As accustomed as we might be to underestimating or pushing through the mental load that often accompanies meal prep, there are some weeks—like the one leading up to back-to-school—when the weight feels especially staggering. Luckily, good help can be found right under our noses and these easy school lunch ideas make meal planning both effortless and fun!
1Cookie Cutter Sandwiches
Ready in: 5 minutes
Why we love it: Kids love pitching in on meal prep when they get to choose their own food shapes. If you don’t have cookie cutters on hand, help them cut their sandwiches into bite-sized squares, rectangles or triangles.
How kids can help: This is the kind of recipe that calls for an assembly line, so have your kids assign themselves—and you!—a duty. While one spreads their favourite nut-free butter—such as Wowbutter—onto a slice of fresh bread, another can spread jam or jelly onto a second slice before sandwiching them together. Once they’ve slid the sandwich over to your station, use the cookie cutters or a knife to carefully cut them into shapes, then serve with fresh berries and celery.
Ready in: 25 minutes
- Package of whole-grain rotini
- Light mayonnaise-type dressing
- Bold deli-style prepared mustard
- White vinegar
- Onion powder
- Sea salt
- Hungarian paprika
- Diced bell peppers
- Sliced green onions
Why we love it: This warm-weather-friendly pasta salad is a breeze to prepare, keeps well in the fridge, and makes enough for several days’ worth of kids lunches for school.
How kids can help: While you cook the pasta and chop the veggies, have your helpers whisk together the dressing, mustard, vinegar, onion powder, salt and paprika in a large bowl. Once thoroughly combined, they can stir in the bell peppers, green onions, and cooked pasta—once drained and rinsed in cold water—until everything is evenly mixed.
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Ready in: 3 minutes
- Naan rounds
- Shredded mozzarella
- Pizza sauce
- Toppings of choice
Why we love it: There’s no cooking or post-prep clean-up required for this ‘90s throwback to the most coveted prepackaged school lunch! Your kiddos will do all the assembly work when they’re on lunch break.
How kids can help: This lunch is so low-effort that the kids—if they’re up to the challenge—can do just about all the prep work needed. From gathering all of the base ingredients—like naan rounds and tomato sauce—to grating a small handful of stretchy mozzarella, they get to don the proverbial toque blanche and choose what and how much they want to eat.
4Turkey Cheese Rolls
Ready in: 5 minutes
- Turkey or ham slices
- Apple slices
- Cheese slices
Why we love it: This simple breadless sandwich recipe turns sweet apple, savoury cheese and salty turkey (or ham) slices into flavourful and nutritious handheld pockets.
How kids can help: It’s easy for kids to help make these pockets—simply lay down slices of turkey or ham and have them place a cheese slice and an apple wedge in the centre of each one. Then, fold and repeat until there’s enough. Serve with your kid’s favourite fresh fruit and vegetables, and don’t forget to throw in a starchy carb for a complete meal. We recommend sweet potato chips, crackers or popcorn.
Ready in: 22 minutes
- Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 2 bell peppers
- 1 red onion
- ¼ cup cilantro
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Chicken stock concentrate
- Lime juice
- Vegetable oil
- Ground cumin
- Sour cream
- 7-inch tortillas
Why we love it: We’ve come to associate taco night with a fun, zesty and delicious time, so why not bring that flavour and energy to lunch? The best part is that not only will the kids have gobbled up these protein-packed handhelds—they’ll have inhaled an abundance of nutrients too!
How kids can help: While it’s probably best to handle the raw chicken and stovetop duties yourself, have your mini sous chefs slice the vegetables (if they’re old enough) and tear the cilantro leaves from their stems. Once the chicken and veggies are fully cooked through, put the kiddos in charge of mixing sour cream into the filling and portioning out enough tortillas.
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