Lunchroom Pizza

I loved lunchroom pizza.

I don’t know the demographics of public schoolers vs. private schoolers vs. home schoolers vs. non-schoolers, but I can imagine most of us were enrolled in public schools.

But as I found out last week, our lunchroom was not fancy schmancy.

I mean… I knew.  Trust me.  It was a small school in a small county in the state ranked in the bottom 5 in everything but cows and catfish.

That is to say, I knew it wasn’t the best around.

But I wasn’t sure to what extent.

Then a buddy of mine dropped a bomb on me.  He went to a school where there were 2 different lines in the lunch room with DIFFERENT FOOD TO CHOOSE FROM!!

Hooooooooooold up….

You tellin’ me if you didn’t want caviar and lettuce wraps you could go get a burger?

“Yes,” he says to me all matter of factly, confused at the tone of my voice.  Quite pompous really.

Goodness gracious… we had 2 lines.  So we could keep the lines a flowin’.

But there was 1 food option, unless you wanted salad (girls) or nothing (non-humans).

I just so happen to be non-girl and non-non-human.  So I ate that lunchroom goodness, and pizza was my fave, yo.

See my mom always made spaghetti at home, a cheap and easy delicacy that I still love to this day.  It’s even better the day after, heated in the microwave for all those keeping the books at home.

We’re actually having it tonight… What an awesome world…

Anyway because of having it at home I didn’t want spaghetti at school.  However, it was so popular with everyone else because their parents made chicken fingers all the time.

Chicken fingers??  They make those outside of school??  I was so jealous upon receiving this information, because I also loved chicken finger day.  Or fried chicken day in general.  It normally landed on Thursday.  Pizza day was Monday.

Now that I think about it, they had a solid schedule goin’ on.  They knew Mondays sucked, so they threw some pizza goodness in there.  With fries!

I forgot about the fries.  They were always the main side with pizza, and that does not make any sense at all.

But I didn’t complain.  I had pizza and fries.  Who cares if I have practice after school and a combination of such foods sit heavily and painfully on the tummy?

The thing that bothered me about pizza day though was that lots of people didn’t like it.

They didn’t like pizza day.

They were above it.

They = wimpy, snobby little children from a town that boasted a population of about 26

above = higher, mightier, holier, more deserving, etc.

it = pizza day

Now… don’t get me wrong, if you could see the pizza you might think Oh those poor children have to eat that??

But you just haven’t tasted heaven.

Much to my disappointment, my late public educational career brought with it a new style of pizza in our highly convenient styrofoam trays.  And it wasn’t near as good.

I’m still mad about that.

Sigh…

Our public school system offered (and still offers I’m sure) free and reduced lunch based on total household income.

My parents were divorced when I was very young.  Our school was divided into 3 sections when I was there; Kindergarten was stand-alone, elementary was grades 1-6, and high school was grades 7-12.

I can’t remember exactly all that transpired and when but before I started kindergarten I know my 2 brothers and I lived with just my mother.  My mother had no stacks on deck, mind you.

No, we never missed a meal.  We never had to walk 20 miles to get anywhere.  We never were evicted (though I do think my Mom was close once).

I can’t say for sure if we ever got free lunch.  I think there were a few years when we did, but I am absolutely certain that we never paid full price for lunch.  It was a pretty significant reduction.  Full price for lunch was $2/day.  Reduced lunch was $0.40/day.  I could eat lunch for a week for the price that others would pay for a day.

I obviously am very grateful for it now because I know how much it helped Mama.  Instead of paying $30/week for her three children to eat lunch, she paid $6/week.

But even at a young age I was embarrassed of it.  I didn’t want anyone to know.  Even my best buddies.

It’s amazing how money is such a touchy subject, especially when you have no control over it (i.e. an elementary student).

But kids are mean, and I had no idea how people would react if they knew.

I’ve found that the same fear translates into adult life.  It’s hard to watch others buy awesome houses and cars and selfie sticks and rental properties and Little Debbie cakes while you sit back with your $0.99 microwave dinner watching your 1972 tube with a rabbit ear antenna wrapped up in aluminum foil to get a glimpse of the local 6 o clock news.

