Back-To-School Meal Tips: Lunch Edition

An apple and a paper bag with lunch. Vintage Style.

Can you believe it’s September 1st?! The summer flew by, and the fall leaves and yellow school busses are moving on in. Last week we shared some great back-to-school breakfast tips, and this week we’re focusing on quick, easy, and good-for-you lunches (for the kiddos and you!). Read on and rest assured you’ll be eating well this fall, even amidst the seasonal chaos.

Lunch Tips:

  • It’s all about the container. I don’t know about you, but brown bags and stained tupperware don’t exactly scream “eat me!” to me. Investing in a nice, reusable lunch tote and keeping a few real plates, bowls, and utensils at the office can elevate your packed-lunch routine and, at least for me, make weekday lunches feel like real meals again. For the kids, let them pick out a lunchbox they love, and surprise them every now and then with a cool new snack container, printed napkin, or just a nice note. For my latest lunch container obsessions, check out LunchSkins and PlanetBox.
  • Prep work is the name of the game. I know, I know, you’re sick of me telling you to prep ahead of time, but I’m telling you, it’s key here. Start the week by washing, peeling, chopping, and prepping a whole bunch of fresh fruits and veggies. It will make grabbing healthy snacks, packing lunches, and even cooking dinner so much easier!
  • Stick to a theme. Packing lunches for multiple family members can be tricky, but try your hardest to stick to a common theme each day. For example, on turkey sandwich day, start with the same basic ingredients for everyone, then make the necessary modifications by switching up the bread (try ciabatta or for the adults and sandwich bread or pita pockets for the little ones), condiments (chutneys or grainy mustards for the grownups, hummus or cream cheese for the kiddos), and other components until everyone is happy.
  • Plan for leftovers. When making dinners that will reheat easily, double the recipe and you’ll have leftover lunches for days! If you’re worried about getting sick of the same dish, just portion out individual servings and pop them in the freezer.
  • Keep it fun. It’s amazing how far fun cookie cutters, pasta noodle shapes, and wacky colors (green eggs, anyone?) can go with the little ones. Get creative!

Lunch Recipes:

1. Easy Pita Pizzas: Treat yourself to a warm, gooey pizza without the hassle of homemade crust or the price tag and calorie count of pizza parlor pie. Pack whatever toppings you like alongside and voila, a tasty take-along lunch.


2. Tuscan Tuna And Cannellini Bean Sandwich: Forget the mayo-drenched tuna sandwich on Wonderbread. This is a serious upgrade to a classic, complete with fresh garlic and herbs, briny Kalamata olives, rustic Italian bread, and luscious Cannellini Beans. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

3. Easy Summer Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce: These healthy rolls are crisp and satisfying without weighing you down the rest of the afternoon, plus they pack beautifully. Play around with the fillings until you find a combo that you and your family love.


4. Ham and Corn Relish Cooler Pressed Sandwiches: Cooler-pressed sandwiches are just what they sound like: sandwiches you actually want to stick at the bottom of your lunchbox so the weight of the other food compresses them and allows the juices to soak into the bread.

5. Melon Pasta Salad: Make a big batch of this sweet and savory pasta salad over the weekend and enjoy in your lunch all week long. The kiddos usually enjoy this one as-is, but try using fun pasta shapes to jazz it up for them!


6. Fiesta Veggie Wrap: Who couldn’t love cheese, avocado, pesto, and some fresh veggies all rolled up in a tortilla? This wrap comes together in a snap (we’re talking less than 10 minutes) and packs well. A perfect lunch for the whole family.


7. Feta, Garbanzo Bean and Eggplant Pita Sandwiches: This unique recipe is perfect for when you just can’t stand another ham and cheese sandwich. The feta, garbanzo bean and eggplant salad can be made ahead of time and scooped into a pita pocket at the last minute for a quick and satisfying lunch.

8. Chicken Caesar Sammie: Pack the chicken salad filling and bun separately, then just layer on for a gourmet sandwich.


9. Spicy Sesame Noodles with Chopped Peanuts and Thai Basil: This is a great make-it-yourself alternative to heavy takeout food. Enjoy warm or cold.

10. PB&J Wrap: An upgrade to a classic, complete with hearty granola, fresh fruit, and a whole wheat tortilla in place of bread. Even parents will find themselves scarfing down this ultra kid-friendly wrap.


11. Chickpea and Cucumber Salad With Hummus: This salad is simple enough that kids typically won’t put up a fight, but chickpeas, feta, and dill elevate it just to the point of being satisfying and interesting for mom and dad, too.

I hope I’ve provided you with some lunchtime inspiration, and taken some of the load off your shoulders! Stay tuned for the last post of the series a week from next Tuesday, where we’ll be covering easy weeknight dinner ideas!