Back-to-School Guide – Chowhound

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back to school lunch tips, recipes, and ideas

Back-to-school time is a tumultuous one: emotions are running high and often conflicted; the physical preparations required can get frenetic; logistical nightmares loom. But with the right gear, recipes, guidelines, and mindset (you’ve got this!), you can navigate all that back-to-school brouhaha almost stress-free.

Jump to the info you need NOW, or scroll through to see all of our back-to-school content.

Back-to-School Gear

Lunch boxes, meal prep gear, cute food-themed accessories, and college dorm essentials (because little ones aren’t the only ones off to school). We obviously focus on the edible and food-adjacent, but for more tech-related essentials, be sure to check out CNET’s Back to School Gift Guide too!

Fabulous Food-Related School Supplies on Etsy

waxed canvas lunch bags

WAAMI Industries / Etsy

Etsy is full of fashionable school supplies, and for a limited time, you can get up to 20 percent off! Check out the Etsy Back-to-School Sale.

Stylish Lunch Boxes for Every Personality

freezable lunch bag


Honestly, most of these are cute enough to take to work too. See our picks for Best Lunch Boxes.

Best Meal Prep Containers for Getting Organized

healthy lunch ideas for work and school


Preparation is key, and these meal prep containers will help you get everything in order for the week ahead. Check out the Best Meal Prep Containers.

Related Reading: The Best Meal Prep Cookbooks to Help You Go Pro

Cooking Essentials for Your College Dorm

chalkboard mini fridge for dorm


If you’re off on your own for the first time, these are the basic tools you need to cook for yourself. See our College Dorm Cooking Essentials guide.

Related Reading: 10 Kitchen Rules to Memorize When You Start Cooking for Yourself | Upgrades to Our Favorite Dorm Food

Fun Food Gadgets for Your Dorm

microwave cookware


Once you’ve got the basics down, you can add in a few more tools for fun. See our favorite Fun Dorm Food Gadgets.

Related Reading: Other Dorm Essentials You Should Get ASAP | Gifts for Your Favorite Foodie College Student

Breakfast In a Hurry

School days demand breakfast to fuel you for the day ahead, but they’re also extra-busy, so getting it done can be difficult. Make it easier with these ideas.

Quick Instant Pot Breakfasts

Slow Cooker Steel-Cut Oatmeal


No time to make pancakes, but still want to do one better than cereal? Try these Instant Pot Breakfast Recipes (if not on a weekday, they’ll still give you more time to relax on Saturday and Sunday).

Back-to-School Burrito Hacks

Vegetarian Black Bean Breakfast Burrito with Eggs and Roasted Poblano Peppers


Burritos can work just as well for breakfast as they can for lunch—and they don’t have to be unhealthy, either (especially not compared to a Pop-Tart), but there are some key tips to success. Check out our Easy Back-to-School Burrito Ideas.

Make-Ahead Breakfasts You Can Grab and Go —coming soon!

breakfast sausage sweet potato muffin recipe


The beauty of a make-ahead breakfast cannot be denied. That’s why we’re rounding up our best make-ahead breakfast recipe ideas to get you out the door faster; check back soon for the list.

Healthy Frozen Smoothies = Popsicles for Breakfast —coming soon!

frozen blueberry popsicles (frozen treats safe for your dog)


The start of school may mark the end of summer, but it’s still hot, and kids are pretty grumpy. Try giving them a healthy frozen smoothie pop for breakfast and it’ll brighten their day a bit. Check back soon for the recipes.

The Ultimate Guide to Every Kind of Yogurt Out There

non-dairy oatmilk yogurt oat yogurt health benefits

Thodsapol Thongdeekhieo / EyeEm / Getty Images

Yogurt is a timeless no-brainer breakfast option, but there are so many kinds (including newcomer oat yogurt)—this guide will break it all down and help you choose the healthiest option. See our Guide to Yogurt.

Never Buy Granola Again: Make It From Scratch In 30 Minutes

maple barley granola recipe


Homemade granola is seriously easy, endlessly adaptable, and much healthier than many of the store-bought options out there—not to mention way cheaper. Learn How to Make the Best Homemade Granola and sprinkle it on that yogurt (or put it in a baggie for a school snack).