It’s even harder to come up with an excuse not to go eat lunch after church with people you love.

What do you say?

“Uh, sorry, man.  I can’t today I have to go… feed my goldfish.”

“It’s gonna take you all day to feed your fish?”

“I also have to…yes.”

Bad example… The point is I’ve been there.  It’s easier to say than do (as are most things), but own it!

My father, who I will from now on refer to as Pops, summed me up recently in a way I never thought about.

He was talking with a customer at his shop when somehow I and my older brother were brought up.  I’m not sure how name dropping works on these things so until I do, my older brother is Ned.

I’m paraphrasing, but…

“Ned can handle idiots; Kyle doesn’t have time for ’em.”  –  Pops

And I thought about it… Wow… He’s right.

You’re right, Pops.  I do not have the time or energy or resources to entertain nonsense.

But I also don’t have the time or energy to portray myself in a way that is inaccurate.

Therefore, I will not say to you that I can go get lunch and everything is fine when it isn’t.  I’ve done that before.  And I was tense the whole time stressing about all the money I don’t have.

Not very enjoyable.

So the reason I can’t get lunch is this:

I would love to, but I have already reached my dining out quota for the day/week/month/year/decade/lifetime, and I really Really REALLY wanna get out of debt.

Some will offer to buy your meal, which you accept greatly.

Don’t take away their blessing.

One day you’ll be out of debt and remember that day and pass it on to the next guy or gal.  And so on and so forth.

The key here is budgeting.

BUD — GET — ING

BUDGETING.  BUDGET.

I don’t care how you say it.  I don’t care if you mispronounce it.  I don’t care if you don’t say it at all.  I don’t care if you use a different word and mispronounce that one!

BUDGET!

Budget everything.  Know exactly where every single penny is going.

Set aside money for gas in your cars.

Set aside money for groceries.

Set aside money for miscellaneous crap.

Set aside money for free and fun time.

See?  You can still have fun.  It’s actually a requirement from me.  If you are going to listen to my advice, you better listen to all of it.  Enjoy yourself, especially if you are married or engaged or in a real relationship that’s leading somewhere.

The idea is to not get out of control.

I budget monthly, but I break down groceries and miscellaneous into weekly sub-budgets.

When my wife and I were first married and for about a year, our weekly expenses on groceries were a very meager $40/week.

And I still get upset thinking about that.  Our first year, 2012, brought a combined household income of less than $20,000.  That was before taxes.

I’m not mad about it really.  But I don’t want anyone to EVER experience telling your wife that she can’t get something she wants from the grocery store.

Because I have, and it is miserably wrecking to a man’s spirit.

So takeaways:

lunchroom pizza = awesome

having less money than others = ok

budgeting = necessary

telling your wife no = never again

please please please please please…. budget now.  Benefits will come.

7 thoughts on “Lunchroom Pizza”

  1. I love it. Love it all! I’m a bit sick today, just feeling under the weather. But this was so good.

    My favorite day was actually calzone day. I wish restaurants served a calzone like that.

  2. Oh yes. A “side dish” on my school’s pizza day was something called a cheese wedge. I would break the cheese wedge into small pieces and sprinkle it over the rectangle of pizza. Mmmm. Extra cheesiness.

  3. Love the article. Huge fan of pizza/mexican pizza day back in elementary school. We had two places to buy lunch. The standard cafeteria line and the room with the fun breadsticks and other exotic foods. The story hit home for me, so thanks for taking me down to memory lane.

    It sounds like, and please correct me if I am wrong, the other piece of this story is that you finally became comfortable about expressing your financial situation. Instead of hiding it from others like you did back in school, you became comfortable talking and expressing to others that you were on a budget because of your laser like focus on getting out of debt. Budgeting was a means of getting to that mindset because it allowed you to quantify everything and make your decision to say no to friends a lot easier. Good for you is all I really have to say!

    Last point, don’t say no to your wife….can’t ever go wrong there! Thanks for the great read today.

    Bert

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