It’s back-to-school time! Along with buying new notebooks and sturdy backpacks, back-to-school lunches are back on the scene, too. To help make packing school lunches easier, as well as inspire after-school snacks, Allrecipes asked moms in its community of home cooks for ideas to keep kids happily fueled at lunchtime and later. Their answers? 100 terrific recipes and tips kids (and busy moms!) will love!
1. On Sunday night, save time and morning hassles by planning the sandwich and snack for each weekday.
2. Keep all lunch ingredients in one section of your fridge so everything is easy to find when needed.
3. Make a week’s worth of sandwiches at one time, wrap each one in aluminum foil, label with your child’s name and the day, and then freeze. The daily sandwich will be ready each morning for your child to grab, and thawed by the time they’re ready to eat.
4. An alternative: Make school lunches the night before, pack into lunch boxes or bags, and place the entire lunch box or bag in the fridge so it’s ready to grab the next morning.
5. Pre-pack a week’s worth of lunch veggies—mini-carrots, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, etc.—in re-sealable plastic bags so they’re ready each morning.
6. A stainless steel thermos ensures soup or chili stays hot until lunchtime; pour hot water into the thermos first to prepare it for the hot liquid.
7. Prevent wiggle room by wrapping sandwiches in plastic wrap to keep everything secure.
8. Line both slices of sandwich bread with lettuce so juicy veggies stay in the middle and don't make the bread soggy.
9. Make kids’ lunches colorful! Pack bite-sized apple and pineapple chunks, orange slices, strawberries, and grapes for eye and appetite appeal.
10. Avoid lunchtime tradsies with this make-ahead lunch fit for pint-sized superheroes: Joanne's Super Hero Sandwich.
11. Look for lunchboxes with compartments, and then let kids choose what goes into each section.
12. Top mom picks for protein-packed lunches: Peanut butter, sliced cheese, cold cuts, and tuna salad.
13. A tip for keeping cold foods cold: "I freeze yogurt and pack it in my kids' lunch bags to keep the rest of their lunch cold." – Dawn
14. Jo-Ann's Power Bars are the perfect treat when kids need an energy boost for playing after-school sports.
|A yummy plateful of Jo-Ann's Power Bars (Photo by cheffo'ou)|
16. “Freeze small containers of apple sauce—by lunchtime it’s an apple sauce slushy. My daughter loves it!” – Nicole
17. Prepare make-ahead lunch wraps, stash extras in the freezer for a grab-and-go lunch that’s thawed and ready-to-eat by noon.
18. Try making these homemade chips moms have no guilt about encouraging kids to munch: Baked Tortilla Chips.
19. “If your child can’t eat dairy, add tofu to smoothies—it makes them creamier.” – meggletina
21. Leftovers become lunch in minutes by tossing chopped veggies and mayo with pasta to make a tasty pasta salad.
22. Teach kids to “eat a rainbow” for good health and pack school lunches with a variety of colorful fruits and veggies.
23. What kid wouldn't love this 15-minutes-to-make after-school snack? Cinnamon and Raisin Spread.
24. Make eating fruit fun by stacking melon and pineapple cubes, strawberries and blackberries on skewers, and top each with a mini-marshmallow or grape.
26. Freeze a juice bottle and let it double as a “cold pack” to keep other lunch items cold.
27. Apples give new personality to a lunch box classic in this twist on a classic sandwich.
28. Plan ahead and toast bagels and bread before making sandwiches to keep them from becoming soggy. A hot dog that cooks during the school day? Yes, please!
29. Here’s a kid-approved Pita Pocket sandwich they’ll enjoy helping mom or dad make.
|Lunch box-ready Pita Pocket Sandwich (Photo by Baking Mama)|
31. Pack a container of yellow, red and orange cherry tomatoes for bite-sized nibbles of fiber and natural sweetness. Stir in a few baby mozzarella balls if your child likes them.
32. “Add cauliflower florets to smoothies to give a mild nuttiness to their taste.” – Liam's mama
33. “I mix tofu into peanut butter. It cuts down on the calories and fat, and gives the peanut butter a fluffy texture.” – BeagleMama
34. Kids adore kid-sized food. Chop veggies so they’re in small bites for small teeth, and easy to hold in small hands.
35. Turn leftovers into a tasty lunch by scrambling an egg and mixing it into rice and veggies to make fried rice.
36. Mix things up by packing bread alternatives—crackers, rice cakes, pitas, or mini-bagels are great choices.
37. Toss shredded carrots, zucchini or apples into pasta or tuna salad to boost fiber and nutrition without a calorie overload.
38. “My kids love when I give them a plate with veggies arranged in a smile!” – Allison
|Veggies arranged on a toasted English muffin equal Smiley Face fun!|
40. Save money by buying snacks in bulk and divide them yourself into individual portions in ready-to-grab, re-sealable plastic baggies.
41. “I make smoothies out of evaporated milk, frozen strawberries, and spinach. They’re so creamy!” – bstar421
42. Roast a turkey breast and use slices all week for affordable sandwiches.
43. If your child’s school has gone peanut-free, try soy nut or pumpkin seed butter.
44. Try this easy way to make PB&Js new and exciting: Peanut Butter Quesadillas.
|Peanut Butter Quesadillas (Photo by SHACKL)|
46. Dare kids to eat like a bunny and pack a container of crunchy-delicious Carrot-Raisin Salad.
47. Keep PB&J sandwiches from becoming soggy by spreading peanut butter on both slices of bread and jam on just one—so it’s in the middle.
48. Lunch box pizza is always a hit; stack slices with a sheet of parchment paper between each slice to prevent sticking.
