I didn't eat the most balanced lunch as a child in the '90s. Most school days my meal consisted of some kind of chip, an ice cream cone, and a "pink drink" (I still have no idea what's in it). Nor was I alone; most things every '90s kid wanted for lunch had... uh... questionable nutritional value. They sure were fun to eat, though!
If you're a child of the '90s like me, half of you were raised in a household where both parents worked, and 13 percent of you were raised by a single parent, meaning meals were often more about convenience than anything else (get some food in the kids for Pete's sake). I was raised in a single-parent household, which meant my brother and I got our own breakfast, most likely a cereal like Cookie Crisp (my favorite), and sometimes even packed our own lunches. In the summer we microwaved whatever was in the fridge or freezer, or went to McDonald's.
I have never been a morning person, so getting myself off to school on time was a challenge that rarely left me time to pack a lunch, hence my unorthodox food choices. Plus, the thought of food sitting warm in my locker or book bag until lunch rolled around grossed me out. It's often said that necessity is the mother of invention, and that was never more true than in the '90s. Here are 15 things every '90s kid wanted for lunch. Which one was your favorite?
1A Happy Meal
McDonald's was the first fast food restaurant to come up with the kids' meal, better known as the Happy Meal. This genius marketing idea consisted of a hamburger, cheeseburger, or chicken nuggets, fries, a soft drink, and a toy all packed in a fun box.
Let's be honest, though: The toy was always the real reason to get the Happy Meal (just as the toy was the reason to get any kind of cereal). My family lived just across the park from McDonald's, and since the Happy Meal was only $1.99, we ate them a lot. This led to an accumulation of memorable toys, most of which (sadly) ended up being donated to Goodwill when I went to college.
OK, I'll be the first to say it, Lunchables are... not that great as an adult. It's basically processed meat and cheese with some crackers and a dessert. I will admit, though, that they looked cool; as a kid, I really wanted to like them.
Lunchables allowed '90s kids to feel like they were eating appetizers like adults, and it all came in a fun package. Assembling your lunch was part of the thrill.
3Pizza Day at School
I think this would be a really cool tattoo because to say I love pizza is a massive understatement. If a doctor cut me open, I'm sure they would discover that my body is made up of 90 percent pizza.
The kind of pizza usually served in the school cafeteria was square, soggy, and tasted like wet cardboard. If you were lucky, your school had a designated pizza day where real-honest-to-goodness pizza was delivered from a local place, and sold in the cafeteria. Either way, though, it was hard to resist the allure of school-sanctioned pizza. Indeed, pizza day was usually the one day I skipped my pink drink and bought a hot lunch instead.
I also read a lot of books as a kid (even getting in trouble for reading in my lap during class instead of paying attention), which means I earned a lot of those Pizza Hut Book It certificates that entitled me to a free personal-pan pizza — score!
My mom would rarely buy me Fruit Roll-Ups, those flat little fruit squares that came all rolled up like a tube. This meant I had to result to begging other kids to give me theirs.
Luckily, there was always at least one kid who got a Fruit Roll-Up every day, and didn't want it. Of course I made friends with all of the Fruit Roll-Up kids. I mean, come on, you have to do what you can to get by.
5Kraft Mac & Cheese
Kraft Macaroni & Cheese — with that wonderfully zany mascot, Cheesasaurus Rex — was a staple in many households; perhaps this is wy so many of us hopped onto the Kraft Easy Mac bandwagon when it debuted in the early 2000s. Being able to make your mac and cheese in the microwave was a boon for college kids everywhere who had grown up in the '90s.
6Kudos Granola Bars
It was love at first bite with the Kudos Granola Bar. The best part? These bars came in flavors like M&M, Rice Krispies, and chocolate. It was basically a dessert disguised as a snack, which is pretty genius.
7Chef Boyardee Chili Mac and Beefaroni
I grew up eating both Chef Boyardee Chili Mac and Beefaroni at least once a week. (Eating at my house was pretty similar to Lorelei and Rory on Gilmore Girls — when it wasn't pizza or McDonalds, it was lots of things from boxes and cans with fun pictures on the outside.) If I was really hungry, I mixed the Chili Mac and Beefaroni together to make myself a king-sized pasta meal. And for what it's worth, I'm not totally above eating it today — maybe I'll even add it to my earthquake kit.
Writing this list is proof that my brain stores useless information for all of eternity. Right now the jingle from Hot Pockets is running through my head: "When you want a big meal without a big deal, what are you gonna pick? Hot Pockets!"
Since Hot Pockets (basically a mini calzone) were so epic that Snoop Dogg debated them on Larry King Live, I feel slightly less silly for retaining this information. Our freezer was always stuffed with Hot Pockets, and my brother could eat four at a time.
I must admit, I never got on the Squeezit bandwagon. Squeezeit, a drink that you could squeeze into your mouth (hence the name), came in flavors like Chucklin' Cherry, Berry B. Wild, Grumpy Grape (later changed to Gallopin' Grape), Silly Billy Strawberry, Rockin' Red Puncher, Mean Green Puncher, Smarty Arty Orange, and Troppi Tropical Punch. To me, it basically sounded like you were drinking Garbage Pail Kids.
10Anything Those Keebler Elves Made
The Keebler Elves live in a tree and whip up delicious cookies and snacks for kids. What's cooler than that?
According to their website, the Keebler Elves bake their cookies the old-fashioned elfin way, in magic ovens in the Hollow Tree (is that in Stars Hollow?). Filled with scrumptious smells and alive with the industry of baking, the tree is the very hub of elfin activity.
If you were a kid in the '90s, your lunch most likely included something created in this elfin tree. And as an adult, you probably know that a few of the Keebler Fudge Shoppe cookies are dupes for your favorite Girl Scout Cookies. Heck yes.
OK, so what the heck is Cheese Whiz anyway? A pasty cheese in a jar that doesn't need to go in the refrigerator is how I remember it. But in the '90s, Cheese Whiz could complete almost any meal. It was great for nachos, and if you were really hardcore you could even eat it straight out of the jar with a spoon. Good times.
We were big fans of chocolate milk at my house. It didn't matter if it was Nestle Quik, or Hershey's Syrup, anything to disguise the flavor of milk please.
In fact, the only requirement my brother had was that his chocolate milk "taste like a sidewalk." I still have no idea what this means. Apparently he licked a sidewalk at some point and decided it tasted the chocolate milk should taste. Hey, my mom was at work, and kids are weird.
If you were a kid of the '90s, no lunch was complete without some kind of flavored milk. For me it was strawberry.
14Surge Soft Drink
Surge was basically Coca-Cola's answer to Mountain Dew, advertised to give you a "hardcore edge," because what kid doesn't need to be more hardcore? Surge could help you up your street cred. It ended up having the sort of lasting appeal few drinks can claim; how else do you explain how excited everyone was when Surge came back recently?
Two words — drinkable yogurt. Go-Gurt was a great addition to any '90s kids lunch, and what's more, it made it fun (because '90s kids loved to have fun while eating. Possibly this is still the case today, because playing with your food is awesome). There was nothing sadder than realizing your Go-Gurt was all squeezed out. Luckily it was OK to have two, because duh — it's yogurt.