21 lunch ideas for school...or work

It's not the school supplies filling Target shelves in July. It's not the endless clothes and shoes ads. The true sign that it's Back to School time is the explosion of "what do you take for lunch" posts.

21-school-lunchForget the fancy masterpiece lunches, we just want something our kids will eat...and if it could be nutritious that'd be great too.

To expand lunch options, you need a little more than brown bags and ziplocs. Yes, I'm adding three things to your back to school shopping list...

  • Reusable Containers. You'll save money (and the environment) in the long run with reusable containers. These Bentology sets are my favorite: they fit into every lunch bag we've had, great for portion control, come in multiple colors, and they're dishwasher safe.
  • Insulated Lunch Bag. You can always add mini-ice packs, but insulated bags like this one or Packit freezable bags are great too.
  • Thermos. Yes, old school, like you had as a kid.
  • lunch-4To keep kids (or yourself) from falling asleep, bouncing off the walls, or felling hungry again 30 minutes after they eat...lunch (every meal/snack, really) needs a carb, a fat, and a protein.

    This is also where individual containers come in handy- keeps ingredients from getting soggy & lets kids build their own lunch.

    To break the sandwich rut, try these 21 ideas...don't forget to add a spoon or fork.

    1. shredded bbq chicken, grapes, dark chocolate square
    2. pita chips, bell peppers, hummus, hard-boiled egg
    3. mini-charcuterie: crackers, cheese wedges/string cheese, salami/ham
    4. apple rings, peanut/cashew/almond butter, dark chocolate chips
    5. salad with chicken & shredded cheese (use a separate container for dressing)
    6. build a parfait: greek yogurt, berries, granola, mini-muffin
    7. cheese/chicken quesadilla (wrap in foil and it will stay hot) with corn & avocado salsa
    8. leftover pasta (spaghetti, lasagna, pesto)? heat and add to thermos
    9. crackers, peanut butter sliced strawberrieslunch-3
    10. turkey, cheese, lettuce wraps with siracha mayo
    11. plain ramen noodles, chicken/beans, sliced carrots in jar/thermos- add hot water, let sit 3-4 minutes (careful, jar will get hot)
    12. brie/string cheese with crackers, jam, sliced turkey
    13. turkey, bacon, lettuce, cheese tortilla roll-up with pesto or siracha mayo to dip
    14. avocado chicken salad, crackers, apple slices
    15. tomato soup and grilled cheese (wrap sandwich in foil to keep hot)
    16. build a burrito bowl: rice/farro, chicken/steak/black beans, salsa
    17. toasted english muffin/crackers, sliced mozzarella, sliced grape tomatoes, basil
    18. mini rye bread squares, cream cheese, cucumber slices, grapes
    19. bowtie pasta with pesto and chicken (hot or cold)
    20. cereal, milk, orange slices
    21.  "fried" rice: rice, peas, scrambled egg, chicken/pork, with orange slices

    Most of these lunches are easily built from the previous night's dinner. Rethink leftovers as prepped ingredients for healthier, on the go lunches.

    ...save even more time by packing straight into lunch containers from the dinner table.

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