Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The truth about School Lunches!

I am angry and upset about the state of affairs with our school lunches specifically in our school district. For years I shut out the angst of my son recieving cold, burnt lunches and sometimes a lunch where he was supposed to get a "chicken dish" but got it sans the chicken and told myself that maybe I was the only parent feeling the pinch of paying between $5.50-$6.50 for my son's lunch - for a not so good lunch. Here's a picture of the california rolls that my son's school lunch advertises vs. what the kids get in can guess which is which...

 My son patiently ate the food I ordered for him in 3rd and 4th grade and finally told me in 5th grade - Ma, please start packing my lunch for me (or I will do it myself) - I would rather eat a PBJ to what they are giving us at the hot lunch. I have been packing school lunches for most of this school year (except for the time when I went to India) matter if I had a critical deliverable or an early morning meeting - my evening ends with my planning a packed lunch for my boy. Reality is it is not that hard once you have a plan of what you want to pack and I am able to give my son a "reasonably  healthy and nutritious" lunch for < $1.50/ day. Here's one of the sample meal plans I built (what can I say - I am a planner!)

But this blog isn't about my ability to plan and pack school lunches for my son. It's about the fact that 

(A) Food at my son's Public school runs to about $5.50-$6.50 for a school lunch that includes an entree, a choice of drink (milk/water) and a choice of fruit. School Lunch prices for our school district are way "out of whack" when compared to neighboring districts (these graphs are self-explanatory!) - in case you are wondering my child falls under the BRSSD umbrella. If I as a part of a double income family am feeling the pinch - can you imagine how hard this would be for a single income family ( about half the families in our school district comprise of single income households)

Here is a Yelp Review that I pulled up on our lunch provider on the topic 

The response of the vendor was particularly enlightening but I won't add it in here, I am hoping you would actually go to Yelp and read their response (gist of it is they say - they don't get the $5.50-$6.50 - apparently the district sets the price to cover "other" costs). 

I have started a conversation with the School District but the answers I have had from their Chief Business Officer have been very "officially correct" but not particularly enlightening.

(B) The quality of food is sub-par and the vendor usually gets away with it.  I will give you an example that had me all riled up this week - my son was signed up in advance for the spaghetti with chicken meatballs ( we don't eat beef or pork)...a week before the lunch was due I am sent a message saying chicken meatballs were not available, so they were substituting it for spaghetti with meat sauce (beef) WITHOUT consulting me- I went in and changed the order to cheese ravioli very reluctantly (it's not a very nutritious meal!)  - but honestly seeing my son's sad face in the AM when I told him he had a hot lunch was just a "cherry on top of that indignity". The reality of WHY I ordered a few school lunches this week is  - I am frugal and I had a balance sitting in choice lunch and I didn't have the patience or time to ask them to refund it, so instead ordered a few lunches to close it out to zero balance  and my son's expression made me wish I had gone thro' the pain of getting that balance back vs. order him a hot lunch. Read an example of the travails a parent faced - I had a similar conversation with a parent at our school. 

From a parent’s perspective School Lunches are successful when (a) their kids are happy eating the food – no complaints (b) the food specs are reasonably healthy (c) the food is consistently affordable. From my perspective school lunches for us have been bombing on all three levels . A good school lunch strategy is if we had a simpler lunch menu  vs. complex choices that are very poorly executed and a pricing structure that is reasonable ( reasonable for me is comparable to other school districts and something that doesn't feel pricy to parents)

My son moves to middle school next year and my strategy for school lunches is - Status Quo aka pack my son healthy school lunches from home. What are your thoughts on school lunches?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Self Care Series & A Recipe!

“if you want to live an authentic, meaningful life, you need to master the art of disappointing and upsetting others, hurting feelings, and living with the reality that some people just won’t like you. It may not be easy, but it’s essential if you want your life to reflect your deepest desires, values, and needs.”
                                                  ---The Art of Extreme Self-Care, Cheryl Richardson

The truth is I am still so far from it, beating myself up for errors both real and perceived and caring too much about what "everyone" thinks of my actions, are a few examples just from this week

  1. I sent my son PBJ for lunch...I am a bad mom
  2. I missed my personal training (my arms were aching & I had a meeting), I am a loser who will gain weight
  3. I said no I can't get this project complete this week given my workload, it will take another week...I am such a shirker...why not pull a few all-nighters.
  4. Omigod...I just ate that it's going to hit my hip real time
  5. I ate my dinner at 6.30 pm instead of waiting for my husband and eating at 8.30 PM...ergo bad wife
In my 10's I looked to my parents for positive reinforcements, in my 20's I looked to my peers for positive reinforcements, in my 30's I looked for positive reinforcements from family, friends, co-workers and the my 40's I have realized that to feel good about myself, the positive reinforcement needs to come from starts my self-care series. Follow my journey and if it helps you along the way - awesome! If not - I am sure you will find another blog, article or book that will point you in the right direction :-)

Here are some of the topics I will cover :
  1. Managing Stress
  2. Exercise
  3. What in the world is "Me-Time"?
  4. Peeling the Onion - Physical, Emotional, Spiritual Fitness
  5. Eating Right
  6. Work-Life Balance - is it a conundrum?
  7. Losing Weight not your Mind
  8. Detox - mind, body & spirit
  9. Sleep

Here's how I took care of an important aspect of self-care this week. Food makes me happy and there is a feeling of contentment (in sanskrit : Santosha) in cooking something just right !!!
I had eaten this wonderful, homey subzi at my friend AB's house and I absolutely loved it and so did the two boys. So this week I tried to recreate AB's  UP-wala Aloo  and my son was asking for seconds and thirds of this dish.

Servings: 4  Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 45  minutes


  1. Bhuna Masala ( see recipe here, I make this by the pint(s) and freeze it, makes my meal planning so much easier for desi khana). Skip the Habanero if you can live without the kick, my 10 yr old seems to be ok with the spice level
  2. Frozen Peas
  3. Cinnamon Powder, Turmeric Powder,  Dhania-Jeera Powder/Garam Masala
  4.  4-5 medium Boiled Potatoes ( my method for making a batch in my instant pot) 
  5. Hing (Asofetida) , Jeera (Cumin Seeds)
  6. Coriander Leaves for garnish
Boiling Potatoes in your Instant Pot

Boil Potatoes in your instant pot for  3 minutes High Pressure ( I used medium potatoes and I usually keep a big lot, and keep them in the fridge and use them as needed)


  1. Add a tsp of oil to the pan, add the hing and jeera. When the jeera splutters add the turmeric and then the bhuna masala and the broken up pieces of aloo/potatoes (I break it up with my hand)
  2. Fry for about 5 minutes...till the mixture becomes drier and there is a nice smell
  3. Now add water (around 2 cups), turn the stove to slow and simmer for 10 minutes
  4. Add the frozen peas. Cook for another 5 minutes (add some more water if the mixture is too thick)
  5. Now add the dhania-jeera powder/Garam Masala and cinnamon powder, Salt to taste
  6. Garnish with the Coriander leaves
  7. The Curry is ready for Prime Time

I wanted to leave you with a thought that crossed my mind today - Taking care of yourself doesn't mean me first, it means me too.  To all you wonderful people out there who are burning the candle on both ends...take a deep breath, you are not alone!