These 11 simple lunchbox ideas hold up easily when made in advance. They're portable and pass the requirements for schools that request healthy lunches from home. And of course, every dish here has been kid-tested and approved. Prepped and refrigerated overnight, here's how they looked the next day, plus tips on how to do it.
Mini Sandwich Squares
A plain ol' PB&J gets a cute makeover with the help of a square-shaped sandwich cutter, but any carving knife will do the same trick. Keep them in an airtight container and these squares will look--and taste--exactly the same tomorrow.
Smaller shaped pasta is perfect for kids' lunches. This recipe features orzo, which is quick-cooking pasta that looks like rice. Boil it, drain it and add four simple ingredients: fresh lemon juice, olive oil, frozen spinach and a few tiny pieces of basil. No need to cook the spinach; just let it thaw out in the warm pasta. Be sure to wait until everything is cooled off before storing overnight.
The extra lemon wedge isn't essential but what kid wouldn't like squeezing on a little fresh lemon juice at lunch?
Whole-Wheat Tortilla Wrap With Fruit and Almond Butter
Simply slather a whole-wheat tortilla with almond butter and add diced fruit. Peaches, strawberries, blackberries or bananas are all delicious choices. Bonus: Nothing turns brown because so little air is exposed.
Don't like almond butter? Try using peanut butter or cream cheese.
DIY Fruity Yogurt
For a fresh alternative to store-bought flavored yogurt, fill a container with plain Greek yogurt (which is thicker and less likely to leak) and sprinkle on fresh or frozen fruit, such as blueberries or strawberries. And if you want to add a drizzle of honey, no one will complain.
Frozen fruit produces more juice, so be sure your container is leakproof.
Tiny Pizza Quiches
If you can make scrambled eggs, you can make these in less time than it takes to stream your favorite TV show. The base for 24 tiny quiches is simple: 6 eggs plus 3 tablespoons of milk. Pour into a greased mini-muffin pan, then add whatever toppings you like. We used mozzarella cheese, salami, tomatoes and basil. Cook for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
No-Bake Fruit and Nut Balls
Whipping up a batch of these protein- and fiber-rich balls requires only four ingredients and a food processor. For these apricot and coconut balls, we ground 1/2 cup dried apricots, 1/4 cup prunes, 1/4 cup shredded coconut and 2 tablespoons of chia seeds. Roll into balls and store in an airtight container for up to a week.
Quick Bread with Cream Cheese
Any hearty quick bread makes a delicious sandwich alternative. This is homemade apple spice bread, but zucchini or pumpkin bread would also work perfectly. Add a layer of cream cheese or butter and cut into squares.
Mixed fruit "batons" and "caterpillars" do just fine in the fridge for the night. Just slide the fruit right down a bamboo skewer. How simple is that?
For added school safety, use kitchen shears to snip off the sharp ends.
"Sliders" on Dinner Rolls
The secret to sandwiches that don't get soggy boils down to the bread. Dinner rolls are much thicker than sliced bread and hold up better overnight. Even with something as moist as egg salad loaded with dill pickles.
Transform a few frozen, precooked meatballs by loading them onto extra-long toothpicks. Then alternate with your kids' favorites like cheese cubes, or cherry tomatoes and basil.
Use your fingertip to lightly brush a little water on the basil while you're packing up and it'll look better the second day.
Veggie Sandwich Sushi
Use a rolling pin to flatten out a piece of bread, or start with a tortilla. Add a layer of cream cheese, then position long strips of cucumber and peppers at one end. Roll up and cut. The cream cheese protects your bread (or tortilla) from getting soggy. Try the same technique with turkey, cheese or any other favorite sandwich combo.
If you use mayonnaise, first add a thin layer of butter to the bread to act as a moisture barrier.