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School lunches are the bane of my existence.
This is not an exaggeration. Truly, there is no meal or food preparation I hate more than school lunches. So much so, that my kids were only seven and five when I taught them how to make their own midday meals to take to school.
While they still take on this responsibility on the reg, I do chip in here and there, especially now that I’m working from home and will occasionally have a spare five minutes to pop down to the kitchen and get something done.
In years past, the school has had microwave ovens for kids to heat up leftovers, and that was a major go-to for us. Thanks to new restrictions, that is no longer an option.
I know some moms are huge believers in the virtues of a thermos, but I haven’t yet taken the plunge to order yet another must-have container for lunch. So right now, we are getting creative with food that can be eaten cold or at room temperature. Whether at home, at a pod, actually attending school, or anything in between, here are some of the current faves:
- Pizza: Whether it’s homemade, frozen, or leftover delivery, my kids will eat pizza at absolutely any temperature. (In all fairness, so will I, it’s delicious.)
- Cold spaghetti: This one is a little out there, but for some reason, these boys of mine love to eat pasta when it’s cold. I’m happy to oblige since it’s easy to slip in extra veggies and it’s very filling.
- Peanut butter: Without any allergies (at home or in our school class) to worry about, peanut butter is a staple lunch food. I’m not talking a peanut butter sandwich by the way. I’m talking about scoops of peanut butter, possibly topped with raisins or cinnamon that is eaten with a spoon. Hard to clean, but super easy and yummy. There are also other nut butter substitutes to consider.
- Homemade lunchables: Lunchables are a bit pricey, but making your own is much cheaper. My kids will often taken cheese slices, salami, and crackers as their main fare.
- Bacon: Even kids love bacon, and it’s great hot, cold, or in between. We put it on sandwiches or sometimes eat it with french toast (also served cold.) When this is for lunch, my kids tend to eat leftovers for breakfast to even it out.
- Deviled eggs: My seven year old requested this one, and I’m a huge fan. While it takes a bit of weekend prep on my part, it’s easy for the boys to add it to their lunches. It’s a cheap source of protein and calories. I don’t have an Instant Pot, but if you do, I hear they make amazing hard-boiled eggs!
- Sausage and biscuits: Homemade (which is cheaper) or the frozen kind are both a big hit when packed in a lunch. If you buy the frozen ones, just heat them up in the morning and pop them in the lunch box. Honey and jelly are a plus, but not a must.
- Cucumbers: Cucumbers with Tajin is the currently preferred veggie for my kids. They must have a vegetable and fruit every day, and this one is always a winner.
- Pink Lady apple slices: I specify the type of apple here because the current teeth situation among my children prevents a lot of eating whole apples. They love slices (to eat solo or dip in their peanut butter), and the Pink Lady ones stay crisp and don’t brown better than most.
- Pasta salad: No matter what I mix into cooked macaroni, my boys will eat it. Especially if it has a zesty dressing. This is a great way to use up those extra veggies.
- Applesauce: Another big winner for a fruit component, we buy large jars of applesauce. The boys fill up small plastic containers to take to school. Cinnamon on top is a must.
- Craisins and cereal: Yup, sometimes they take cereal as one of their sides. Some Cheerios with craisins never hurt anyone as a filler item. Maybe it’s healthier than chips?
As you can tell, I’m way into function over form when it comes to school lunches. If it’s in the pantry and my kids will eat it, then it’s likely to hit a lunchbox at some point, even if it’s a little outside the norm.
I know that I’m lucky to have kids who are the antithesis of picky eaters. The flip side is that they’re always hungry and the checkers at HEB have started hiding when they see me coming to the register with my overflowing cart.
What ways are you getting creative with school lunches these days? PLEASE share in the comments below.