What do you think about when your kids go back to school? I’ve seen the commercials where the mom rejoices, runs out for a manicure, and spends the day in a spa, and although my life isn’t quite like that, I can’t say I was all that sad to see summer end.
It’s back to routine for the kids, better bed times, and yes, packing lunches. I know, I feel your pain. There’s nothing worse than standing in the kitchen late at night or early in the morning and having absolutely no idea what to put in those lunch boxes. The same old sandwich is easier than trying something new, but it also gets pretty boring for the kids.
I have four lunch kits to pack, and just like a lot of parents, I have kids with varied eating interests. One is vegan, another is so picky he shuns every vegetable and thinks granola bars are part of the food groups. It’s like being a chef some days, and it requires a bit of extra effort on my part. That’s why one of the first things I do every year in September is some digging for lunch ideas.
Packing a lunch might not be your favourite thing to do, but with these back to school lunch ideas you’ll have a few new ideas to try for your kid’s lunch kits.
Easy Mac & Cheese
It’s a staple at home, and if you have a thermos you can easily pack mac and cheese for your kid’s lunch. I like this recipe because it turns out very creamy, and it keeps well until they eat it. From foodformyfamily.com
1/2 pound small pasta
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons cream cheese
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside. In a medium saucepan melt butter over medium heat until bubbly. Slowly whisk in the flour and continue cooking for 1-2 minutes, whisking continuously, until the roux turns golden. Slowly whisk in the milk until all is incorporated. Cook until thick, 1-2 minutes.
Stir in cream cheese until melted. Remove from heat and stir in grated cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring to melt. Season to taste. Serve immediately or pack into preheated insulated containers to enjoy at lunch.
Cold pizza is one of my favourite things, and my kids like it too. Instead of ordering take out and putting a slice in a zip lock, try this pizza bun recipe. You can use any kind of bun, so you can do gluten free or whole wheat. From the foodnetwork.com
1 lb bacon
1 lb mozza cheese (shredded)
1 lb cheddar cheese (shredded)
1 stick pepperoni
2 (10 ounce) cans sliced mushrooms
1 onion (diced)
1 green pepper (diced)
24 ounces spaghetti or pizza sauce
1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder (or to taste)
Slice bacon into small pieces and then brown it.
Drain fat from bacon.
Cut the pepperoni into slices and then quarter the slices.
Add onion, green pepper, and mushrooms to the bacon and heat until onions begin to soften. Stir often.
Add spaghetti sauce, pepperoni, oregano and garlic powder and heat through.
Stir in cheese.
Spread on open-faced buns and broil until bubbly and cheese melted.
Greek Pasta Salad
Cold pasta is great as long as it’s seasoned properly, and this greek pasta is bursting with flavor. This reicpe is from Bellyfull.com, and you should take a look at her page. She has a ton of great ideas for back to school lunches.
1 pound rotini pasta
8 ounces sliced summer sausage
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 large cucumber, peeled and seeded, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 can (2.25 ounce) sliced black olives
1 cup (4 ounce) crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup Greek Vinaigrette
Cook pasta as directed on box. Drain and rinse under cold water.
In the meantime, combine all other ingredients in a large bowl. Add pasta to the bowl and mix well.
Cover and refrigerate until serving.
There isn’t a specific recipe for Banana Sushi because all you need are bananas, whole wheat wraps, and your choice of toppings. You can also just use the banana as a holder for extra goodies. If your school is nut-free you can use sunbutter.
Goodhousekeeping.com has some great banana sushi recipes. Try these:
- Take a wrap, coat it with Nutella and roll the banana up. Slice into sections
- Coat your wrap in peanut butter, add a drizzle of honey, roll up banana and slice
- Cut a trough in the banana and fill with peanut butter and raisins
A few years ago I wouldn’t have thought my kids would like bento boxes, but I was inspired when I happened upon Pinterest and saw some of the great ways parents were filling their kid’s bento boxes. The Kitchn.com has an entire page of Bento box ideas, but here are a few quick ways you can fill them. One of my favourite ideas is the “breakfast for lunch” bento box. Make these two-ingredient banana pancakes and fill with the box with a yogurt tube, strawberries, bacon crumbles, and a hard boiled egg.
1 medium ripe banana
2 large eggsOptional extras (choose a few!):
1/8 teaspoon baking powder, for fluffier pancakes
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 cup chopped nuts, chocolate chips, or a mix
1/2 cup leftover granola
1 cup fresh fruit, like blueberries, raspberries, or chopped apples
Butter or oil, for the pan
Maple syrup, jam, powdered sugar, or any other toppings, to serve
Mash the banana: Peel the banana and break it up into several big chunks in a bowl. Use a dinner fork to thoroughly mash the banana. Continue mashing until the banana has a pudding-like consistency and no large lumps remain; a few small lumps are okay. You should have 1/3 to 1/2 cup of mashed bananas.
- Add any extra ingredients: These pancakes are pretty great on their own, but a few extras never hurt. Add 1/8 teaspoon of baking powder for fluffier, lighter pancakes, and whisk in salt, vanilla, cocoa powder, or honey to flavor the pancakes. Save any chunky, heavy ingredients — like nuts or chocolate chips — for when the pancakes are on the griddle.
- Stir in the eggs: Whisk the eggs together until the yolks and whites are completely combined. Pour the eggs over the banana and stir until the eggs are completely combined. The batter will be very loose and liquidy, more like whisked eggs than regular pancake batter.
- Heat a griddle over medium heat: Melt a little butter or warm a little vegetable oil in the pan to prevent sticking, if you like.
- Drop the batter on hot griddle: Drop roughly 2 tablespoons of batter onto the hot griddle. It should sizzle immediately — if not, turn up the heat slightly.
- Cook for about 1 minute: Cook the pancakes until the bottoms look browned and golden when you lift a corner. The edges should also be starting to look set, but the middle will still be loose like barely set Jell-O.
- Sprinkle with toppings: Sprinkle any loose toppings, like nuts or chocolate chips, over the top of the pancakes as the first side cooks.
- Flip the pancakes: I’ve found it best to do this very gently and fairly slowly — the opposite of regular pancakes. Gently work a spatula about halfway under the pancake, then lift until the unsupported half of the pancake is just barely lifted off the skillet. Lay the pancake back down on its other side. Some of the loose batter will probably spill onto the skillet as you do this; just be sure to lay the pancake on top of the spill and nudge any excess back under the pancake.
- Cook for another minute or so: Cook the pancake for another minute or so, until the other side is also golden-brown. You can flip the pancakes a few times if you need to in order to get them evenly browned. (Flipping is much easier once the second side is set!)
- Continue cooking the pancakes: Transfer the cooked pancakes to a serving plate and continue cooking the rest of the batter. Keep the finished pancakes warm in the oven if cooking more than a single batch.
Hopefully these back to school lunch ideas help you feel inspired when making lunches. If not, you could always leave a note like this dad.
Need breakfast ideas? Take a look at my post from last week on back to school breakfasts.
Here are a few handy things to have around when you’re packing your kid’s lunch.
A bento box lunch kit makes packing a varied lunch simple
|When I’m making big batches of food to freeze, I always use my vacuum sealer||
The Crock-pot lunch warmer will keep your kid’s meals nice and warm until the lunch bell rings