49. “I put out the veggies and dip at the kids’ hungriest time, while I'm cooking dinner.” – Mom 2 a dozen
50. After school, kids will happily scoop up this made-in-minutes dip on pita chips or veggie sticks: Extra Easy Hummus.
51. Pack fruit salad and leave out the lettuce, since the greens will become wilted and unappealing to kids.
52. A kid-inspired combo of cream cheese and dill pickles makes this bagel sandwich a lunchbox winner.
|School Lunch Bagel Sandwich (Photo by pomplemousse)|
54. Kids like to know what they’re eating, so pack what’s familiar and experiment once in awhile with new additions.
55. Turn leftovers turn into lunch in a flash—use soft wheat or corn tortillas and wrap them around leftover meat and veggies.
56. Paste an “I love you” or “Good luck today!” sticky note inside the lid of a lunchbox; write a few in advance to have on hand.
57. Make this delicious fruit dip to top granola for a yummy grab-and-go snack.
58. Try these easy-to-make veggie chips kids will grab by handfuls—Baked Zucchini Chips; pack in re-sealable plastic baggies for lunch box snacks.
59. Kids can play with their food! Pack cucumber slices, spinach leaves, a celery stalk, sliced radishes, baby carrots, and a cherry tomato to arrange into an edible vegetable flower.
60. Ants on a Log: A popular kid-friendly classic for three good reasons—veggies, fruit and protein. Add cinnamon for a twist!
61. This whimsical after-school snack has proven kid-appeal: the incredible Edible Face.
|Cute and fun Edible Face (Photo by rae)|
63. Check out the new lunchbox math: PB&J plus one banana equals Banana Dogs.
64. Be sure to get the funk out: Rinse reusable lunch bags and boxes weekly.
65. Kids will have serious fun helping to make and eat home-made Animal Crackers.
66. Keep baskets of fruit and snacks on the kitchen counter and let kids choose what they want to take for lunch.
67. Adaptable to kids’ favorite ingredients, these Easy Granola Bars make an ideal after-school snack.
68. “Instead of lemon juice, I dip apple slices in milk—it keeps them looking fresh for a week in the fridge.” – Annie
69. With a little guidance, kids can make this simple, no-bake snack for a lunchbox treat or for an after-school snack: No Bake Bumpy Peanut Butter Nuggets.
70. Kids are certain eat their veggies when they taste these stuffed celery snacks.
71. Skip the jelly and make BP&J with a twist—kids love this peanut butter and applesauce sandwich.
72. Instead of packing a whole orange, peel one and pack the sections into a re-sealable plastic bag for a refreshing snack.
73. Make these wraps in 15-minutes and pack for school lunches or an after-school snack: Easy Snack Wraps.
|Easy Snack Wraps ready for lunch (Photo by Dianne)|
75. Make a batch of your family’s personalized trail mix using favorite nuts, min-crackers, pretzels, and dried fruit kept on hand in the cupboard. Mixing in butterscotch or semi-sweet chocolate morsels makes it extra special!
76. Use cookie cutters to pre-cut sandwich bread into cool shapes like circles, stars, hearts, and animal shapes. (Cut bread in advance and store shapes in the freezer till needed.)
77. A healthy alternative to french fries, Baked Sweet Potato Sticks are sturdy enough to travel in lunch boxes and taste great at room temperature.
78. Experiment by adding different veggies and fruits to standard lunchbox choices: white radishes, pluots (a kind of a plum, but sweeter and more tart), and kiwi slices.
79. For kids who need an energy boost before extracurricular activities, Playgroup Granola Bars provide the power.
80. Dried cranberries on peanut butter and celery sticks give a twist to this favorite: Red Ants on a Log.
82. How about nutritious cereal for lunch?! Pack a bowl and cereal in a re-sealable plastic bag, and then have kids purchase milk at school.
83. Moms like the wholesome “apple oatmeal” ingredients, while kids get excited about the word “cookies” in this yummy recipe for Apple Oatmeal Cookies.
84. Put grapes, raspberries or blackberries on toothpicks. Kapow! You’ve made mini fruit-kabobs.
85. Try Japanese bento-box style lunches—place food in cute animal-shaped compartments.
86. Anyone for sushi-style sandwiches? Separate pita bread (so it’s extra thin), spread with cream cheese, and wrap around cucumber or zucchini slices, roll up, and slice into sections.
88. Let kids help prepare their lunches; it encourages them to make choices and become independent.
89. Add some silliness to lunchtime by writing a joke or riddle on a napkin placed in the lunchbox.
90. Give kids a mini chemistry lesson: Pair dried fruit with its fresh fruit version to provide an edible comparison.
91. “My kids (aged eight, five, three and two) love granola for a snack. It’s not too sweet and very good for them.” – BURGANDY8
92. This dish is just as delicious for dinner as it is packed for as lunch: Oriental Chicken Salad.
|Oriental Chicken Salad (Photo by PamMar)|
94. Have fun mixing up routines and let kids pack each other’s lunches once a week.
95. Make a checklist of mom-approved lunch foods and let kids mix and match their choices.
96. Send kids to school with Banana Muffins to empower them for after-school activities.
97. Pre-pack snacks so older kids can grab their favorite combos on their way out the door.
98. Use leftover cooked and chopped chicken or the canned variety to make Chicken Salad Wraps.
99. “These Quick Pizza Sandwiches are really good. I made them with my kids and they thought it was really fun." – JoeRik
100. Apple Squares are perfect in lunchboxes or wherever after-school activities take your kids.
|The perfect back-to-school treat: Apple Squares (Photo by footballgrl16)|