The back-to-school crunch is upon us. This year, instead of that slightly squished PB &J, send the kiddos to school with one of these fresh lunch box ideas.

By Grace Elkus

  1. Toss 9 ounces cheese tortellini with 1 crown chopped broccoli, 1 cup frozen peas, and ½ cup pesto (add the peas and broccoli during the last few minutes of pasta being cooked). Top with grated Parmesan and pack with bell pepper strips and mixed berries.
  2. Toss cooked quinoa with a handful of edamame, finely chopped red onion or sliced shallot, and a handful of baby arugula. Dress with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Pack with tomato, mozzarella, watermelon, and basil skewers and pineapple wedges.
  3. Combine a handful baby spinach with sliced strawberries, crumbled feta or goat cheese, and toasted sunflower seeds. Pack their favorite vinaigrette on the side (to prevent soggy salad). Pack with tortilla chips and sliced pears. 
  4. Top leftover silver-dollar (or regular-sized) pancakes with 1 tablespoon each softened goat cheese or cream cheese and blueberry jam (or use whatever jam or jelly you like). Pack with a hard-boiled egg and green fruit salad (green grapes, kiwi, honeydew).
  5. Stuff mini whole-wheat pita pockets with hummus, sliced cucumber, tomato, and feta. Pack with sliced salami and a clementine.
  6. Spread a flour tortilla with 2 tablespoons sunflower or nut butter and top with 2 tablespoons puffed rice cereal (such as Rice Krispies). Drizzle with honey and top with a peeled banana. Roll-up the tortilla and cut into slices like banana “sushi rolls.” Pack with pretzel cheese “barbells” (pretzel sticks with cubes of cheese on either end) and red grapes.
  7. Mix shredded rotisserie chicken with a little barbecue sauce and place on slider buns or tiny brioche rolls. Top with sliced pickles and coleslaw (just toss some store-bought slaw mix with a little apple cider vinegar and olive oil). Pack with an apple and popcorn.

To buy: $42; amazon.com.

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