Your kids will love these tasty recipes, and you'll love how easy they are to prep in the morning.

Advertisement

Making lunches for school in the morning is tough, especially if you're short on time and trying to appease eating habits that seem to change on a dime. But a little prep (and a lot of choices!) can go a long way. With just one hour of prep time on Sunday, you can have lunches ready to go (or almost ready to go) for the weekdays.

The following recipes make one serving, but they're easily doubled or tripled if you have more mouths to feed. With most of the prep taken care of ahead of time and minimal work to be done the day of, they won't take more than 10 minutes from fridge to lunchbox. We've included lots of choices to please everyone, from the more adventurous to the "food-should-not-touch-other-foods" type.

To get started, use this simple shopping list to help you stay organized.

Several glass lunch boxes with a variety of foods packed in them on a terracotta colored surface
Credit: Diana Chistruga

Sunday – Prep Day

Time: 1 hour

Equipment: Lunchbox

A well-rounded lunch starts with a well-rounded lunchbox. We suggest a lunchbox with at least three separate sections for storage. Kids' lunches tend to get jostled around a lot before they reach their final destination—and spillover is bound to happen. We recommend getting a lunchbox (or two) where the spaces are well separated, or a lunchbox that can hold several small, lidded containers (check out the best food-storage containers for packing kids' lunchboxes).

Cook

Prep

  1. Slice 2 bell peppers and 2 celery stalks into sticks.
  2. Shred 2 carrots and romaine lettuce (about 1/2 cup).
  3. Cut feta cheese into cubes (or mozzarella, or both).

Storage tips

  • Let the meatballs cool a bit before you store them, so they don't steam in the container.
  • Since you'll be using the Creamy Yogurt-Dill Sauce twice, you can store it in a small bowl or jar that you won't need to pack.
  • You can make and store the Easy Red-Wine Vinaigrette for One in a small container with a tight-fitting lid so it's ready to grab and go.
  • Leave the shell on the egg until you assemble the lunch—peeled hard-boiled eggs can give off a sulfur odor and they can also absorb other odors from the fridge.
  • Store vegetables separately. A container (or containers) divided in half can help save space.

Monday – Turkey Meatball & Feta Lunchbox

Time: 10 minutes

Mediterranean Turkey Meatball Lunch Box
Credit: Diana Chistruga

Your meatballs and yogurt-dill sauce are ready to go, so all that's left is filling your lunchbox. Pick your "extras" wisely. Like we said, kids can be picky, and you know them best! If they like guacamole instead of hummus, throw that in. Feel free to mix and match the veggies and swap in ranch dressing (or even ketchup) instead of the yogurt-dill sauce if that's what will make them happy.

In the morning or the night before:

  1. Combine your cheese of choice (feta or mozzarella) with halved tomatoes. Tomatoes are best halved closer to serving rather than several days before. Grape tomatoes can hold their own if they're cut a day ahead, but not much more. If they don't like tomatoes, you can chop up some pepper strips that you prepped on Sunday.
  2. Slice your cucumber. Like tomatoes, cucumbers are best freshly cut. The night before is fine, several days before is not.

Tuesday – Pasta Salad with Vinaigrette Lunchbox

Time: 10 minutes

Pasta Salad with Vinaigrette Lunch Box
Credit: Diana Chistruga

Your pasta is cooked, your cheese is prepped and your dressing is in its small container ready to add to your lunchbox. If you know your kid likes everything mixed up, it's OK to combine the ingredients ahead of time. (But hold on the dressing! The vinegar could discolor the pasta or some of the vegetables.) If you have a skeptic on your hands, separate containers is the way to go. Keeping things separate gives them the liberty to choose how they eat their food, increasing the chances they won't be coming home with a full lunchbox.

In the morning or the night before:

  • Chop enough bell pepper strips to equal 1/4 cup, or halve 1/4 cup grape tomatoes.
  • Chop celery sticks if you're not using your preshredded carrots.
  • Slice salami into bite-size pieces, or halve Kalamata olives.
  • Thinly slice basil (if using) and add to the pasta container.

Wednesday – Turkey Meatball Wrap Lunchbox

Time: 10 minutes

Turkey Meatball Wrap Lunchbox
Credit: Diana Chistruga

Your meatballs are cooked and your veggies are chopped. All you have to do is assemble the wrap and add the extras. Sandwiches are standard fare for kids, but some may still be put off by all of the ingredients "mixed together." If that's the case, send just the wrap with the cream cheese spread and the rest of the ingredients separately. They can pick and choose how (and if) they want to add more.

In the morning or the night before:

  1. Slice cucumber if they would rather have cucumber than peppers in their sandwich. Slice your cucumber into matchsticks for the sandwich (as opposed to rounds) to make wrapping easier.
  2. Chop fresh basil if they prefer that in their sandwich over romaine.
  3. Crumble or slice 3 meatballs; assemble the sandwich.
  4. Prep fruit: rinse and halve berries (if they're on the larger side, like strawberries) or slice an apple. Why not wash the berries ahead of time? To make berries last throughout the week, they need to stay dry. Rinsing them the night before (or the day of) keeps them fresher longer. If you do clean them ahead of time, make sure they are dry before you store them.

Thursday – DIY Taco Lunchbox

Time: 10 minutes

DIY Taco Lunch Box
Credit: Diana Chistruga

Get the recipe: DIY Taco Lunchbox

Here, you're using up the last of the meatballs. They're crumbled and combined with chili powder to take their flavor in another direction. Of course, if your child is spice-averse, you can skip the chili powder. To keep prep at a minimum, look for prepackaged guacamole, either single-serve containers or a small tub. If you have a purist ("What are those chunks in my guacamole?!"), look for plain or "mashed avocado" that doesn't have anything but avocado in the ingredients.

In the morning or the night before:

  1. Crumble the meatballs and combine with the spices.
  2. Chop 1/3 cup bell pepper strips or grape tomatoes.

Friday – Egg Salad Lunchbox

Time: 10 minutes

Egg Salad Lunchbox
Credit: Diana Chistruga

Get the recipe: Egg Salad Lunchbox

It's Friday! You made it!  All you have to do is make a quick egg salad and add some extras. Here, you use up the rest of the Creamy Yogurt-Dill Sauce, but ranch dressing or mayo can act as a stand-in. If your kid isn't a fan of creamy textures, you can skip the sauce altogether and slice the egg (or leave it whole) instead. Add celery sticks or shredded carrot as a side option instead of mixing them in. Crackers give egg salad a nice crunchy counterpoint, but you can make a sandwich out of it, too.

  1. Peel and chop the egg. Combine it with the remaining dressing and celery (or shredded carrot).
  2. Slice half an apple, or clean mixed berries. A note about slicing apples ahead: Some turn brown quicker than others. Gala apples are slower to brown than Macintosh, while Opal apples tend not to brown at all. If you're worried about browning, try a slow-browning apple or sprinkle your apples with cinnamon. While the cinnamon won't stop the apple from browning, it will add flavor and a natural brown color that may make them more appealing to picky eaters.