Getting the kids ready for back to school is one thing. Preparing lunch every day is quite another. While some moms are Bento Box queens (and seriously, go, you!), there are plenty of moms like me who open the refrigerator and stare at half-used salad dressing bottles, some shredded cheese, and pickles and think, “Maybe if I close it and open it again, something new will appear.”
To save your sanity, here are some quick and easy lunch ideas for the weekday!
Pinwheels for Lunch
This has to be my favorite lunch idea. Throw a tortilla down and put anything on it and call it a day! Seriously, anything. PB&J? Put it on a tortilla, and it’s fancy. Peanut butter and banana, perfection. Grab the last couple slices of lunch meat, the handful of cheese you stared at earlier, and some mayo or mustard, and roll it up. If you have a non-picky eater, you can even put some lettuce or tomato on it! Cream cheese? Stick that on a tortilla with lunch meat. Have only a couple of chicken nuggets left? Cut them up and in they go. The possibilities are endless. Roll it, slice it, and your kiddo has finger food-sized pinwheels!
Fruit, Veggies, and Meat Lunch Combo
Nothing says you have to combine everything! Open a can of corn and pour some into a small container. Wash off a handful of berries and stick them in another. Then grab those meat slices and roll them around a string cheese roll, put a toothpick in it to hold it together, and put it in the third container! They have a well-balanced and easy meal with a lot less of a morning rush!
Mac and Cheese
Guys, listen. Mac and cheese is a fan favorite. Kids love it and it is simple. It isn’t fast if you wait until the morning to make it, but if you grab those Easy Macs from the store, you can microwave it in a minute and transfer it to a bowl. If you have time to prep the night before, they have the real deal and you can use it for a few days straight! Add a banana or fruit cup and wa-la, lunch is done.
Peanut Butter and Jelly
If your school allows PB&J, this is an easy one that parents overlook these days. Sunbutter is an alternative to peanut butter if your school does not allow peanuts. Regardless of which one you use, slap it on a sandwich, and stick pretty much anything else you have in the lunchbox, and you are done.
Want to make it just a little more special? You can do the fancy cross cuts so they have little triangles for sandwiches or purchase a sandwich sealer and lock in those ingredients.
Cucumber and Cream Cheese Sandwiches
This is an easy, easy one. Take bread, crackers, or a bagel, add cream cheese to it, and put on a slice of cucumber. If you want, throw in a side of that leftover mac and cheese or a fruit cup. Then store the cucumber for tomorrow and you can use it as a side with ranch for another PB&J roll-up.
Use your leftovers. If you have take out pizza, save a slice. Did you make pasta? Pull out a single spoonful and lunch is done. Was it a soup night? Great! Throw it in a bowl to warm up tomorrow, add in some crackers, and you are done. Make your life faster and simpler by using what you already took the time to make. Sure… my kiddo did not love when I sent bean soup with her, but she is still alive today to tell the story.
Fake a Lunch-able
Ritz crackers, cheese and meat make an easy lunch they can assemble at school. Take a few slices of cheese and just cut them into fourths. Then grab a handful of crackers and package them. Finally, pull out the lunch meat and cut into fourths. Done.
If you really need to save time, just buy a party tray and use it for a few days. Add some baby carrots or pre-washed sugar snap peas with a side of ranch and it is a quick meal!
Parfaits for Lunch
This is another easy one that seems harder than it needs to be. Most people want to pre-assemble a parfait. Why? Kids like to play with their food and it gets soggy if you pre-assemble it. Simply grab a pack of yogurt or get a larger tub if you want to do it yourself. In one bowl or compartment, put the yogurt. In another, add granola (spice this up with the Safe + Fair Birthday Cake Granola), and then in the last, put whatever fruit your kiddo will eat. While my kids love strawberries, in the mornings I am not looking to cut them up, so I usually opt for blueberries or raspberries.
Keep It Simple
Don’t overcomplicate lunch. Yes, you can grab the box of Doritos, bread, and lunch meat and send them on their way. You can also put some money on their lunch account on the days you are running late. Remember, once they reach a certain age, you can throw the mom phrases at them, “If you don’t like what I pack you, wake up earlier and make it yourself.”
Until then, don’t stress too much about lunch. If it isn’t perfectly balanced, feed them what they were missing at dinner. And to be honest, probably half of anything you send them comes back home after school with the excuse, “We don’t have time to eat.”
So, keep it simple and love them. And maybe stick a little note in there from time to time to make them smile.