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31 Grandma-Approved Sides Perfect for a School Lunch

Old-fashioned things always seem to circle back into popularity, and that's true for food, too! These side dishes are ones your grandma might've made, and they're perfect for a cold-packed school lunch today.

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Ambrosia Salad

During last-minute menu planning, I often include this classic ambrosia salad recipe because I keep the ingredients on hand. —Judi Bringegar, Liberty, North Carolina

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2 / 31
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Saucy Mac & Cheese

I love the curly noodles in this creamy recipe. Cavatappi (aka cellentani pasta) has a corkscrew shape, but any type of spiral noodle will work. This dish is fun to make and looks so pretty topped with extra cheese and crunchy, golden panko. I like to add ground pepper to my serving. —Sara Martin, Brookfield, Wisconsin
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Slow-Cooked Applesauce

My sweet and chunky applesauce is a perfect snack or side dish with your favorite entree. Because it's prepared in the slow cooker, you can fix it and forget it before you and the family head out for some fun. —Susanne Wasson, Montgomery, New York
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ABC Salad Toss

Getting kids to eat their veggies, fruit and protein is as easy as ABC—that's apples, bananas and cheese. This is a slightly sweet salad that appeals to kids' taste buds while still delivering lots of healthy benefits. —Christine Maddux, Council Bluffs, Iowa
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Rainbow Fruit Salad

When my children were young, I would often dress up fresh fruit in this easy salad. Decades later, my grandchildren and great-grandchildren still love digging in to the fruity layers. The salad goes well with barbecued meats or cold sandwiches. —Jonnie Adams Sisler, Stevensville, Montana
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Creamy Grape Salad

Everyone raves when I bring this refreshing, creamy grape salad to potlucks. For a special finishing touch, sprinkle it with brown sugar and pecans. —Marge Elling, Jenison, Michigan
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Marinated Three Bean Salad

Fresh herbs and cayenne pepper provide the fantastic flavor in this marinated salad featuring fresh veggies and canned beans. —Carol Tucker, Wooster, Ohio
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Pizza Salad

A fun summer dish, this is a different salad that tastes as good as it looks. I love to take it to parties—the wonderful zesty flavor really complements a barbecue! —Debbie Terenzini-Wilkerson, Lusby, Maryland
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Mini Mac & Cheese Bites

Young relatives were coming for a Christmas party, so I wanted something fun for them to eat. Instead, the adults devoured my mini mac and cheese. —Kate Mainiero, Elizaville, New York
10 / 31
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Bacon Pea Salad

My husband absolutely loves peas. My middle son isn't the biggest fan, but he loves bacon. So, I combined the two, and it was perfect! This pea salad is an awesome side dish, especially for barbecue. —Angela Lively, Conroe, Texas
11 / 31
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Homemade Potato Chips

Forget buying a bag of potato chips at the grocery store when you can make these at home. This quick and easy recipe will delight everyone in the family. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
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Cherry Waldorf Salad

We combine apples with tart cherries and dried cranberries to give an autumn twist to classic Waldorf salad. —Marie Hattrup, Sonoma, California
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Macaroni Coleslaw

My friend Peggy brought this coleslaw to one of our picnics, and everyone liked it so much, we all had to have the recipe. —Sandra Matteson, Westhope, North Dakota
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Tangy Baked Seven Beans

Everyone needs a go-to side dish for school events, picnics and potlucks. Here's mine. Freeze leftovers for future outings. —Rod Lundwall, Tooele, Utah
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Honey-Orange Broccoli Slaw

When you need coleslaw quickly, here's a fantastic choice. Hints of honey and citrus make it special. —Debbie Cassar, Rockford, Michigan
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Black-Eyed Pea Tomato Salad

Spending time in the kitchen with my late aunt was so much fun because she was an amazing cook and teacher. This black-eyed pea salad was one of her specialties. It's easy to make and is a nice alternative to pasta or potato salad. Add cooked cubed chicken breast to make it a meal on its own. —Patricia Ness, La Mesa, California
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Summer Orzo

