We are already well into the new school year. You’ve worn all of your brand new outfits, you’ve shown off your new backpack, and you’ve already fallen behind in your classes. It’s a typical school year, so if you’re anything like me, you’ve already run out of ideas of what to pack yourself or your kids for lunch. Luckily, I’ve been preparing for you folks who have better things to do than surf Pinterest looking for cute bento lunch box combinations. Since I was traipsing around Europe for the past five weeks, I haven’t been able to create my own visual representation of what I love to bring with me into the pits of hell. Thankfully, Pinterest is a haven for blogs that have been around for years and have already curated their own photosets and recipes, and I’m obsessed with them. I have created a list of my favourite back-to-school lunch ideas for those of you who need some quick inspiration when your eyes can barely stay open in the morning.
Before you read, I also want to note that I have not been sponsored by any of the companies or blogs that I am telling you about. All are my personal opinions of the companies so you can take my unbiased word for it… if you dare.
Lunch To Go
To begin with, you’ll want easy to pack, leak-free lunch containers (if you haven’t realized that you needed those yet. My favourite set the past few years has been the Rubbermaid Lunch Blox. Compared to the bento box style boxes (which are great for blog pictures and YouTube videos) you can access your snacks and treats without exposing your lunch. Each set comes with an ice pack to keep your food from going bad if you don’t have a fridge at school or work. The pieces of the Lunch Blox snap together so they stay together in your bag, and they’re small enough that you don’t have to turn them sideways in your bags and risk leakage. There’s really nothing worse than packing a Lunchables style lunch set, and having all of your marinara sauce leak all over your bag or your little pizza crusts. Just awful.
The Lunch Blox are available at many suppliers, including Amazon online, but I got mine at Walmart. Often, you can buy one of the sets and it comes with a savings coupon so you can go back and get another one for a discounted price. I love the Salad Kit because it has a separator for soggy toppings to keep your greens fresh, and the perfect sized dressing container that fits inside the container for maximum spillage containment. It’s also a good reminder to have a boring salad once in a while. Salads may taste boring, but they keep you from being a boring lazy person.
My favourite lunches are ones that I can assemble myself when it’s time to eat. Some examples would be Lunchable copycats or the Starbucks Bistro Boxes. Eating with your hands is so much more natural and makes you feel somewhat youthful, and it’s nice when you’ve got 10 assignments due in the next two day to have the feeling of some control over your life… or at least your lunch. 5 pieces of peperoni on a cracker with no sauce and no cheese, take that English teacher with a superiority complex who gives me bad marks because he didn’t like my older sisters. You get what I mean. Add some fun in your miserable life with these platters by bellyful.net.
Though Cosmopolitan has some interesting ideas on what a healthy sex life looks like, they’re actually surprisingly accurate in what a healthy diet plan looks like. Kudos to their dietitians for not making as wild of suggestions as the couples therapists do. They also have brilliant graphic designers who have made print outs of not only lunch ideas, but breakfast, dinner and snack ideas, if you’re really getting stuck.
Another great brand that has created a lunch box inspiration photo set for you folks is Annie’s. The company started with a natural version of macaroni and cheese comparable to Kraft (I personally love the white cheddar version). Since then, they have expanded their product lines to snacks, soups and more. I particularly like the inspirations they have shared because they use the ever popular Planet Box, which is a metal bento style lunch box that is very popular with bloggers and YouTubers, and very photogenic. I haven’t personally used the box so I can’t give you my seal of approval, but it is crazy popular so I’m letting you know it is probably a safe buy. Here are some lunch inspirations including Annie’s natural food products.
My FAVOURITE school/work lunch that I found in my “research” has been the DIY instant noodles recipes, like this one from seriouseats.com. Making your noodle soup yourself ensures you’re getting real food with their original nutrients without a ton of added salt (unless you add it yourself, which is still better because there’s no iodine in the salt/sodium that they put in). If there is no kettle available for you to use for your soup, add a Thermos of boiling water to your lunch bag to add when you’re ready to eat.
Since I was insistent on telling you to get the Lunch Blox, I guess I will let you in on my favourite meals to bring to school with me. First is my protein packed Chickpeas and Quinoa Salad . I’ll put my spinach in the bottom part of the container, and my chickpea quinoa mix and vegetables in the removable top section. The dressing container fits the perfect amount of sesame dressing for the salad, making sure everything is dressed but the spinach doesn’t get soggy.
For a vegetarian lunch, I have pictured the lunch I packed when I first bought my Lunch Blox. I get excited about weird things, I know. So in the bottom I have a meal I made in my rice cooker. I put marinated tofu, peas, rice, oregano and water into the pot and let it cook as it would normally would if there was just rice in it. When it’s done and the rice has absorbed all of the water, I’ll add some Greek dressing and a dab of butter (because butter makes everything better). There is usually enough made to keep in the fridge and have multiple meals that week. In the top containers I packed some feta to add to the rice after microwaving it at school, and carrots and hummus to have as a snack in the late morning.
If none of this has inspired you or you don’t like any of the foods that I’ve suggested I thought I’d include this resource that you can print off and keep on your fridge. It includes the basics that you need to build a decent lunch box that will keep you or your little happy and full and ready for the rest of the day. Make sure that you include a protein for lunch and snacks to keep your energy up, and try to include different colours of fruits and/or veggies so that you can keep being a colourful person. You are what you eat, literally, so don’t eat bland, greasy, cheap or boring foods 😉 And don’t forget to have fun 🙂