9 Make Ahead Lunch Ideas

Who has time to make lunch every morning? Yeah me neither. Check out these 9 creative back-to-school make-ahead lunch ideas from my sister Laura. She’s a genius! And getting more sleep than the rest of us!

9 Make Ahead Lunch Ideas from The Food Charlatan

I have misspelled “license” on my phone so many times that autocorrect now recognizes it as a word. Where do you turn when you’ve become so bad at spelling that you are actually dumbing down technology??

I used to be an excellent speller. Seriously. Really obscure words. Now I rely on spellcheck for EVERYTHING. It’s pathetic. Except onomatopoeia. Still got that one. (One of the only words in the English language with 4 vowels in a row….BOOM take that 11th grade English! (Pow! Zap! Bam!)

A couple weeks ago my sister Laura sent me a picture of her countertops which were completely covered in crescent rolls, sandwiches, and muffins. She said “A few other things to make and I’ll be set for school lunch for like a month. Aw yeah.”

I begged for more information. Set for school lunch? Isn’t packing lunch the bane of mothers everywhere?? She sent me this:

9 Make Ahead Lunch Ideas from The Food Charlatan

And thus started 2 weeks of me obsessively making everything on this list to share with you guys. Laura is probably SO sick of me calling her. I’m a Charlatan, remember? I need VERY specific instructions. “So how thick do you slice the cream cheese for the pepperoni rolls? Did you do shredded cheese or sliced on the sandwiches? Do you send a spoon with the mini tacos? How much peanut butter goes on the PB&J crescents?” I think Laura will be happy to see this post go up just so that I stop calling her.

These are more ideas than recipes (except a couple, see note). They are not fancy. Which is exactly how I think school lunch should be! Simple, so we don’t lose our minds as moms :) Laura stores almost all of her make-ahead lunches in the freezer. She takes them out in the morning and they thaw by the time her kids have their lunch.

Laura sent me this photo a few days after the other one:

9 Make Ahead Lunch Ideas from The Food Charlatan

Charlotte is only in half-day kinder this year (thank goodness) so she doesn’t even need to pack a lunch yet, stale bread or otherwise. But I wanted to save all these ideas for next year, and I thought you guys might want to have them too! Here we go!

***NOTE*** 
None of the recipes on this post are in a printable format, because they are more ideas than recipes. A couple of the recipes are a little more in depth (Cornbread Muffins, Banana Muffins, etc.) so I made a separate page that you can click to with a printable recipe card.

 

1. Ham and Cheese Hawaiian Rolls
9 Make Ahead Lunch Ideas from The Food Charlatan

9 Make Ahead Lunch Ideas from The Food Charlatan

The only thing better than making a sandwich is making 12 sandwiches all at once. It’s hard for me to not eat the entire dozen immediately.

  • 12 Hawaiian rolls
  • mayonnaise
  • mustard (if you want)
  • lunchmeat of your choice
  • sliced cheese of your choice

Do not separate the rolls. Use a serrated knife to slice the entire thing in half like you’re making one huge sandwich. Spread mayo and/or mustard on both cut sides of the rolls. Layer ham and cheese on the rolls, trimming as necessary. Top with the other half. Use a serrated knife to cut the rolls into 12 sandwiches (where they were meant to be torn apart).

Line up the sandwiches on a sheet pan and freeze for 30 minutes. Then throw them all in a large ziplock bag and store in the freezer.

2. Hot Dog Cornbread Muffins

9 Make Ahead Lunch Ideas from The Food Charlatan

This recipe (click here) uses yogurt instead of oil and is pretty darn healthy (I mean. Besides the hot dog part.) I wouldn’t use it to make a loaf of cornbread all by itself, but the kids love it. I serve it with ketchup and mustard.

Click here to get the recipe for Hot Dog Cornbread Muffins!

3. Peanut Butter and Jelly Crescent Rolls

Laura told me that sometimes she also does cream cheese and jelly rolls! Yum.

9 Make Ahead Lunch Ideas from The Food Charlatan

  • 1 (8 ounce) can crescent rolls
  • peanut butter
  • jelly

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Open up the rolls and lay them out. Spoon a small amount of peanut butter on the fat end of the roll (think 2 teaspoons maybe). Top with a similar amount of jelly. Roll up and seal as best you can (seriously). Bake for 10-12 minutes or until browned.