Everything You Need to Know About Having a Healthy Breakfast

healthy breakfast ideas


It can be a struggle to eat a healthy breakfast every day (even most days), but here’s a guide to getting it done. See our tips, tricks, guidelines, and recipes for pulling off a Healthy Breakfast Every Day.

School Lunch Ideas

If your kid munches on packed lunches, it is extra work, but you can streamline it (and still keep things interesting) with these school lunch ideas, tips, and recipes.

Kid-Friendly Instant Pot Lunches

air fryer mac and cheese recipe (air fryer pasta)


You’re not gonna make these on the day of, but your Instant Pot is a top-notch meal prep tool and these recipes are all kid-friendly. Get our Instant Pot Lunch Recipes for Back-to-School.

How to Transform Dinner Leftovers Into School Lunch They’ll Actually Want to Eat

Turkey Waldorf Salad


Got leftovers? Get your kids to eat them—and happily—with these creative transformations. See How to Turn Leftovers Into School Lunch.

Back-to-School Brain Food for Your Kids’ Lunch

back to school brain food to pack for lunch

Getty Images

These are some of the best foods to pack with your kids to help boost their brain function. See which Brain Food to Pack for Lunch.

Do Double Duty with Lunches You and Your Kids Will Like

Pasta Salad with Chickpeas, Feta, and Dill


You don’t have to double the work when it comes to packing school lunches and work lunches; just make a few creative tweaks to your portion and leave your kids’ a little plainer. See How to Make Lunches You and Your Kids Will Like.

Healthy Juice Box Alternatives to Pack for Lunch

Salted Watermelon Juice recipe


Kids still jockey for juice? Skip the high-sugar, store-bought options and pack these Healthy Juice Box Alternatives instead.

Cat Cora’s Tips on Getting Kids to Pack Their Own Lunch


Even littler kids can have a hand in getting their lunches together. Chef Cat Cora speaks from experience. Get her tips on How to Get Kids to Help Pack Lunch.

Marie Kondo’s Tips for Kid-Approved Bento Boxes

kid-friendly bento box tips


The queen of serene (and home organization guru), Marie Kondo can even help you get your kids’ lunches in order. Naturally, they will also spark joy. Get Marie Kondo’s Bento Tips.

Back-to-School Meals from the BBQ

Mini Turkey Meatloaf recipe


Grilling weather should hold out for at least a couple more months, so when you’re barbecuing dinner, why not cook up some extra grub for the next day’s lunch? Get our Back-to-School BBQ Recipes.

Allergy-Friendly Snacks to Pack to School

easy hummus recipe


It seems that nut allergies, wheat allergies, and dairy allergies all continue to become more common, and even if your kid doesn’t have them, many schools require allergy-safe snacks. Luckily, there are tons of tasty options. See our Allergy-Friendly School Snack Recipes for proof.

10 Healthy Recipes to Pack All School Year

Crumbly Oat and Apricot Bars


Simple, kid-friendly, and fairly healthy, these will be school year staples for sure. See our 10 Healthy Recipes for Back-to-School.

Related Video: How to Pack a Veggie-Filled Lunch Kids Won’t Trade Away

After-School Snacks

Not just a reward for getting through another round of classes, but a necessity for many growing (and hence, constantly hungry) kids, after-school snacks don’t have to come from a box. But if they do, we also have some healthier choices to suggest.

The Best One-Bowl Apple Snacking Cake

one-bowl apple snack cake recipe

Jessie Sheehan

Kids come home hangry? This fantastic one-bowl snacking cake from Jessie Sheehan is easy and quick to put together, and can be made with whatever fruit you happen to have. Get the Apple Snacking Cake Recipe.

After-School Baking Projects That Are Fun for Both You and Your Kids

monster face cupcake recipe healthy


Cooking with kids can be a great bonding experience (and teaching moment), but don’t bypass baking with them either. Check out our best tips and recipes for Baking with Kids.

Related Reading: The Best Cookbooks for Kids

These Eco-Friendly Snacks Are Sustainable & Delicious

this bar saves lives kids

This Saves Lives / Amazon

Not all granola bars are created equal (ditto any other snack you can think of). These earth-friendly options are better for you and for the planet. See some of the Best Eco-Friendly Snacks.

