After four months and 23 days away from school, distance learning started this week in Arizona for my 6th, 9th and 10th graders. The transition from quarantine free-for-all to structured schedule was made less chaotic by a week’s worth of lunches packed and waiting for them in our garage fridge.

Below is the basic formula I’ve created and followed for years when prepping their lunches on Sundays, with a few modifications made to account for their now being able to use a microwave at home.

I hope this serves you well as you prepare for whatever online, hybrid, or in-person version of the school year your district has cooked up.

Day 1 – Sandwiches/Wraps

On Sunday afternoon/evening, make sandwiches, wrap in tinfoil, and label with your kids’ names. They will keep just fine until lunch the next day.

Tips: For variety from week to week, use different types of bread/buns/bagels/tortillas. Also, pre-wash and store all veggies and fruit on Sunday so your kids can easily grab something healthy to pair with their sandwich/wrap.

Day 2 – Salad with Protein

Every Sunday, grill an extra chicken breast or piece of steak when prepping your other meals for the week. Assemble individual salads in glass containers, stack and store.

Tips: Make one (or more) for yourself and/or your spouse, and try to always have some cut-up rotisserie chicken in your freezer to pull out and use for the weeks you don’t have time to grill.

Day 3  – Taco Pasta Salad

On Sunday, make a big ‘ol batch of this Taco Pasta Salad. Store individual servings in glass or plastic containers for you, your kids, and your spouse to easily reach for on Wednesday.

Tips: Swap this recipe out for your kids’ favorite pasta salad or pasta recipe. This Southwestern Chili Mac is a staple in our house and can easily be made ahead on Sunday.

Day 4 – Frozen Pizza, Veggies, Fruit

Bake a frozen pizza every Sunday (we like the options from CPK & Newman’s Own, but I usually just buy whatever is on sale) and divide into a divided rectangle container. Add fruits & veggies to the other two compartments, store, stack and save. These will keep all week long. The kids can either eat the pizza cold or warm it up.

Tips: If you have Trader Joe’s, bake one of their flat breads or fancier pizzas occasionally, or make some of these Pizza Egg Bites on Sunday.

Day 5 – Leftovers or Microwaveable Favorites

Here’s your chance to get rid of whatever leftovers you have sitting in your fridge from dinner that week. On Thursday night, have the kids plunk servings of whatever leftovers they want into a container so that they are ready to grab and reheat on Friday.

Fridays can also be an opportunity for them to eat whatever pre-packaged garbage they like from your freezer or pantry that can be quickly microwaved. My crew’s favorites include Trader Joe’s Mac ‘n Cheese, Trader Joe’s Pesto Tortellini or Costco’s Grilled Chicken Teriyaki Rice Bowls.

Before you go….

For make-ahead breakfast ideas, see this post.

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