Have you ever crawled into bed for the night and then suddenly realized you forgot to pack your kid's lunch for school the next day? It's the worst, but it doesn't have to be that way. Find some
school lunch ideas you can prep ahead of time and save yourself from those late night lunchtime stress spiral. The same goes if your kid is doing remote learning this fall, by the way: Do a little meal prepping ahead of time, and your blood pressure will thank you.
Parents who pack lunches and whose kids are attending school in-person this fall have two options:
make lunch the night before school (when you're exhausted from the day), or throw it together in the (morning when you're half awake). Distance learning parents aren't off the hook either, because your kids still need to eat during the day and you have to make sure there's something in the fridge for them (even if you're in the middle of a work meeting). Since none of these scenarios are ideal, it helps to prepare enough food on Sunday to feed the kids through Friday.
The only thing is, kids can be picky and eating the same leftover lasagna five days in a row isn't exactly fun. So, it helps to make food that can be prepared in a few (quick) ways to add some variety. And, to make your life even easier, might as well prep some sides for the week since you'll be cooking anyway.
If you're not sure where to begin, these ideas will give you a good start on the weeks ahead.
1 Chicken Breast
Cook up a few chicken breasts with light seasoning on a Sunday and then use them for a bunch of different meals throughout the week: Put some slices in a salad, throw it in with some pasta, serve it plain with some BBQ or honey mustard dipping sauce, or prepare a delicious chicken sandwich, like
this one from Baked by Rachel. 2 Meat Balls
Whip up these
meatballs from Cookies & Cups and use them in a variety of ways throughout the week. Your kids can dip them in a sauce, make an easy meatball sub, break them up to eat with rice, put them on spaghetti, or ground them up and add to a frozen pizza at home. 3 Roasted Veggies
Grab a sheet pan and cook up a bunch of roasted veggies for the week. You can add them to rice and drizzle some teriyaki on them, mix them with chicken for a classic meat and veggies meal, sprinkle on some garlic and serve with pasta, or chop them up into a salad.
If your kids turn their nose up to veggies, try this recipe for
ranch roasted veggies from Family Fresh Meals. 4 Ground Turkey Or Beef
Depending on what your family prefers, cook up some ground turkey or beef for the week to mix in with different meals. Ground meat is a key ingredient for a number of dishes, so avoid adding too much seasoning while you're cooking it up to keep it versatile.
Throughout the week add it to salad, mix it up with rice and veggies, try out these
tacos from the Brown Eyed Baker, or use it in a wrap. If you have a bit leftover on Thursday night, toss it into the crock pot on Friday morning to make Sloppy Joes for lunch (or these Turkey Joes from No. 2 Pencil) 5 Hard Boiled Eggs La Bicicleta Vermella/Moment/Getty Images
It doesn't get much easier than a hard boiled egg. Have a few on hand to use as a side, cut up and add to a salad, top a sandwich with, or have on top of toast. They are super simple to make and will keep your kid full.
6 Pasta, Rice, Or Quinoa Cris Cantón/Moment/Getty Images
You can mix so much into pasta, rice, and/or quinoa, so just having some ready on hand will make lunch prep simple. Mix the rice up with some meat or shrimp, use the quinoa to make
Cookie & Kate's black bean tacos, or simply throw some marinara on the spaghetti and call it a day. 7 Granola
Granola is easy to make, filling, and can be used in a lot of different ways. Sprinkle it on top of yogurt with berries, add it to a bowl of cereal (who says you can't have cereal for lunch?), put some in a salad for a little crunch, or just eat it plain.
Cookie & Kate has an excellent recipe to try, and she includes a bunch of variations so you can find a combination that your kids will love. 8 Mac & Cheese
No matter how old they are, chances are good your kid loves some mac and cheese. On Sunday, prepare
Family Fresh Meals' mac and cheese recipe in your instant pot and use it throughout the week. Add in some mixed veggies, serve it as a side dish, throw in some meat, or let your kids eat it plain. It's a solid go-to that they will love and it's really easy for you to prepare. 9 Chicken Tenders Or Nuggets
Chicken nuggets and tenders are a fantastic meal on their own, but you can elevate them a little with this
recipe from No. 2 Pencil and use them throughout the week. Serve them with spaghetti, put them on a sandwich with cheese and marinara, mix them into a salad, or serve them with some Eggo's and syrup. 10 Pulled Pork Or Chicken Brown Eyed Baker has a great recipe for baked pulled pork that you can make to last you through the week. It can be added to tacos, tossed in with veggies and broth for a stew, loaded up onto a sandwich roll, mixed into a salad, served with rice, or added to pasta. It's a really versatile food that will keep your kid full and won't make them feel like they're eating the same thing every day. 11 Biscuits
Having some buttermilk biscuits around, like
these from The Comfort of Cooking, will make lunchtime a lot easier throughout the week. You can serve them as a side, use them as a sandwich bun, sprinkle some cinnamon and sugar on them for a sweet dessert, cut them in half and turn them into mini pizzas, or crumble them up as croutons on a salad. 12 Salsa
Yes, you can easily buy some salsa at the grocery store, but homemade is fresher and can be made in large quantities to last your family through the week (
Cookie & Kate has a great recipe). Toss it into the lunchbox with a few tortilla chips or some cut veggies for a classic dip, use it to top off some tacos, make a taco salad and use it as dressing, or drizzle it over some scrambled eggs. 13 Prepared Fresh Fruit & Veggies Kevin Trimmer/Moment/Getty Images
There's not really a recipe here, but rather a helpful tip. Stock up on your fruits and veggies for the week then wash and cut them as needed. If your kids are doing distance learning, store them somewhere in the fridge they can easily access for quick snacks. You can also toss them into a lunch as a side, add them to a salad, put the veggies on a frozen pizza, add the fruit to yogurt, mix them in with pasta, or chop them up for some soup.
14 Roasted Potatoes Sergio Amiti/Moment/Getty Images
Roast up some sweet potatoes on Sunday, but don't add much seasoning (just some salt and pepper will do). Then, throughout the week, serve them in different ways as a delicious side. Add some rosemary and serve them warm, sprinkle on some garlic and cheese, mix them into pasta dishes, add a little more salt and dip into ketchup as fries, or sprinkle on some cinnamon and sugar for a sweet side.
15 Muffins & Quiches
Muffins and mini quiches are easy to grab and can made made with ingredients that will keep your kids full throughout the day. These
Omelet Muffins by Princess Pinky Girl are packed with egg, meat, veggies, and cheese. You can add some variety to them by mixing in different ingredients so they're not all the same.