Back-to-School Lunch Tips

To make the transition from summer into back-to-school mode easier, we're sharing great recipes and ideas for easy lunches. These time-saving tips will shave minutes from your noon-time meal planning, as well as add fun to every brown bag!

The long days of summer are on their way out, making way for busier schedules and an increased need to streamline day-to-day activities.

Preparing lunches for kids and adults can be a chore, but these clever ideas take the challenge out of mid-day meals! You'll find simple tricks to keep food hot or cold, easy ways to make a sandwich both kids and adults will love, and a few quick do-ahead ideas that will make the morning less hectic.

Tips to Make Lunchtime Easy

  • Save a few dollars by skipping brown bags and purchasing a reusable and washable lunch container instead. Mini-coolers, insulated lunch bags and plastic lunch boxes work well, but be sure to wash them out regularly.

  • Write each child's name on their lunch bag so they'll always know which one is theirs.

  • Peel and cut fruit in advance for little ones.

  • Buy plastic baggies and containers in various sizes, ensuring you'll have just the right package for any food item. Extra small containers work great for transporting dressings and condiments.

  • To make your morning go more smoothly, try to do as much as possible the night before. Chop up veggies and place them in a sealed baggie, mix up the ingredients for a tossed salad or chicken salad sandwich, and set up lunch containers so you can just drop items into them in the morning.

  • If you are making sandwiches the night before, put any veggies in a separate baggie with a note to add them to the sandwich right before eating. This will prevent the bread from getting soggy and the vegetables from wilting.

  • If you need to prepare lunches for kids and adults, keep it simple by making the same thing for everyone (if food preferences and allergies allow). To satisfy grown-up tastes, make a few small changes:

    • Add interesting condiments, like Dijon mustard, cranberry relish or a chutney to give sandwiches adult-appeal.
    • Use a variety of breads, such as pitas, whole wheat rolls, bagels, croissants or pumpernickel.
    • Jazz up chicken or tuna salad by tossing in chopped nuts, apples, grapes or dried cranberries.

  • Make lunches a little more fun for anyone by packing a cheerful note or interesting newspaper clipping. Also, consider cutting a sandwich with a cookie cutter or using fun-shaped pasta in pasta salads and soups.

How to Pack Hot and Cold Foods

  • A wide-mouth thermos is great for storing hot soup, chili, stew and chowder. Make the cozy dish the night before, then just bring it to a boil the next morning before pouring it into your thermos. Pack a roll or a handful of crackers to round out the meal.

  • Just as a thermos can keep food hot, it does just as well at keeping them cool. Fill a thermos with juice or milk, gelatin or pudding, coleslaw or potato salad—the possibilities are endless!

  • Pick up a few small-sized freezer packs to help keep things cold and to avoid any food spoilage issues. If you're worried about condensation, drop the freezer packs into plastic bags or wrap them in aluminum foil. Pop the bags in the freezer before bed and they'll be ready to go by morning!

  • If possible, plan lunches when you plan your dinner menu. Consider making extra servings at dinner so you have leftovers for lunch.

Lunch Box Snacks and Sides

Lunches only get better with a variety of easy-to-pack goodies. Our handy list of snacks will give you over 20 different options to help choose tomorrow's treat!

  • Trail mix
  • Graham crackers
  • Yogurt
  • Sliced veggies with hummus or dip
  • Cheese and crackers
  • Popcorn
  • Dry breakfast cereal
  • Small muffin
  • Piece of fruit
  • Celery with peanut butter
  • Raisins or dried cranberries
  • Cottage cheese
  • Fruit or applesauce cups
  • Pretzels
  • Gelatin or pudding
  • Rice cakes
  • String cheese
  • Granola bar
  • Pasta or potato salad
  • Dried fruit
  • Small handful of nuts
  • 1 to 2 cookies
  • Small muffin
  • Turkey roll (smear mayo or mustard on lunch meat, roll it up, secure with toothpick)
  • Pizza poppers (cut one slice of pizza into little bite-sized squares)