (this is an expensive and wasteful way to eat at times). So as long as breakfasts and dinners are balanced then don't worry about lunch.

Give him peanut butter and crackers/apples/veggies when he gets home. Or a small portion of leftovers and more veggies/fruit.

My oldest ate a very limited diet for a long time because of allergies and rice and beans are a good protein and she loved them! She still does. There's nothing wrong with taking mostly fruit or veggies for lunch. I'd ex-nay the sandwiches... And give him crackers and cheese and a couple small pieces of meat. Have him go grocery shopping with you a couple times and let him point out what he wants and likes. And then tell him that you will keep those in mind.

My 5 year old makes most of her own lunch, sometimes all of it with the help of her big sister wink1.gif

Does he like boiled eggs? Those are good for lunch. For my kids who don't like yoghurt or dairy much I buy those "yoghurt tubes" and freeze them. By snack they are thawed and one of their favorite treats. They don't like them from the fridge in their lunch though because they get warm. They also hate cheese but love cheese strings. These things may seem wasteful or more expensive and less healthy but they are eating them and that's huge. Plus it's less expensive to splurge on a few convenience items for school lunches then to have him throw out his lunch every day or his containers.
post #11 of 17
I ordered silicone tubes on Amazon that I use when sending yogurt to school. I freeze it and put it in DD's Planetbox. That way, I don't have to buy yogurt tubes and can customize what I send. I also send skewers a lot. Sometimes, they include natural deli meat. Other times, I use cubes of chicken or turkey.

My kids do better when they have lots of protein throughout the day. So, our lunches have lots of it.
post #12 of 17
This was a constant problem with dd when she went to a charter school where hot lunch wasn't available. I offered choices, shopped with dd, made IR cute, minimized what I sent, sent everything individually, tortilla wrapped things, etc... It worked for a short period of time then stopped working and I'd had to try again.

It was a huge relief when she switched schools and we qualified for reduced lunch. It took away a lot of my stress and our negative feelings towards each other that kept building up due to this issue. If school lunch is a choice I suggest giving it a trial run while you take a break from this very frustrating situation. If it isn't I suggest keeping it cheap simple and the same (pb and j, simple fruit, simple veggie, water or milk) so it isn't such an issue when the expensive meal he chose is wasted.
post #13 of 17
I share your views,OP, on wasting food but I've tried to overcome the getting mad about the wasted lunch by working with/asking my dd to be sure to bring home her unbeaten food so I know what she likes and what size portions are best for her at school. She happens to be a really slow eater - so it's rare she eats up all her lunch ever. But I find I tend to send too much for what she can eat during her time for lunch if I'm not paying attention. Keeping up the communicating this way helps us waste less. Getting stuff in the fridge ASAP after school helps too.

We do lots of non-sandwich lunches here - cheese or crackers, yogurt, hb egg, tortilla chips, container of cereal, granola bar, cheese/bean quesadilla or burrito, muffin, sometimes salad or couscous, tofu cubes. All with fruit/veg sides. I often send half-sandwiches when we do them too.

Experiment with small amounts of new foods for lunch, maybe more effort to have something with more protein after school. I'd give you all a break to not have as much pressure about it for a week or two and then re evaluate how it's working.
post #14 of 17
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the replies! I do think that I need to change the way I'm doing this.


I let him buy his lunch at school one day last week, and this week my mom is packing him his lunches, so we'll see how that goes. I wish I could just have him eat hot  lunch every day, but it's public school and here the school food is crap. Lots of carbs and processed foods, chemicals/preservatives/additives/"flavors" and not much in the way of veggies or even quality protein. Once in awhile it's fine, but really it makes me cringe.


I made homemade tortillas last week and he loved them. They are refined flour, but that's a lesser evil than hot lunch... Maybe PBJ on those will be good enough for him.


I do like the idea of asking him to show me how much is left so I can see if I'm sending enough, instead of making him finish it if he doesn't want it. 

post #15 of 17
Muffins can be a good sandwich stand-in too, and you can put all kinds of healthy stuff in them.
post #16 of 17

Can you not eat the dang sandwich yourself???  That's how we avoid waste.  The rule is that any leftovers must be brought home in the lunchbox, and when I clean it out in the evening, I eat anything that's left that isn't (a) risking food poisoning or (b) still good for re-serving next day.  PB&J is fine 12 hours after it was made.  My 3rd grader often eats half or 3/4 of his sandwich.  He likes trail mix but doesn't always eat all of it, so that goes into a container on the counter, and when his dad packs the next day's lunch he tosses in any trail mix waiting there before adding new stuff.


I sympathize with wanting to avoid school lunch.  The school lunches here are horrifying, too, although at least they switched this year to unbleached cardboard trays instead of endocrine-disrupting Styrofoam--the lunches are made at a central facility and heated in the trays at the school, a perfect way to leach chemicals from Styrofoam into food. shake.gif  Still, the food itself is not very healthful or appealing; my son tells me every few weeks about some dreadful thing other kids were eating.

post #17 of 17

I've had this conundrum with my kids, too, neither of whom have ever had hot lunch at school, and neither of whom is a fan of sandwiches. The best way I've found over the years to give them balanced cold lunches while still minimizing my effort is to keep lists of the foods they like and will almost always eat. I keep in mind the mantra of "veggie, fruit, protein, carb," and then choose one item from each category for that day's lunch. My older dd used a laptop lunch system, and my younger uses a planetbox. Four areas, one for each item. Some folks might not think a carb necessary, but my little one especially needs the calories and energy, and it helps fill her little tummy. The protein can be a challenge here because she doesn't much care for meat. Sometimes she will eat leftover cubes of chicken or ham, but we mainly rely on cheese, beans (luckily, she'll eat them cold), hardboiled or scrambled egg, edamame, or tofu cubes rubbed with a little miso. Some favorites of hers for our carb section are wheat bread with butter, rice balls, rolled plain crepes (I like these better than tortillas because they have milk and egg in them), muffins, corn tortillas, potato latkes, biscuits or dinner rolls, cold oatmeal - almost anything leftover. I often make double batches of muffins or crepes so we can eat them for breakfast once or twice in the week and also put them in for one or two lunches. This morning she took a little stack of plain pancakes, along with cheese, sliced carrots and broccoli, and watermelon. If you can bring nut items to your school, crepes or pancakes are yummy with peanut or almond butter, and/or layered with banana or other fruit. We can't do nuts, but I sometimes use sun butter. Cream cheese is good too, though I see you like to keep dairy minimal.


My lists are mostly in my head these days, but there have been times dealing with my older dd (who was very particular about foods when younger) when we sat down together, brainstormed and wrote down the foods she was willing to eat or found appetizing. Then we stuck the list on the fridge so I could reference it quickly.


I talk a decent amount about not wasting food with my older dd, who's a teen now and should be able to self-regulate how much she needs vs. how much she packs, but with a younger child I tend to let go what she doesn't eat. We loosely follow the Satter method with her, which calls for me providing the food and her deciding whether/how much to eat. It does bug me when she comes home with a lot of food uneaten, but I throw it in the compost bin (or save what I can save for the next day!) and let it roll off. I'd rather do that than allow food to become a battle or a stress point. I can understand your frustration, though. I would have a very hard time keeping my cool if my kid threw away a reusable container (especially a non-plastic one - those suckers aren't cheap).

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