10 Packed Lunch Ideas You'll Want to Steal From Your Kids


Now that school is back in session, you might find that evening lunch-prep has become quite laborious. Maybe that means you're packing the wrong lunches. (See also: 25 Quick, Cheap Lunch Ideas)

By focusing on meals adults can enjoy too, you'll rediscover old favorites of your own, and maybe even be surprised by your child's adventurous palate. Whatever the case, using the same ingredients for similar meals will save you money and eliminate food waste.

Here are 10 ideas (two whole work or school weeks!) to get you started.

1. PB&J Wrap

I've been eating this simple lunch since I was a kid. Just spread a thin layer of peanut butter on a whole wheat wrap and top it with a thin layer of your favorite jam or jelly or honey. Adults might want to jazz this meal up by using red pepper jelly and sprinkling a bit of granola. Children might enjoy some thinly sliced apple tossed in.

2. Cheese Plate

My mom used to pack me Lunchables, and I'd always toss the meat. Make what I used to eat healthier by packing multigrain crackers, grapes or other fruit, sliced or string cheese, and some hummus or peanut butter for added protein. Add sliced carrots or your other favorite fresh veggie to complete the nutrition for adults and kids alike.

3. Quiche

Skip the sandwich and pack a couple mini quiches made in a cupcake tin. What you fill your quiche with is up to you, but this Broccoli and Cheese one looks like a solid choice. The best part? You can customize them however you want to suit your tastes as well as your child's (and pantry's ingredients). Eat hot or cold.

4. DIY Parfait

Fill one of the larger slots in your lunch box with nonfat or Greek yogurt. I even like to mix a couple teaspoons of peanut butter in there. Round out the rest of your box with mixed berries, a helping of granola, some nuts and seeds, even mini chocolate chips. Pack a homemade muffin or half sandwich on the side. (See also: 25 Great Non-Sandwich Work Lunches)

5. Bagel-Wich

When I came across this idea to pack a whole grain bagel stuffed with goodness instead of a sandwich, I got excited for the many possibilities. This salami and dill stuffing seems better suited for adults. To make this concept work for the whole family, consider simple egg or tuna salad. My personal favorite? Avocado egg salad or its vegan counterpart, avocado tofu salad.

6. Nachos Grande

Pack some multigrain tortilla chips in one section of your lunch box. Use leftover taco meat (or veggie substitute) from your dinner the night before and top with shredded cheese and mild salsa. Add a dollop of Greek yogurt to act as a healthy sour cream substitute and some avocado slices on the side. This is a lunch that you'll certainly want to make (and eat) again and again.

7. Overnight Oats

Though this staple is often eaten at breakfast, I love the idea of packing a jar of Overnight Oats as the bulk of a lunch for school or work. As the name describes, this meal is prepared the night before by tossing — in this case — steel cut oats with milk, maple syrup, flax meal, cinnamon, and bananas in a jar. The mix thickens overnight to make a hearty, cold meal.

8. Pizza

Who doesn't love a good pizza? You can make healthy pies on pita bread to cut and slice for lunchtime eating. Just spread pizza sauce on the pitas and sprinkle with cheese and top with whatever other ingredients you like. Then bake at 350 degrees F for around 10 minutes until cheese is bubbly. Let cool, slice, and pack.

9. Slow Cooker Soup, Two Ways

If you're a fan of slow cooking, toss your favorite veggies, broth, and whatever protein in the pot and let simmer. You don't need a recipe for success and can use up any possible food waste before it spoils. In my experience, kids don't always like a thick soup. So, pack the whole monty for yourself and strain out the softened and seasoned vegetables for your child. Serve both meals with crackers or even a whole wheat biscuit.

10. Pasta Salad

Make a big batch of this Ranch Pasta Salad and let all those colors and shapes dazzle your family. If your kid isn't into Tortellini, consider trying a plainer pasta. Mix and match the rest of the ingredients (in equal ratio) to customize and utilize the ingredients you already have on hand.

What's your favorite workday and school day lunch? Please share in comments!

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