Packed lunches: – Mother of three children: – This is how you can save NOK 1,300 per month on children’s packed lunches.

SSchools and kindergartens are back in full swing after the summer break, and with that comes a problem familiar to many parents: what the hell should we put in the kids’ lunch boxes?

Because while the typical Norwegian food package used to consist of a couple of dry slices and some sweaty white cheese, nowadays it might seem like it looks quite different. At least if the packed lunch hacks shared on Instagram and various Facebook parenting groups are to be believed.

Pomegranate seeds, chia seeds, pecans, fruit puree, spelled chunks, chunky cookies, snack bars and mozzarella sticks are just a few of the things parents allow their children to send to school and daycare.

Nowadays, it’s almost embarrassing to send a lunch with the kids that consists of only two loaves of bread with side dishessays Guro Sollien Eriksrud, mother of three.

He has a strong reaction to the way packed lunches have evolved in recent years, and says there can be an expectation that children should bring a buffet every day.

– Much of what is put in food packages is extremely expensive and some is also packed in disposable plastic. When you have multiple kids, there are a lot of lunches during the year, so the choices you make when you make them affect the economy, health and climate, he says.

– Many mothers on social media have believed that every lunch box must be packed like a cold table



Expensive and time consuming

Guro says he has nothing against versatile and appealing food packages, but he thinks parents should be more careful about where they put on the list.

– In the end, we risk creating children who do not eat too boring things, for example, ordinary bread. I’m generally in favor of teaching kids to differentiate between everyday life and parties, as well as weekdays and weekends.

– How do we manage to create days where we want to do something extra, when there is something extra every day, he asks and emphasizes that he also struggles to find the right balance between all considerations and time pressure.

Guro, who is also a consumer economist, believes that food parcels affect our economy to a much greater extent than we think. For example, he calculated that he himself would save around NOK 20,000 in one year if he chose oatmeal with fruit for lunch every day instead of buying a buttered baguette or the like.

– We often do not fully see the impact of the choices we make, which are small in isolation, but which we make very often. Therefore, food parcels also become important. If you can’t afford it and you’re stuck with the hustle and bustle of buffets, it can quickly become what decides whether or not you can go on summer vacation.

– Even those children who get a buffet in their lunch box every day will have to fend for themselves one day. For example, as a student, meeting this standard can be costly and demanding. Parents must therefore be aware that they create certain habits and expectations that children take with them. The sum of these options is especially important at this time of rising prices.

OUT THE PACKAGE FOR THE PRESS: Guro Sollien Eriksrud believes that parents should be more aware of where they put their children's lunch list.  PHOTO: Fartein Rudjord

OUT THE PACKAGE FOR THE PRESS: Guro Sollien Eriksrud believes that parents should be more aware of where they put their children’s lunch list. PHOTO: Fartein Rudjord
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They try to outdo each other

There is no doubt that some parents feel the pressure of packed lunches.

A survey conducted by Norstat last year on behalf of agricultural information offices showed that four out of ten parents experience a lot of pressure and complications when preparing good food packages.

KK has also previously written about a mother of young children who felt so much pressure when bringing creative food packages to the kindergarten that she finally decided to wait until the nursery breakfast was over before delivering them.

According to Guro, school lunch can quickly become an arena where both adults and children try to outdo each other.

– I’ve heard kids say they’ve experienced kids looking at each other’s lunch boxes and saying eh. Children should not be ashamed of their lunch box. Then you have to start dealing with attitudes, both your own and your children’s. I have also heard of children bringing typical take away food to school. Of course, others find it tempting!

– But maybe we should remind ourselves that daily food has an important function, namely, we get enough different nutrients and energy to keep things going. It is almost completely lost in all this.

A family with two children spends only NOK 1,500 a week on food

A family with two children spends only NOK 1,500 a week on food



Expensive vending machines

Guro believes that the pressure to pack lunches starts in kindergarten and continues throughout the school years. There is also a new element when starting primary and secondary school that highlights the differences between children, namely vending machines and different food and drink orders.

– It started with school milk and then the offer has only increased. Today you can buy chocolate milk and many other things that others can get from trips and weekends.

– I asked our school why they allowed it and I got the answer that many parents want it. It will probably appeal to those who can buy themselves out of the morning stress, but to those who probably can’t say anything. We have to remember that when it comes to money matters, those who find such things difficult usually do not speak up.

