Girl having lunch while on her phone.

Yes, it’s still summer. But any parent knows that come August, it’s time to start thinking of back-to-school. It’s a bittersweet time. It means the sunny days are coming to a close and the family time will be at a minimum as the busy schedules and homework pick back up again. But it also means parents can’t get back to a regular routine, kids can see their friends again, and they can go back to enriching their minds. Fuel for that education includes a hearty and healthy lunch. Before you resign yourself to another five days a week of making cold ham and cheese sandwiches, consider upping the ante this year with some creative school lunches that are, believe it or not, simple to make thanks to useful small appliances.

Air fryer

Bella Pro air fryer

I use my air fryer at least two days out of every week to make school lunches for my son. I’m sure you’ve seen photos of kids’ lunchboxes full of healthy and perfectly presented goodies on sites like Pinterest, often times with items most parents laugh off because they know their kids would never eat that! Don’t feel bad. The reality is that sometimes, you just want to resort to something quick and easy. It can’t be fine dining five days of the week, after all.

I, like any other parent, sometimes make my son chicken fingers and French fries, sausage rolls, mini pizza, and other frozen items for lunch. The air fryer makes it super quick and simple. I can pop in a mini frozen pizza and it’s done in six minutes; chicken nuggets are about 12 plus another 3-5 minutes to get the French fries nice and crispy. It’s so simple, I stopped making my son’s lunches the night before and do them in the mornings while we chat about the day to come. If you’re not a fan of frozen meals, make your own homemade goodies on the weekend, freeze them, then pop them into the air fryer for home-cooked lunches. We have done this before with things like homemade pizza pockets, ham and cheese pockets, and breaded chicken fingers.

Toaster oven

Ninja Foodi toaster oven

Have you ever tried grilled cheese in the toaster oven? Grilled cheese is a kids’ favourite: my son has this at least once a week for lunch, even sometimes as a quick dinner with a side of green beans when we have to rush off to an evening softball game. A toaster oven makes a mean grilled cheese with less clean-up. You can also use one for frozen (or reheating fresh) pizza, or even fashion your own pizza: take a round pita, lather it up with tomato sauce, sprinkle grated mozzarella cheese and other desired toppings, then toast. Cut into slices, and voila! Instant flatbread pizza lunch. Feel free to use other toppings for different flatbread creations, like salsa with ground beef or bacon and cheese. A tip: wrap hot sandwiches or pizza slices in foil before placing them in a thermos to keep them even more well insulated until lunch hour.

Instant Pot

Instant Pot Duo Crisp

I have raved over and over about how much I love my Instant Pot, and while it’s often used for family dinners or making oatmeal for breakfast in the morning, I also use it for school lunches. This sometimes involves making use of the the steamer function and basket or trivet for steaming perogies, or slow cooking flank steak. Not only is it quick and simple for dinner (my “dump and go” recipe includes just five ingredients: flank steak, taco seasoning, jar of salsa, and sliced onions and peppers), but the leftovers become instant next-day lunch that’s delicious and nutritious in a tortilla with some cheese. I simply reheat the steak, warm up a tortilla, add the meat, toppings, and cheese, roll, then place in a thermos for one of my son’s favourite school lunches: lunch beef burrito.

Personal blender

Starfrit personal blender.

A personal blender isn’t just for active adults who want to make their morning protein smoothies. Make something for the kids, too, that they can take in a water bottle and drink through the morning. A healthy smoothie filled with fresh fruits and vegetables is a great way to ensure they’re keeping both hydrated and eating healthy (because you know that apple and sliced cucumbers are going to come back untouched!)

Older kids can rinse the bottle out once done and refill it with water from the school fountain, or send them with two bottles. For older kids, especially, who love to sleep in, it’s the perfect breakfast-on-the-run so they start their day with the protein and energy needed to learn rather than skipping breakfast altogether. With a personal blender, if you have multiple kids, each kid can have their own custom smoothie with whatever they like without you having to clean it multiple times in the morning. Some personal (and full-sized) blenders even come with multiple cups and lids so the kids can easily grab and go.

Immersion blender

Cuisinart immersion blender

An immersion blender might not initially seem like a small appliance that can come in handy for kid’s lunches, but there are many ways you can use one to make quick and healthy snacks. A favorite for some kids is hummus and vegetables, and you can make your own fresh hummus with just a few ingredients (Tahini, which is available at most grocery stores, is the only non-pantry-staple item). A quick blend in the morning and you’ll have fresh hummus to pair with some vegetables. Or use an immersive blender to make homemade salsa with chips or spinach dip with pita slices to pack as a snack.

Heated blender

Wolf Gourmet blender curry soup

Did you know some full-sized blenders can also heat food? It’s a simple way to toss in leftover vegetables and stock and make a delicious and hearty soup for lunch on a cold winter day. It’s the ultimate comfort food, paired with a few slices of toast from a toaster oven, or some salted crackers. For the winter months, it’s a great lunch for kids to take to school and help warm them up after a busy and cold recess period.

Sandwich maker/press

Sandwicher maker

I mentioned the boring old ham & cheese combination above, but there are ways to liven up this lunch. Have kids help by choosing a variety of fillings for hot sandwiches made in an indoor grill or sandwich maker. From ham and cheese to tomato sauce with mozzarella and pepperoni for homemade pizza pockets, peppers and eggs, the options are endless. You can even make little dessert pockets for a daily afternoon treat that are healthier than the pre-packaged baked goods from the grocery store. It’s simple: add the slices of bread, filling, press, and wait. Wrap up the sandwich or toss it into a thermal container for a new spin on the typical cold sandwich.

With an indoor grill, meanwhile, you can cook up burgers and hot dogs, place in a thermos, then pack buns, cheese, toppings, and condiments separately. The student can then assemble a custom-made burger or hot dog once lunchtime arrives without worrying about anything getting soggy.

Quick, simple, and delicious school lunches

Close up of a hamburger with sides in the background.

With a variety of small appliances, you can make school lunches in a jiffy, and focus on healthier options as well, or at least liven up common ones to make them more exciting. These small appliances are useful for more than just school lunches as well. Use them for making your own lunch when working from home, or for speedy dinners on busy evenings when there’s soccer practice, late working hours, or other after-school activities. They can be great for weekend breakfast, or even to help while entertaining: that full-sized blender is perfect for making frozen cocktails for guests while an immersion blender will help you whip up a large batch of tomato sauce or homemade strawberry jam for bottling and giving to friends and family as gifts.

All these small appliances would be a welcome addition in any home.

Check out plenty of small appliances at Best Buy Online

Christine Persaud
With 20+ years of experience in trade and consumer tech journalism, I have covered the tech space since before social media was a "thing" and the smartphone as we know it was even invented. Writing for various technology, lifestyle, and entertainment sites, I have covered and reviewed hundreds of tech products, from home appliances to wearables, fitness tech to headphones, TV entertainment products and services, and more. I'm also a passionate foodie who loves to cook and bake, a TV show fanatic (happy to give what to watch recommendations!), and proud mother to a 12-year-old son.