12 shortcuts to make prepping school lunches easier

Ugh, packing lunches—until you discover these entirely guilt-free, grocery store shortcuts. Because not everyone is a Pinterest parent and that's OK.

12 shortcuts to make prepping school lunches easier


We like naan for a quick, sturdy pizza base, but you could also use pita, flatbread or even an English muffin. A quick trip in the toaster oven and that lunch is packed. Get the recipe: Quick Margherita Pizza

bento box with pizza, fig, chocolate, veggies and fruitPhoto: Erik Putz

Frozen waffles

Hey, waffles aren’t just for morning. Just imagine your kid’s glee upon finding strips of waffle and a tiny container of maple syrup for dipping. Throw some leftover bacon in there, yogurt and fruit and you win at lunch. If you want to go beyond the box and make your own, we have a recipe: Easy Buttermilk Waffles

buttermilk waffles in a bento boxPhoto: Erik Putz


Rotisserie chicken

Wait, you didn’t know that a roast chicken (by someone else, not you) will give you lunch for days? Spend just a few minutes ripping it apart and use it for wraps, salads or even in a quick Thermos pasta. Here’s another easy idea: Vietnamese Roast Chicken Veggie Rolls

Vietnamese roast Chicken and salad rolls in a bento boxPhoto: Erik Putz

Frozen chicken fingers

Kids love finger food—and it doesn’t get much better than chicken fingers. Cook them the night before and they’re ready to go. Just don’t forget the dipping sauce. OK, maybe you’re a big-batch kind of cook and want to make your own: “Fried” Chicken Fingers

12 shortcuts to make prepping school lunches easierPhoto: Erik Putz

Instant Oatmeal

Oatmeal for lunch? You got it, dude. A hot Thermos of sweet oats feels unexpected and will fill your kid’s belly but good. We have a homemade version that takes just a few minutes more than opening a package: Homemade Apple-Cinnamon Instant Oatmeal

thermos of apple cinnamon oatmealPhoto: Erik Putz


Frozen meatballs

Premade meatballs are the best (hot tip: we love the meat and veggie versions at IKEA). They’re delicious on their own, but we get it if you’re feeling saucy. Pack them with pasta or rice, or skewer them with a fun dip. And done!

thermos filled with meatballsPhoto: Roberto Caruso

Frozen edamame

Edamame: fun to say, fun to eat. These small but mighty beans pack the protein into your kid’s lunch. Defrost a handful in boiling water for 10 minutes, drain and sprinkle with coarse sea salt for a no-fuss snack.

bento box with beef skewers and dipping saucePhoto: Erik Putz

Bagged coleslaw

Bagged slaw is a beautiful thing. It’s packed with colourful veggies, tough enough to sit with dressing (any dressing you like!) until lunch, and involves zero veg prep. Like, zero. You can pack it with anything at all, but we love it with cold chicken fingers or leftover falafel.

bento lunch box with falafel in pita, carrot salad and dipPhoto: Erik Putz


Cheese and crackers

Cheese and crackers are as natural as you not sweating lunch. They’re the anchor in a lunchbox. They come in so many different formats (Ritz + Babybel; Goldfish + string cheese; Triscuit + cheddar). And they’re damn delicious.

12 shortcuts to make prepping school lunches easierPhoto: Erik Putz

Frozen veggies

Sick of chopping raw vegetables only to meet them again in the evening, wilted and slimy? Us too. Switch up the carrot sticks and cucumber spears with a mix of frozen veg, which are just as nutritious as fresh ones. They star alongside quinoa in this magical no-prep lunch.

thermos of quinoa with veggiesPhoto: Erik Putz


A jar of good tomato sauce or straight-up passata (plain strained tomatoes, nothing else) is a pantry staple. But why only let it save your supper? Thermos pasta is a lunch fave and so easy to pull together when you’re not simmering Nonna’s sugo for hours. Try this easy Homemade Alphabet Pasta and pack a tiny container of grated Parm for sprinkling—because Nonna totes would. 

bento box with saucy alphabet pasta insidePhoto: Roberto Caruso



Packed as a dip for veg (or a handful of chips), smeared in a sandwich or spread in a wrap, hummus brings protein and flavour to your lunch game. Here it is, on a roll: California Wrap

12 shortcuts to make prepping school lunches easierPhoto: Erik Putz

Read more:
25 foods you can put in a Thermos 35 days of school lunches 10 healthiest granola bars for kids

This article was originally published on Aug 25, 2018

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