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3 Back-to-School Mason Jar Lunches

image source: brooke mclay
image source: brooke mclay

The day before school started, my daughter just sat me down to have the talk. You know, that one thing us parents dread talking about?

School lunch. Last year, I thought I’d pull a quick one on my kids when I announced they’d be eating school lunch in the cafeteria every day. I’d prepaid for a full year of school eating, giving myself the gift of no-rush mornings. We’d spent so much time the year before, frantically tossing together lunches the kids hadn’t even touched, I figured a plate of hot pizza from the lunch lady would be a happy break for me and my tots.

Turns out, the kids weren’t big on that idea. “Mom. We’re going to be making our own lunches this year, ok?” said my daughter, with a solemn and serious look on her face. “I can’t bear to eat that cafeteria food for another year.”

I could tell there would be no talking her out of it. But I had one big rule: we had to come up with an easy list of ideas that we all loved. No more standing in front of the fridge, inspiration-less, wondering what I could possibly pop into those brown bags minutes before rushing them out the door.

My daughter shook my hand in solid agreement, and we hit the Internet, looking for some quick and simple ideas that would keep our lunch-packing fresh and exciting throughout the year. My little one loved the look of bento boxes, but I quickly struck them from the option list. Bento boxes take far too much planning, prepping, and thinking ahead. I hunted down a few happy-looking sandwiches, but my daughter refused. “Sandwiches get super boring,” she said. And I totally get what she means. Two slices of bread day-after-day can start to seem a little blah.

We found a few wraps we both agreed on. Nodded our heads over a thermos full of soup. But still found ourselves feeling rather meh about our options. So, we started chatting through the things my daughter most loves to eat, wondering if there was a way to turn them into a whole new idea. She thought she could eat pizza every day of the week. And wished there was a way to pack more pasta salad — a favorite summertime treat whenever we hit potluck parties. I, for another, wanted more veggies to be packed and eaten — something my kids haven’t been so good about.

Looking at our list, we realized there was, indeed, a sweet spot: pasta salad in a jar! Using a few of the simple tricks we’ve seen online with packing salads in a jar, we started to pull together ideas for pretty layered pastas, with ingredients we almost always have on hand. In a matter of minutes, we had dozens of favorite combos, with these three receiving “stars” from my daughter as the ones she wanted to try first.

3 Back-to-School Mason Jar Lunches
Image source: Brooke McLay

The idea will work like this: on Sundays, I’ll boil a big pot of pasta, drizzle it with olive oil, and put it in the fridge for the week. Each night before school, the kiddos can create their own layered pasta jars — a squeeze of favorite salad dressing serves as a simple sauce, pasta on top, then a variety of veggies, meats, and cheeses gets packed on top. Lid on, fork packed, and the kids now have a one-dish meal that they’ve made themselves in minutes.

We’ve already come up with dozens of fun new flavor combos, using basic ingredients. We’d love to hear what combos your kids cook up! In the meantime, here are three favorites to get you started. If your family loves these easy lunch jars as much as we do, it’s going to be a deliciously simple school year!

3 Back-to-School Mason Jar Lunches
Image Source: Brooke McLay

Pizza Pasta Shaker

Makes: 1 serving

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons Italian dressing
3/4 cup cooked mini cheese tortellini pasta
1/4 cup tomatoes, freshly chopped
1/4 cup basil or spinach, freshly chopped
2 tablespoons olives
2 tablespoons mini pepperoni

Special equipment: 1 wide-mouthed pint jar

Directions:
1. Layer all ingredients in order, starting with the dressing, on the bottom of a pint-sized mason jar. Place lid on jar and store in fridge until ready to eat. Pack with a cooler in lunch bags. To eat, shake pasta to mix and enjoy!

3 Back-to-School Mason Jar Lunches
Image Source: Brooke McLay

Encourage a love of learning with this fun little lunch! Alphabet pasta is layered with a few kid-friendly veggies, topped with cheddar cheese, and served with ranch dressing as the creamy pasta sauce. If you’re not a fan of store-bought ranch, make your own with this easy recipe. Or drizzle in a basic vinaigrette (oil + vinegar) as an easy, healthy dressing that doesn’t come from a package. Bright, colorful, and easy enough for your kiddos to help prep, this recipe is so much better than another day of PB&J!

Alphabet Pasta Shaker

Makes: 1 serving

Ingredients: 
2 tablespoons ranch dressing
3/4 cup cooked alphabet pasta
1/4 cup frozen peas and carrots, thawed
1/4 cup corn kernels
12 bite-sized cubes Colby-cheddar cheese

Special equipment: 1 wide-mouthed pint jar

Directions:
1. Layer all ingredients in order, starting with the dressing, on the bottom of a pint-sized mason jar. Place lid on jar and store in fridge until ready to eat. Pack with a cooler in lunch bags. To eat, shake pasta to mix and enjoy!

3 Back-to-School Mason Jar Lunches
Image Source: Brooke McLay

BLT Pasta Salad Shaker

Makes: 1 serving

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons honey mustard dressing
3/4 cup cooked bow tie pasta
1/2 cup spinach, freshly chopped
1/4 cup tomatoes, diced
2 tablespoons bacon bits

Special equipment: 1 wide-mouthed pint jar

Directions:
1. Layer all ingredients in order, starting with the dressing, on the bottom of a pint-sized mason jar. Place lid on jar and store in fridge until ready to eat. Pack with a cooler in lunch bags. To eat, shake pasta to mix and enjoy!

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3 Back-to-School Mason Jar Lunches
Image Source: Brooke McLay
Article Posted 2 years Ago

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