One of my favorite ways to be thrifty is to eat leftovers. And one of my favorite ways to eat leftovers is to make Silly Lunches.
My dad used to do Silly Lunches for us when we were kids, although I don’t remember what he called them. He would make up different names for the leftovers: Mashed potatoes and gravy might have been “Erupting Volcano” or tuna might have been “Smooshed Brains”. I still remember that a Ding Dong had something to do with an astronaut and a rocket– the white looped frosting represented the trail of smoke left behind. I thought my dad was a genius.
After he made up all the names for the leftovers, he would take our order for lunch. He would only say the food’s silly name so we had no idea what we were getting for lunch when we ordered, but that is what made it so fun.
I carried on the tradition with my little brothers and sister and with my own kids. Now my kids beg for Silly Lunches regularly.
Here is how we pull off an occasional silly lunch at our house.
Theme: I like to pick a theme on which to base the lunch because it helps focus me when I try to rename the food. Some of my go to themes are animals, body, nature, holidays and space. If I were going with a body theme, Top Ramen might be “Intestines” and Kool-Aid might be “Blood”. Or if I were going with an animal theme a Ham Sandwich might be “Pig’s Squeal” and Milk might be “Cow Tears”. We did a fun Halloween themed lunch last year complete with Ghost Guts (cottage cheese) and Goblin Goo (yogurt).
Don’t worry about being overly creative with your theme or food names; kids have low expectations and big imaginations. I do try to have the names make a little sense so they can’t claim that I tricked them.
Categories: I set 4 different categories of food: main dish, side, fruit/vegetable, and drink. We come up with 3 ordinary food options for each category and then rename them something silly. The kids order one item in each category. We take their orders right on our menu.
Label: I have to label the plates with the kids names as I try to assemble their different orders. Otherwise, it is too confusing to keep track of the varied orders. I use post-it notes to keep it easy.
Help: I often let one of my kids help me with the silly lunch. He/she helps me name the foods, take the other kids’ orders, make the food, and serve it. He/she feels extra special tricking their siblings.
When Elle helped she picked a “Weather” theme as she was studying the water cycle in school. She remembered that Kansas had giant sized hail once so she named apples “Kansas hail”. Crew helped me last time and his theme was WAR. (Surprise, surprise!) Carrots were swords and Orange Juice was acid.
Once all the plates are assembled, the kids are called up to eat. It is always fun to see their faces as they check out their orders. Occasionally there are tears, because they hate what they ordered. But mostly there are smiles and giggles and conversation about the food names.
Mom’s happy because the leftovers got used up. And the kids are happy because lunch was silly.