Posted by: Kath Usitalo | June 7, 2011

Homefront: One Lunch Bag Short

End of an era: The last home-packed school lunch was typical of those I've made for two decades: Half sandwich, cucumber slices, bar cookie and whole almonds. But, alas, no bag to pack it in.

On the 20th anniversary of making school lunches for Graham and Paige, on the day of all brown bag lunch days—Paige’s last school lunch of her pre-K to 12 career—I came up one lunch bag short. I thought the supply would take us to the end of the year, but on the morning of her last lunch-toting day I realized I’d misjudged by one bag.

We are a brown bag school lunch family. Oh, the kids ordered two or three lunches per month through middle school. Graham took advantage of the weekly pizza day during high school. But by and large I made lunches for the kids and packed them, first in plastic boxes featuring Transformers or Barney, and later in the sturdy, brown paper stand-up bags.

The lunch-making was a ritual I enjoyed based in part, I’m sure, in childhood memories.

When we were growing up, school cafeteria lunches were rare “treats.”

Soupy Sales, Detroit TV legend

We sometimes ran home from Westland Elementary School—it was just down the block—to eat tomato rice soup and a grilled cheese sandwich while watching Soupy Sales on TV.

But on most school days we brown bagged it.

I remember Mom setting up a mini assembly line to make the next-day meal for her 5 kids: half sandwiches for the young ‘uns (a whole sandwich for our older brother John), celery or carrot sticks, or an apple, and a cookie, Fig Newtons or graham crackers, plus “milk money” to buy a square carton with the impossible-to-open foil corners. 

After lunch we carefully refolded the brown bags and brought them home to be used the next day.

We recycled long before recycling was cool.

If I had had Graham and Paige practice the same “green” ritual today, we would not have exhausted our lunch bag supply one day short of a school lunch career.  



  1. I still remember fondly my elementary school lunches of bologna sandwich on Wonder Bread (with a smear of butter and mustard) and an apple. Never any variation and never any home-baked goods — understandable given that my dad was the lunch maker and packer in our family since my mom had to leave for work earlier than he did and much before we left for school. By junior high and high school, packed lunches were a thing of the past in my family and the school cafeteria ruled the day for good or ill.

    • Yes, bologna and Wonder Bread!
      Hey, you should return the favor to your dad and make him a sack lunch for Father’s Day 😉

  2. So, did you use aluminum foil or waxed paper for the sandwich instead?

  3. Min, really and truly I usually wrap the sandwiches in waxed paper, just grabbed a baggie that a.m. and put the whole lunch into a little brown bag with handles from a museum shop.
    So we did recycle after all!

  4. Ahhhh….yes, the last lunch. Sniffle, sniffle.

    • Yes, you can relate!

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