There’s never been a back-to-school season like this one. The anticipation is high for getting back to the routine of school, but so are the concerns over what this season will look like.
Focusing on what we can control is one way to manage both expectation and anxiety over what’s to come. One easy way to do that is through school lunch. Packing kids’ favorite foods in their new lunch boxes and bags gives familiarity to what can sometimes seem like a topsy-turvy world.
Adding something unexpected — color, crunch, a new flavor — can make an ordinary lunch something special. And this isn’t just for kids. Packing the same old lunch for the workday is boring for adults, too.
A good way to break from the routine of the everyday PB&J is to include a combination of fresh fruits or veggies, something homemade plus some take-out, or ready-made foods from your favorite deli or restaurant. This saves time and makes lunch less of a burden.
Putting it into a bento box makes it easy to keep everything neat and orderly.
Here are some of our favorite back-to-school lunch ideas.
Lunchbox Pinwheels Serves 1
Pinwheels are fun and easy to make. Use any kind of spread you like — hummus, honey mustard, ranch dressing, even peanut butter. Then lay on shredded carrots, sliced cucumber, cheese, turkey or any other favorite.
- 2tablespoons hummus
- 8-inch tortilla
- 2 pieces thin-sliced turkey
- 2 shredded carrots
- ¼ cup shredded romaine lettuce
- 1 tablespoon feta cheese
Spread hummus on tortilla. Layer turkey, then carrots, lettuce and feta cheese.
Roll the tortilla tight, creating a spiral. Cut into bite-size pieces, and place cut-side up in a container.
Fruit Salad with Honey and Vanilla Yogurt Serves 2-3
Place the yogurt in a closed container so it can be poured over the fruit at lunchtime. This also is good as a dipping sauce for graham crackers or wafer cookies.
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 1 tablespoon local honey
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 orange, segmented
- ½ cup blueberries
- 1 cup halved strawberries
- 1 cup halved grape
In a small bowl, combine yogurt, honey and vanilla. Store yogurt sauce separate from fruit. At lunchtime, pour sauce over fruit.
Mashed Potato Bowl Serves 1
Add any of your kids’ favorites to this bowl and keep it warm in a thermos before lunchtime. Deli mashed potatoes work great here. And a piece of fried chicken from a restaurant or grocery store saves a lot of time.
- 1 cup mashed potatoes
- 1 fried chicken breast, cut into small pieces
- ¼ cup cooked corn
- ¼ cup grated cheddar cheese
- 2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
Heat mashed potatoes until hot. Place in a thermos to keep warm. Top with chicken, corn, cheese and bacon. Get creative with other toppings — gravy, ranch dressing, scallions, green beans.
Easy Burritos Serves 1
Using a cooked chicken breast from a deli counter is a quick way to make a burrito for lunch.
- 8-inch tortilla
- 3 tablespoons refried beans
- 1 tablespoon sour cream
- 1 deli roasted chicken breast, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 2 tablespoons salsa
Spread refried beans and then sour cream on tortilla. Lay sliced chicken breast, then sprinkle with cheddar cheese and salsa.
Roll the tortilla tight, tucking in each end. Cut in half. Place cut-side up in a container.