Plant-Based Snacks Are a Healthier Option

best vegan snacks and plant-based junk food

No Whey Foods / Amazon

Even if your kid doesn’t have dietary restrictions, if they’re gonna eat nacho chips and chocolate candies, may as well make ’em plant-based! See some of our picks for Best Plant-Based Snacks.

Remember These ’90s Snacks?

rice krispies treat recipe


Of course you do! And now you can introduce your kids to the wonders of Dunkaroos and Ritz Bits with these Copycat ’90s Snack Recipes.

Easy Dinner Plans

Busy weekdays often bleed into busy weeknights, so dinner can be another stress-inducer. But here are some easy and delicious ways to get dinner on the table in a reasonable amount of time.

15 Quick and Easy Instant Pot Meals

Easy Crock Pot Taco Soup recipe for slow cooker


Chances are, you’ll be leaning on your Instant Pot a lot more during the school year. Here are 15 Quick and Easy Instant Pot Meals to give you a head start on dinner plans.

The Best Cookbooks for Feeding the Family on Busy Nights

Comfort In an Instant Melissa Clark Instant Pot cookbook


Tuesday night is not the time to break out your fancy-pants chef cookbook, but there are a lot of cookbooks perfectly suited to feeding the family in a hurry. See our picks for The Best Cookbooks for Busy Weeknight Family Dinners.

The Best Instant Pot Cookbooks for Quick and Easy Meals

The Instant Pot Bible cookbook


Unsurprisingly, Instant Pot and pressure cooker cookbooks are an entire subset of the above. We picked out some of our favorite Instant Pot Cookbooks too.

Crowd-Pleasing Family Meals Made in the Slow Cooker

Easy Slow Cooker Spaghetti Bolognese recipe


An alternative to quick and speedy, the slow and steady Crock-Pot is another great option for weeknight meals. We have a plethora of slow cooker recipes on the site, but here’s a roundup of 21 Easy Slow Cooker Meals the Whole Family Will Love.

11 Fast Family Dinners for Busy School Nights

easy Asian peanut noodle recipe


No Instant Pot required for these 30-minute meals that parents and kids will love. Get 11 Quick & Easy Meals for Busy Weeknights.

Tips for Feeding Finicky Kids

baked cracker crusted chicken fingers


Don’t believe your kids will actually go for any of the above? Try taking some advice from a mom of two picky eaters. See Jessie Sheehan’s Tips for Feeding Picky Kids.

11 Grain Salads That Are Great for Dinner—and Again for Lunch the Next Day

wheat berry salad with harissa and pistachios


These hearty, healthy salads make for great dinners, and the leftovers pack up perfectly for lunch the following day. Get our Best Grain Salad Recipes.

Just for Fun

All homework and no play is no way to do things, so don’t forget to have some fun!

Make Your Own Pop Tarts

homemade strawberry pop tart recipe


Homemade Pop-Tarts are one back-to-school project everyone can get behind. See How to Make Pop-Tarts From Scratch.

School Lunches Around the World

chole masala (Indian chickpeas)


Get a glimpse of what other kids are eating. And maybe glean some inspiration too. Check out these International School Lunches.

Related Reading: Charming Snapshots of What Kids Eat Around the World

Recreate Your School Cafeteria Favorites

easy homemade Sloppy Joes


These grown-up versions of grade school classics taste way better than you remember. Get our Cafeteria-Style Recipes That Actually Taste Good.

Thematic Lunch Box + Food Pairings

thematic lunch box and lunch pairings


We paired up some nifty lunch boxes with thematically appropriate lunches for a totally on-point eating experience. See our Thematic Lunch Box and Food Pairings.

Bake Sale Tips, Tricks, and Recipes

bake sale tips, tricks, and recipes

Cat Lane / Getty Images

School fundraiser coming up? Don’t panic. See our 9 Tips for Bake Sale Success and you’ll nail it.

Why Do We Give Apples to Teachers?

How did apples get their names?


Do kids actually still do this? And how did it get started in the first place? Find out Why We Give Apples to Teachers.

What Is a Back-to-School Cocktail?

green apple sparkling cocktail recipe


Any drink you mix up to celebrate once the kids are back in class, of course (or that the teacher downs once they’ve gone home for the day)! But seriously, check out this cheeky Back-to-School Cocktail Recipe in particular.

Header image courtesy of Claudia Totir / Moment / Getty Images

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