Back-to-school photos look a lot different this year and so do school lunches. With no in-school lunch options available, parents everywhere have been forced to step up to the plate and play chef, in addition to many other difficult roles thrust upon them during quarantine. Low-income families have been especially affected. Having previously relied on the state covering the cost of school lunches, they are now left hanging in the balance.
What can you do as parents? To ease the pressure and add some time back into your day, we have created this list of easy-to-make lunches just for you! Impress your kiddos with these delicious, low-cost, time-friendly options. These drool-worthy meals with leave your little one(s) stuffed, and you’ll have plenty of leftovers to spare!
Pasta Salad (with veggies)
Complex carbs and vegetables are just what your kid needs to power through the rest of the day. This familiar meal will certainly do the trick. All you must do is boil some pasta and keep some veggies and Italian dressing on standby.
- 1 Box of Pasta
- We encourage you to try some fun shapes, and even colors!
- Italian Salad Dressing
- 2 cups of vegetables of your choice
- Some recommendations: Cucumber, tomato, broccoli, bell peppers, and/or red onion.
- ¼ Cup of Olives
- ¼ Cup of cheese (optional). Parmesan is recommended.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.
- Add in your Pasta. Cook for the directed amount of time on pasta box, then strain.
- Let your pasta cool for 10-15 minutes.
- Add in other ingredients.
- Chopped up vegetables, Italian Dressing, olives & cheese.
- Stick your delicious creation in the fridge to let cool for another 30 minutes.
- You are ready to eat!
Turkey Sloppy Joes
Time to disguise the veggies. Not every child will jump at the chance to eat vegetables, even when surrounded by pasta. For those with picky-eaters, we suggest an easy-to-make sloppy joe- with some added effort to camouflage the much-needed nutritional bites. Or, if you are feeling extra ambitious, we suggest you pair this yummy sandwich option with baby carrots, celery sticks, or better yet: both.
- 2 Cans of Hunt’s Manwich Sloppy Joe Sauce
- 2 pounds ground turkey
- Hamburger bun of your choice
- ½ white onion
- One red bell pepper finely chopped
- Oil a pan and cook vegetables (both onions + bell peppers) in a pan on medium-low heat. Cook until golden brown. Set aside.
- Brown all of the ground turkey in a pan on medium-high heat.
- Add in the vegetables to the pan with the ground turkey, then add in your Manwich Sloppy Joe Sauce.
- Stir together and cook for 1-2 minutes on medium-low heat.
- Pour your Sloppy Joe creation into a hamburger bun and you are ready to serve! We hope your kid has a hefty appetite!
If you don’t know what a Harvest Bowl is, we’ll make it simple: pretty much anything you want it to be. The base is typically brown rice and/or quinoa, paired with a medley of roasted vegetables. Our version, for the sake of simplicity and time, will feature brown rice, broccolini, sweet potatoes, and pre-made chicken.
- 1-pound chicken. We suggest you buy a rotisserie chicken to save time. This will last you a few days, at least!
- 1 pack of broccolini (about 6 oz)
- 1 sweet potato
- Salt & pepper
- Olive oil
- Brown Rice and/or Quinoa
- Dressing/Sauce of your kid’s choice
- No dressing? Mix lemon juice, brown sugar, Dijon mustard (only a pinch for kid’s), balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper + olive oil.
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Prep your vegetables. Peel, chop, and season sweet potatoes with oil, salt, and pepper. Chop into ¾ inch cubes. Put on one baking sheet lined in foil. Coat broccolini with oil, salt & pepper, and stick on a separate baking sheet lined in foil for easy cleanup.
- Place both sheets of vegetables in the oven. Cook broccolini until brown: about 10 minutes. Your sweet potatoes will take a bit longer – about 20 minutes.
- Boil 2 cups of quinoa and/or brown rice in salted water. Please refer to instructions on the packet/bag you purchased.
- Drain your brown rice and/or quinoa.
- Place all your ingredients into a bowl (chicken, sweet potatoes, broccolini + brown rice). Mix with the dressing/sauce of your choice and serve!
It wouldn’t be a children’s lunch list without this American classic. We’re adding banana to the mix for an extra fruity kick. There is no harm in squeezing in another tasty, nutritious bonus. Not to mention, bananas are an excellent source of Potassium and Vitamin B6.
- Two slices of your bread of choice
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 2 tablespoons peanut butter
- 2 tablespoons jelly/jam
- 1 banana, peeled
- Peanut butter always comes first! Spread your peanut butter evenly across BOTH slices of bread. Your peanut butter will also act as a glue for your banana slices.
- Cut up a whole banana.
- Place the banana slices overtop one slice of bread.
- Drizzle honey overtop of the peanut butter/banana bread slice.
- Spread jelly/jam on other slice of bread.
- Combine both pieces of bread + slice to your child’s preference. (We are fans of the diagonal cut! From corner-to-corner).
- Serve any extra banana slices on the side.
Mini Pepper Pizzas
If it includes the word “pizza”, most kids are already drooling. This stuffed pepper is sure to be a people pleasure for both adults and kiddos. As with any pizza, the toppings are customizable, so feel free to add on/take off ingredients according to your child’s individual preference.
- 4 bell peppers, halved & seeds removed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- Pinch of pepper
- 1 cup pizza sauce
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella
- Marinara sauce of your choice
- 1/3 cup of mini pepperoni
- 1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley (or, use dried parsley flakes)
- 1/4 cup finely chopped baby bella (sneak in those veggies!)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- On a sheet tray, place your peppers & drizzle both the outside and inside with oil, salt & pepper.
- Time to stuff those peppers! Spoon the sauce in your pepper halves. Distribute sauce evenly inside all bell pepper halves.
- Fill the rest of the peppers up with cheese and mushroom. Top with pepperoni.
- Bake in the oven for 15 minutes (the cheese should be bubbling).
- Top with parsley flakes before serving.
For all you parents out there reading this: YOU. ARE. AWESOME. We hope these recipes make your life a tad bit easier during these trying times. If you try out a recipe, please leave us a comment to let us know how it went!