Loosen from the pan using a spatula, then freeze on the pan for about 30 minutes. Then toss them in a ziplock and freeze until you’re ready to pack lunch.

4. Mini Tacos

9 Make Ahead Lunch Ideas from The Food Charlatan

  • Cooked taco meat
  • sour cream
  • salsa
  • shredded cheese
  • tortillas

I found this little tupperware at Target. I added the taco meat to half and mixed sour cream and salsa in the other part. Add shredded cheese. I used a biscuit cutter to cut 4 rounds from a tortilla, but you can just fold a tortilla in a sandwich baggie and send it along. You can freeze the tupperware until the morning you want to send it for lunch.

5. Chicken Sandwiches

9 Make Ahead Lunch Ideas from The Food Charlatan

  • Frozen chicken patties
  • hamburger buns
  • ketchup
  • mayonnaise

Bake the chicken patties according to package directions. Spread ketchup and mayo on hamburger buns. Make a sandwich with the chicken, then cut each sandwich in half (unless your kid is a big eater). Line up the half sandwiches on a baking sheet, flash freeze for 30 minutes, then store in a large ziplock bag in the freezer.

6. Banana Muffins (packed with Yogurt)

9 Make Ahead Lunch Ideas from The Food Charlatan

This recipe is a little more involved so I made a separate page that you can print out. These are my new favorite muffins! They have pumpkin spice in them and are super moist. Laura sends her girls to school with a muffin, yogurt, and some fruit or carrots. Here is the recipe for the Banana Muffins!

7. Ham and Cheese Crescent Rolls

9 Make Ahead Lunch Ideas from The Food Charlatan

9 Make Ahead Lunch Ideas from The Food Charlatan

  • 1 (8 ounce) can crescent rolls
  • lunchmeat of your choice
  • cheddar cheese, cut into blocks a little smaller than a string cheese (or just use string cheese!)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Open up the rolls and lay them out. Lay a slice of lunchmeat on the fat end of each roll. Top with cheese. Roll up and seal the edges, otherwise you will get oozy cheese all over your pan like I did. (Although it’s okay if you do.) Bake for 10-12 minutes or until browned.

Loosen from the pan using a spatula, then freeze on the pan for about 30 minutes. Then toss them in a ziplock and freeze until you’re ready to pack lunch.

8. English Muffin Pizzas

These are a classic!

9 Make Ahead Lunch Ideas from The Food Charlatan

Turn your broiler to high and move your oven rack to the highest position. Split the muffins and line them up cut side down on a baking sheet. Broil for 2 minutes or so. Flip the muffins and broil the other side 2-3 minutes.

Spread some pizza sauce on the cut sides of the muffins. Top with cheese and pepperoni. Broil for another 2-3 minutes until the cheese is getting brown.

Remove from the oven, loosen any cheese from the pan, and flash freeze for 30 minutes or so. Store in a large ziplock bag in the freezer.

9. Pepperoni and Cream Cheese Crescent Rolls

Pepperoni Cream Cheese Crescent Rolls from The Food Charlatan

I posted this one earlier this week! Here is the recipe for Pepperoni and Cream Cheese Crescent Rolls. You can flash freeze them and store in a ziplock as described in the other recipes. I like to serve these with Easy No Cook Pizza Sauce.

 

Here are 13 Back to School Dinner ideas!

13 Easy Back to School Dinners

Some other lunch ideas from friends:

Pepperoni Pizza Tortilla Pinwheels from Rachel Cooks
Strawberry Chicken Salad Wraps from A Dash of Sanity
Free Printable Lunchbox Notes from Yellow Bliss Road

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  1. Janice says

    Let me say how good those peanut butter & jelly crescents are – makes me wish I still had kids to pack lunches for! And sleeping on the ground is tough enough, no fair throwing bears into the equation :)

  2. says

    While I greatly admire people like your sis, I also have some hostility there. Because you know that despite any prep I might make, I’m either sending them out the door with stale bread and a cheese stick, or they’re turning down whatever hard work I’ve done and asking for a yogurt squeezie. Cannot win, my friend. But this list is still awesome, and I’m still going to keep trying!
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