By Carolyn Hodges

Between juggling the breakfast routine, shuffling homework, and remembering gym shoes, the minutes before sending kids off to school feels like semi-organized chaos. And then there are the lunches to pack, which can feel like a downright chore. While we haven't yet discovered how to make lunches pack themselves, we've got an idea to help streamline your busy mornings: Meal prep.

Yep, we're suggesting you meal prep school lunches for the week. Having a simple game plan and a few prepped ingredients on hand means lunches are packed up faster (and without frenzied panic). We'll show you how easily you can save yourself major time (and headaches) by prepping ingredients in advance for five easy-to-assemble school lunchboxes.

School Lunch Meal Prep Tips

  • Have a flexible lunch plan for the week. Pick a "main dish" for each day, then prep or buy easy sides (think granola bars, whole fruit, and yogurt cups) to use all week. Consider where you may have dinner leftovers that can double as lunch.
  • Prep ingredients that can be incorporated into multiple meals. Prepare one or two protein foods (like hard-boiled eggs, tuna salad, or hummus). Slice vegetables for easy sides or to tuck into wraps and pasta salads. Wash grapes or cut melon in advance.
  • Involve the kids. A perk of having prepped ingredients at the ready is kids can help assemble their own lunch boxes! Plus, involving them in meal prep (like mashing eggs for egg salad or mixing ingredients for granola bars) may encourage them to try new foods.

A Week of Easy-to-Prep School Lunches

We're sharing a five-day school lunch box meal plan, complete with simple recipes and an easy Sunday prep plan to help you get ahead. Your kids will enjoy the fun variety, and you'll love how quick and healthy these meals are!

Sunday Lunch Box Prep Plan

1. Hard-boil some eggs. We suggest 2-3 eggs per child for the week. Get easy tips to make perfect hard boiled eggs, and watch this video to see how it's done:

2. Make a batch of Extra Easy Hummus, which you'll use on Tuesday's bagel sandwich and for Thursday's snack pack. Watch the video to get easy tips.

3. Cut up an assortment of fresh vegetables. Cucumber rounds and sliced bell peppers can be dipped in ranch dressing or hummus. You'll also use these as filling for Ham Pinwheels and Fresh Veggie Bagel Sandwich.

4. (Optional) Make a batch of Chewy No Bake Granola Bars for a fun lunch treat (or after-school snack). Have the kids help you with this one!

Photo by Holiday Baker

A Week's Worth of Easy Kid-Friendly School Lunches

Monday: Ham Pinwheels

Tuck some of the cucumbers you sliced ahead of time into this lunch box-friendly wrap (which can be prepped the night before and wrapped in foil to hold it together). Opt for whole-grain tortillas or wraps to bump up the fiber. Round out the meal with a piece of whole fruit and a yogurt.

These easy pinwheel sandwiches are loved by kids of all ages. Allrecipes user Stephanie Mullins says, "I made this wrap for my teenage son for school and he loved it. Simple and tasty."

Photo by Paula

Tuesday: Fresh Veggie Bagel Sandwich

We love the idea of a bagel buffet line to involve the kids in lunch box prep, inspired by recipe tester Butterfly Flutterby's comment, "Absolutely delicious and easily customizable. We make these at work by each bringing in different ingredients and forming a bagel buffet line!"

Keep this colorful sandwich kid-friendly by swapping the brown mustard with the hummus you made during meal prep. Using mini whole-grain bagels allows you to adjust the servings based on appetities (i.e. one bagel sandwich for younger kids, two for teens). Pack this up with grapes and a hardboiled egg for extra protein.

Photo by: Nichele

Wednesday: Crunchy Brunch Wrap

Use the leftover whole-grain tortillas from Monday's lunch to make this naturally sweet and crunchy wrap that's sure to please. Substitute sunflower seed butter for the peanut butter to keep it allergen-friendly. Serve with a side of veggies and hummus for dipping.

"The girls loved this for a change for lunch today! Very easy to make, healthy and super tasty...a keeper~YUM!" -- Christina

Photo by: Christina

Thursday: Bits and Bites (Option B: Avocado Egg Salad)

Send the kids off with an assortment of finger foods for a fun snack lunch—it's a great way to use up any perishable foods from the week, like ham, prepped vegetables, and hummus. Add crackers, cheese, and fruit to round out the meal.

Or, transform any leftover hard-boiled eggs from meal prep into this fun green Avocado Egg Salad! Take cookingmama's advice and mix in a little lemon juice to keep the color bright until lunch. Serve in a wrap or with crackers.

Photo by: *Sherri*

Friday: Easy Mini Bagel Pizzas

Who doesn't love Pizza Fridays? We're suggesting you use the leftover bagels from Tuesday's lunch to make these Easy Mini Bagel Pizzas, which can be prepared the night before and eaten cold at lunchtime. Or, warm them in the morning and pack in a thermos you've pre-heated with hot water.

If you use regular-size bagels, recipe tester a.jay87 suggests increasing baketime from 6 to 10 minutes.

Photo by House of Aqua
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