Summer’s easy, but also kind of hard. Easy because you don’t have to think about packing up school lunches, hard because—well—you have to think about keeping the kids busy all day. Tradeoffs. Fortunately, you won’t have to trade off nutrition or flavor in these 9 school-lunch faves.
1. Crumbly Oat and Apricot Bars
Dried apricots, honey, and apricot jam form the filling for these tender, sweet (but not too sweet), and whole grain–bolstered lunchbox bars. The recipe makes 16 bars—perfect if you’ve got a bunch of little scholars to pack for, otherwise they freeze extremely well. Get our Crumbly Oat and Apricot Bars recipe.
2. Basic Hard-Boiled Eggs
Hard-cooked eggs are some of the simplest things to make. Sadly, they’re also some of the easiest things to mess up. Here’s a simple technique for ensuring that the yolks will be cooked through, but far from turning the dry, green-edged, sulfury-tasting things a lot if us grew up with. Get our Basic Hard-Boiled Eggs recipe.
3. Honey-Mustard Snack Mix
Snacks are a major part of any kid’s food life, and the hard truth is, if you’re not making good snacks for your family, they’ll find less innocent ones to fill up with. This crunchy mix has the appeal of premade ones, but it’s filled with honest ingredients, so you can let your little ones snack away without stressing. Get our Honey-Mustard Snack Mix recipe.
4. Basic Hummus
Hummus is a great thing for school lunches. It’s full of fiber, has a decent amount of protein, and—best of all—it doesn’t taste one little bit like health food. Make up a batch, pack it lunch boxes along with baked pita chips and mini carrots, and you can be sure it’ll all be eaten. Get our Basic Hummus recipe.
5. Baked Tortilla Chips
What parent can say no to chips? You can, however, insist that chips be relatively healthy—like these baked tortilla chips. They’re easy to make, not greasy, and perfect for scooping. Make a bunch and keep them stored in an airtight container for several days. Get our Baked Tortilla Chips recipe.
6. Cinnamon and Pear Fruit Leather
Back-to-school season coincides with the end of the summer pear season and the beginning of the fall one, so it only makes sense to make this perennially popular treat for packing into lunch boxes. Here, blended cooked pears are spread onto silicone mats to dry out in the oven (it’s a great Saturday project). Get our Cinnamon and Pear Fruit Leather recipe.
7. Baked Pita Chips
Pita chips are really good at not breaking, even when little hands scoop them hard through a stiff container full of hummus. They’re also a lot more economical than buying premade ones, and a great way to use up day-old (or longer!) pitas. Get our Baked Pita Chips recipe.
8. Chicken Parmesan Mac and Cheese Bites
A really tasty macaroni and cheese mixture bakes in muffin tins for single-serving portions perfect for packing up in school lunch. This particular mac and cheese mix is designed for maximum flavor and protein. Shredded Mozzarella and grated Parm combine with shredded cooked chicken and a white sauce made with whole milk. Healthy bonus: Use whole wheat pasta. Get our Chicken Parmesan Mac and Cheese Bites recipe.
9. Beef with Broccoli “Takeout” Noodles
Inspired by a Chinese-American restaurant dish we love, this mix of wok-fried skirt steak, broccoli florets, and fresh egg noodles gets a healthy boost from carrots and red bell peppers. Your kids will love it warm or cold, scooped up in chopsticks. They’ll also love the crunchy toasted cashews sprinkled on top. Get our Beef with Broccoli “Takeout” Noodles recipe.