Summer Orzo

I’m always looking for fun ways to use the fresh veggies that come in my Community Supported Agriculture box, and this salad is one of my favorite creations. I like to improvise with whatever I have on hand, feel free to do the same here! —Shayna Marmar, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
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Cranberry Waldorf Gelatin

We enjoy this easy-to-make salad in the fall when apples are in season. Their crisp freshness adds so much to a favorite dish. — Debbie Short, Carlisle, Iowa
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Citrus Fruit Salad

Fresh pineapple with yogurt and pecans is a merry update of the classic ambrosia salad. We stir it up for breakfast, a snack or as a bright side. —Heather Rivers, Boise, ID
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Fresh Green Bean Salad

I had a green bean salad at a local deli and enjoyed it so much, I tried to re-create it at home. The result was yummy! It lasts for several days in the fridge, and the taste keeps getting better. —Allison Brooks, Fort Collins, Colorado
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Colorful Corn 'n' Bean Salad

This quick recipe couldn’t be easier…the liquid from the corn relish becomes a ready-made dressing! And because there’s no mayo, it’s a perfect salad to bring along on summer outings.—TerryAnn Moore, Vineland, New Jersey
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Delicious Apple Salad

This yummy fruit salad was a favorite of my great-grandmother’s. My family always enjoys it, and I’m happy knowing it’s good for them, too. —Sue Gronholz, Beaver Dam, Wisconsin
23 / 31
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Sour Cream Cucumbers

We have a tradition at our house to serve this creamy cucumber salad with the other Hungarian specialties my mom learned to make from the women at church. It’s especially good during the summer when the cucumbers are freshly picked from the garden. —Pamela Eaton, Monclova, Ohio
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Fruit with Poppy Seed Dressing

Cool, colorful and easy to prepare, this refreshing, good-for-you fruit salad is a springtime favorite. —Peggy Mills, Texarkana, Arkansas
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Sweet Macaroni Salad

A sweet out-of-the-ordinary dressing makes this macaroni salad special. My aunt gave me the recipe and it has become one of my favorites. I occasionally leave out the green pepper if I know that people don't like it, and it still tastes great. —Idalee Scholz, Cocoa Beach, Florida
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Mama's Potato Salad

This old-fashioned potato salad recipe doesn't have many ingredients, so it isn't as colorful as many that you find nowadays. But Mama made it the way her mother did, and that's the way I still make it today. Try it and see if it isn't one of the best-tasting potato salads you have ever eaten! —Sandra Anderson, New York, New York
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Ambrosia Fruit Salad

My mom's ambrosia salad, with its tasty combination of fresh fruits and creamy yogurt, is a family favorite, and a great addition to a backyard barbecue. —Colleen Belbey, Warwick, Rhode Island
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Orzo Vegetable Salad

Heading to a potluck and need something to share? Tangy lemon dressing over cool orzo and vegetables is everything you want in a light side dish. —Terri Crandall, Gardnerville, Nevada
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Sweet-Tart Cucumber Salad

A dear friend showed me how to use up cucumbers in a tangy salad. The longer it chills, the deeper the flavor. Look for lemon or pickling cucumbers. —Dian Jorgensen, Santa Rosa, California
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Creamy Cranberry Salad

One of my piano students taught me the perfect lesson in holiday recipes: this fresh cranberry salad. The keys are tangy fruit, fluffy marshmallows and crunchy nuts. —Alexandra Lypecky, Dearborn, Michigan
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Apple-Carrot Slaw with Pistachios

Sweet, crunchy and colorful, a vibrant slaw like this will be an all-star at your next potluck spread. I prefer to use freshly julienned carrots and apples because I love their sunny flavors. —Linda Schend, Kenosha, Wisconsin

Grace Mannon
Grace is a full-time mom with a Master's degree in Food Science. She loves to experiment in the kitchen and writes about her hits (and misses) on her blog, A Southern Grace.
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