Kindergarten must be clear

Katja P. Myllyoja, the director of the kindergarten Læringsverkstedet Nordre Øyen, does not quite recognize the hustle and bustle of packed lunches and buffet lunches described by Guro.

– This is probably the pressure that arises especially on various Instagram accounts, because we don’t see such food packages here so much. But it probably depends on where in the country you live, I can imagine there are places where this is a bigger problem. You need to have enough time and good advice to make such food packages. I don’t think there are as many parents from low-income families who buy mozzarella sticks, she says.

– As for the food packages, the kindergarten must make it clear to the parents what should be there, and then it is not a matter of it looking pretty. But for kids it has to be good and appealing and ideally contain more than just a slice of sweaty cheese.

- Do children really need lunch boxes designed as works of art?

– Do children really need lunch boxes designed as works of art?



Chose to throw away the food packets

At the same time, he completely agrees that food parcels help explain the social differences among children. After seeing how bad the packed lunches were for some children, the kindergarten decided to switch to full meals three years ago.

– Nutrition knowledge is very different between parents. Some children, preferably children from well-to-do families, brought a hearty lunch with nutritious food. But those children who came from home with less money could eat quite a few lunches. Often they also had too little food to last the whole day.

– When we switched to whole foods and got control over food from breakfast to afternoon, we experienced that the environment in the kindergarten became much better, he says.

WHOLE FOODS INTRODUCED: At the kindergarten Læringsverkstedet Nordre Øyen, the differences in the children's lunch packages were so great that they felt compelled to introduce whole foods.  - There is a big difference between parents in terms of nutritional knowledge, says director Katja P. Myllyoja.  PHOTO: Private

WHOLE FOODS INTRODUCED: At the kindergarten Læringsverkstedet Nordre Øyen, the differences in the children’s lunch packages were so great that they felt compelled to introduce whole foods. – There is a big difference between parents in terms of nutritional knowledge, says director Katja P. Myllyoja. PHOTO: Private
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Makes all meals from scratch

The kindergarten has decided to focus on clean and good food without additives. The food is made from scratch and no semi-finished products are used. Even the ham and shrimp spread is made from scratch.

For NOK 400 per month, the children receive breakfast, lunch and afternoon meals, which, according to Statistics Norway, is the average of the meal subsidies for private and municipal kindergartens (NOK 336 per child).

According to the head of the kindergarten, giving up food packets is also an important contribution to reducing food waste and garbage in kindergartens.

– We have very little food waste, if there is any left over, we always try to use it for something else. Boiled oatmeal can be used, for example, as patches or in oat muffins in the coming days. But in general, most kindergartens today focus on environment and climate. If, for example, children bring yogurt cups to kindergarten, they learn to rinse them properly and recycle them, he says.

- I don't think we're doing the kids a disservice by making a lunch box

– I don’t think we’re doing the kids a disservice by making a lunch box



Planning affordable food parcels

Guro believes that the first thing parents who feel the pressure of packed lunches need to do is toughen up and talk to their children about it.

– When our children tell us that others feel this way and that, we must have the courage to say that it does not suit us financially or in terms of our values. It’s easier said than done, but maybe you can work with other parents and bring up the issue at school, she says.

Planning is also key to reducing daily stress and making a good packed lunch that doesn’t cost too much.

– It is always more economical to buy larger packages. Instead of buying small yogurt cups, you can buy, for example, a large cup and divide the yogurt into smaller boxes that can be reused. I recommend reusable boxes in different sizes as an investment as it is both cheaper, less plastic and probably less food waste as you can take in as much as you actually eat.

If you feel that you want to give your children something other than slices of bread from time to time, it could also be a good idea to bake a large portion of something good and freeze it.

– My son complained about boring food packages, so he made himself a big batch of thick pizza rolls and put them in the freezer. It might not have been the healthiest, but it was eaten because he took out as much as he needed each day, Guro says.

– We usually make waffle dough with coarse flour, without sugar. It lasts a long time in the fridge, so we can make waffles for breakfast and lunch, which are actually healthier than slices of bread. We also make sure that we always have fruits and vegetables in the house that the children can take with them, they don’t have to be cut out like flowers to get a good taste.

– Food packages must be good enough for everyday use. They should be filling, nutritious and taste good!

Imagination and love in every lunch box

Imagination and love in every lunch box



- Many young people do not bring packed lunches to school, do not eat breakfast and live on Pepsi Max

– Many young people do not bring packed lunches to school, do not eat breakfast and live on Pepsi Max



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