Your Kids Can Be In Charge of Their Own Lunch During the Week — Here’s How

This take on meal prep empowers kids in the kitchen — and leaves parents with one less work-day worry.

August 25, 2020
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recipe for Food Network Kitchens chicken salad sandwich rolls. ,recipe for Food Network Kitchens chicken salad sandwich rolls.

Photo by: Jackie Alpers ©Copyright 2012 Jackie Alpers - All rights reserved

Jackie Alpers, Copyright 2012 Jackie Alpers - All rights reserved

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I’ve noticed something about kids. Lots and lots of them are really interested in cooking. Once they turn 5 or so they start hanging around the kitchen, watching all of the chopping and stirring, waiting for an opportunity to jump in and help.

I don’t know about you but I’ve been extra busy lately. Full-time job, getting ready for another school year, keeping our home from falling into complete disarray — the to-do list never seems to get any shorter. I can use all the help that I can get. So, why am I not taking advantage of my little one who is so eager to lend a hand in the kitchen?

She and I do a lot of cooking together at dinnertime (I use it as an opportunity to teach her some basic recipes, kitchen safety and knife skills) but I realized that I don’t often make her responsible for completing a cooking task independently, let alone an entire meal. That’s why I’ve been trying something new lately: meal prepping a few ingredients over the weekend so that she can make her own lunch Monday through Friday. And, it’s been working out great. I have extra time to focus on work and household tasks and she absolutely loves having the freedom to get into the kitchen and show what she can do.

My daughter is 10 years old and makes her own lunch most days. She can easily remember which ingredients are needed for a recipe, so I usually prep two different lunches for her. That way she has some variety throughout the week. If your kiddo is younger you may want to start by choosing one special day of the week where they make their own lunch — and showing them where the ingredients are when it’s time to make lunch.

Ready to give it a try? With just a little bit of prep work, these kid-approved recipes make the perfect do-it-yourself lunch for little ones.

For Kids of All Ages and Skill Levels

Chicken Salad Rolls (pictured above)

The great thing about this recipe is that it’s so customizable. You have lots of choices for healthy add-ins, making it easy to tailor to your kiddos personal preferences. Whip up a batch on Sunday night and then all you have to do is leave pre-sliced rolls, bread or wraps within reach.

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RnB_Pasta_Salad-011f.tif

FOOD STYLIST: VIVIAN LIU PROP STYLIST: MOLLY FITZSIMONS

I’ve never met a little one who didn’t like pasta so why not toss it with some good-for-you veggies and edamame for an easy make-ahead meal? Even the littlest kids can go to the refrigerator at meal time and scoop some pasta into their bowl for lunch.

FNK_RoastedVeggieBuddhaBowl_H

FNK_RoastedVeggieBuddhaBowl_H

Food Network Kitchen’s Roasted Veggie Buddha Bowl for NEW FNK, as seen on Food Network.

Photo by: Renee Comet

Renee Comet

Grain bowls are a staple in our house because it allows me to simply make a bigger batch of what I’m already meal prepping for my own lunches. Plus, it’s fun for kids to scoop and layer the different ingredients into their bowls, creating (healthy!) mini works of art. I usually cook up a basic grain like farro or this Quinoa and Rice Pilaf, roast some veggies on a sheet pan and meal prep some chicken like these herby Chicken Bites. If your little one prefers crunchy raw veggies, you can cut some of those up in advance, too.

For Kids Who Can Use the Microwave

Photo by: Stephen Johnson ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All rights Reserved

Stephen Johnson, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All rights Reserved

The beauty of these homemade pizza pockets is that you can make a big batch. Bake some and keep them in the refrigerator for easy microwave reheating. Put the rest in your freezer (unbaked) for another week. Two-for-one!

Older kids can make themselves a protein-and-veggie packed lunch with Ree’s simple mug method (and a few fresh veggies that you cut up in advance over the weekend). This is the perfect recipe for kids who are old enough to crack eggs, measure milk and use a microwave.

Molly Yeh's "Mini Quiches with Peas, Bacon."

You’re going to want to make a double batch of these cheesy mini quiche. They’re great for older kids to reheat at lunch time — and equally as perfect when you need a make-ahead breakfast for yourself!

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