Remember, in junior high, when your pit-stained social studies teacher explained the meaning behind the phrase, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch”?

I think kids should learn that concept much sooner than 7th grade.

Perhaps a change in the curriculum is due.

Due like the $150 we owe to the school cafeteria because Noah has been buying lunch IN ADDITION to eating the ample lunch that I pack for him everyday.


Since September, he’s been using his school lunch PIN-code to buy extra food. Last week, he was sent home with a detailed printout of his account along with a bill and a note from the cafeteria saying that we should regularly check his school lunch account online.

It was shocking to me.  Sometimes he bought as much as another full meal.  Other times, he purchased ice cream or cookies.  Either way, in the last six months, he’s augmented his lunch at least three times a week and it’s added up very quickly.

Because we pack his lunches, it never occurred to us to check his account.  He never complained about needing more food or mentioned buying extra from the cafeteria. We had virtually no reason to think that we owed a balance, nevermind one that surpassed $100.

Obviously, we needed to confront him, which we did after his sisters went to bed.

At first, he denied EVERYTHING.  But, given the fact that his school picture would have appeared to the lunch room staff every time he entered his PIN, we were pretty sure that the printout was legitimate.

We weren’t angry, but explained that we wished he’d been honest with us from the start and made it clear that we expected his honesty henceforth.

He grumped and grumbled and said we were being mean when we told him that his allowance money would go into a jar until he had enough to pay his debt.  He nodded begrudgingly when we explained that anymore cafeteria purchases would be met with severe limitations to his social life.

On the other hand (and with some supervision), he’s now allowed him to make his own bigger, better lunches.

A few days after we confronted him, he apologized and admitted the whole truth about buying extra food.

“I didn’t think it would cost anything”, he lamented.

“Everything costs something, Noah”, I said, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”