It’s that time of year again! The leaves are changing colors, Target ads are full of smiling kids wearing cute clothes and cool backpacks, and you’re starting to mentally and physically prepare for the impending school year. Some of you may have even already started school!
A lot of back-to-school preparation can be taken care of early – buying a new lunch box, thrifting for a new fall jacket, registering for SAT or ACT prep courses, and so on – but some activities are a daily struggle. Thankfully, we’re here to help you tackle one of those daily tasks – your back-to-school lunch!
We are going to showcase a few of our favorite sources of lunchtime inspiration, along with specific recipe recommendations and tweaks you can make to improve the flavor or preparation time.
The Domestic Geek
The Domestic Geek was launched in April 2014 by Sara Lynn Cauchon to show the world that delicious food can also be no-fuss and fresh, after learning how to cook from her mom. She has posted over 2,500 recipes featuring seasonal fare, meal prep, special occasion snacks, and your everyday lunch and dinner ideas.
Her 5 Healthy Meal Prep Ideas | Back-to-School 2017 video features a good mix of food that kids and adults will like. Anything with meatballs always seems to be a winner with any crowd, and deconstructed fajitas are great since they won’t get soggy before lunchtime. You can always adjust the spiciness for yourself or your children too. If certain foods, like the Asian slaw, don’t excite your kids, think about alternatives like a quick vegetable stir fry with broccoli and carrots. A few of the meals featured in Week 3 | 5 Healthy Back-to-School Meal Prep Recipes 2018 are also worth bookmarking, since they don’t need a microwave to be enjoyed! The Pasta Salad is delicious, and if you need more protein, you can always toss in some pieces of grilled chicken.
If you don’t have time to watch a video, check out her website or her Pinterest for the printable version of all her recipes! Her recipes give you the long-lasting energy you need to make it through your classes, your SAT study sessions, and your meetings, without hunger distracting you from your goals.
Mind Over Munch
Mind Over Munch started as a 100-day, clean-eating challenge for founder Alyssia Sheikh, but after her recipes and posts skyrocketed in popularity, she officially launched her brand in January 2014. Alyssia was a longtime fitness instructor and personal trainer with a love for food, and now wants to help others find balance and moderation in their diets. Most of her recipes are for those who meal prep, but most can be adapted for a single-day need.
If the idea of meal prep is daunting to you, you should definitely check out her One Hour Meal Prep for the Week video. It shows you how to assemble some simple meals for the week with time-saving tricks. She uses a variety of pre-made foods, like pre-cooked, pre-shredded chicken, to keep her meal prep under an hour, but you can always make those items yourself to save a few dollars if you have an extra 20 minutes. If you own an Instant Pot, you can simply throw a pound of thawed chicken in with at least 1 cup of chicken broth, the seasoning of your choice, and cook on high for about 15 minutes. That’s long enough to answer some emails or do a few practice questions for the ACT while you wait for the chicken to cook! If you’re feeling nostalgic, you should watch Alyssia’s DIY Lunchables – Healthy Bento Box video. She demonstrates how to make the healthy versions of your favorite Lunchables! A lot of the items are made from scratch, but you can always swap out the homemade chickpea crackers with some store-bought alternatives. No matter how you tweak it, these are lunches that will make the other kids (or grown-ups) jealous. These recipes can also inspire you to make copycat versions of your other favorite grab-and-go meals, like Starbucks Bistro Boxes!
You can find printable versions of the Mind Over Munch recipes on her website and Pinterest, and she’s also active on Instagram. Alyssia’s recipes make you excited about your meals with their appealing aesthetic and how little time you have to spend on them!
Budget Bytes was created in 2009 by Beth Moncel, a then-recent college grad with a degree in Nutritional Science and a mountain of student debt who did not want to resort to ramen noodles for every meal. She started Budget Bytes to show people that good food doesn’t need to be complicated or expensive. Beth offers over 1,000 recipes that highlight the cost per meal and serving, step-by-step photos alongside her recipe instructions, and plenty of substitutions if you are vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or simply need a cheaper alternative.
Everyone loves takeout, but it’s not generally an option when you’re on a tight budget. That’s why Easy Sesame Chicken is a great recipe when the Chinese takeout cravings hit on a weeknight! It’s cheap, quick, filling, and you can pair it endlessly with whatever produce is on sale that week. You can just make a little extra sauce, then add it to your steamed, sautéed, or blanched vegetables. If you want a meat-free option, then swap your chicken with some firm tofu. Before you fry your tofu, make sure you wrap it in paper towels and press it between two places to release the extra moisture. Beth also posts collections of related recipes if you don’t want to scroll through hundreds of recipes. A recent one is 28 Low or No Cook Recipes for Summer, for when you don’t want to fire up the oven on a hot summer day. Cowboy Caviar is great and can be varied to your tastes. The beans offer a good amount of protein, and you can omit the jalapeño if you don’t like too much heat. It’s also fun to throw in some corn to get a little more sweetness in the mix!
Budget Bytes has some videos on YouTube if you’re looking for some background watching, and is also active on Instagram and Pinterest. If you’re looking to save money due to all the recent school costs, or just some inspiration for some delicious healthy food, you should definitely consider Budget Bytes.
There’s our roundup for the day! If you didn’t spot anything here that fit your needs, maybe check out She’s in Her Apron or Honeysuckle for a mix of food and life tips, Just One Cookbook for comforting Japanese cooking, or Cooking Shooking for all the Indian food you could ever want. Good luck with your lunch preparation, and we hope you have a great start to your school year!
What are your favorite places for meal inspiration? Let us know!
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