Simplify Lunch: Mix-and-Match Ideas Your Kids Will Love

Buy only six ingredients and mix and match them to create healthy school meals for the week. 

Mix and Match Lunch Mediterranean Yunhee Kim
 Mix-and-Match Strategy #1: Kid-Friendly Mediterranean

Just buy...

  • Plain Greek yogurt
  • Mozzarella balls 
  • Mini whole-wheat pita pockets 
  • Tomatoes (cherry or heirloom)
  • Cucumber 
  • Canned tuna (in water or oil)

Then make...

Monday: Tuna Pockets
Mix 1⁄4 cup drained tuna with 1 Tbs. yogurt, chopped cucumbers, sliced tomatoes, and a few herbs. Stuff into two mini pita pockets. 

Tuesday: Pita Crackers With Cucumber Raita
Cut 2 mini pitas in half. Brush on olive oil and sea salt or garlic salt. Bake at 450°F until pitas are crunchy, about 8 minutes. Mix 1⁄2 cup yogurt, 2 Tbs. chopped cucumber, and dill; pack in a container for dipping. 

Wednesday: Stuffed Tomatoes and Grilled Cheese
Hollow out a few small tomatoes. Mix 1⁄4 cup drained tuna with 1 Tbs. yogurt and chopped cucumbers. Stuff tomatoes. Place three mozzarella balls in a pita pocket and grill until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. 

Thursday: Salad Sticks
Thread cucumbers, mozzarella balls, and tomatoes on three 6-inch skewers. Cut off the pointy end.

Friday: Buy pizza! Or repeat a lunch.

Mix and Match Soups and Salads Yunhee Kim
Mix-and-Match Strategy #2: Soups & Salads

Just buy...

  • Whole-grain pasta 
  • Eggs 
  • Canned black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • Salad mix with vinaigrette packet 
  • Unsalted chicken stock
  • Leftover grilled chicken 

Then make...

Monday: Egg-Drop Soup
Heat 2 cups stock and a pinch of salt on medium-high. Remove 1⁄4 cup and whisk in 11⁄2 tsp. cornstarch. Return to the pot and simmer for two minutes. In a small bowl, whisk 1 egg and 1⁄2 tsp. cornstarch. Slowly pour egg into broth, whisking at same time. Let stand until egg is cooked. 

Tuesday: Pasta Salad
Toss 3⁄4 cup cooked pasta, 1⁄4 cup beans, and veggies from the salad mix. Use 2 Tbs. vinaigrette to dress. 

Wednesday: Cobb Salad
Place 1 cup salad mix on bottom of container. Top with 1 cooled scrambled egg, 1⁄2 cup beans, and chicken slices. 

Thursday: Bean Soup
In a saucepan combine 1 cup stock, 2 oz. chicken cubes, 1⁄4 cup cooked pasta, 1⁄4 cup beans, carrots and spinach from the salad mix, and spices, such as Italian seasoning; bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer 5 minutes. 

Friday: Pizza day!

Mix and Match Lunches Veggie Hacks Yunhee Kim
Mix-and-Match Strategy #3: Veggie Hacks

Just buy...

  • Butternut squash (roasted and mashed)
  • Riced cauliflower (such as Green Giant Cauliflower Crumbles or Trader Joe's Riced Cauliflower)
  • Eggs 
  • 8” whole-grain tortillas
  • Canned white beans (drained and rinsed)
  • Shredded cheddar cheese 

Then make...

Monday: Butternut Quiche With Cauliflower Crust
Sauté 1 cup cauliflower in 1 Tbs. olive oil until soft, then mix it with 1 egg and 1⁄2 cup cheese. Press into a 9-in. pie dish (coated with cooking spray) to form a crust. In a bowl, whisk 8 eggs; stir in 1 cup cheese and 1 cup squash, then pour mixture over crust. Bake at 375°F for 30 minutes, or until egg is set. Eat for dinner; send leftovers to school. 

Tuesday: Squash Quesadillas 
Place 1⁄2 cup mashed squash and 3 Tbs. cheese between two tortillas. Cook on both sides in a nonstick pan coated with cooking spray until cheese is melted, 3 to 4 minutes.

Wednesday: Bean and Cheese Wraps 
In a tortilla, roll 1⁄4 cup beans, 2 Tbs. cheese, and 1⁄4 cup riced cauliflower (sauté in a little olive oil to soften).

Thursday: Orange Hummus and Crackers
Puree 1 cup squash and 3⁄4 cup beans in a food processor until smooth. Store at least half in the fridge for another time. Make crackers by cutting small circles or other shapes from a tortilla; sprinkle with cumin and paprika. Bake at 400°F until crunchy, about 8 minutes.

Friday: You know what to do!

Round out the lunch box with one or two of these ideas:

  • Shredded carrot and zucchini tossed with a little pesto
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Whole-wheat crackers sandwiched with mashed avocado and a little lemon
  • Nut-free trail mix with raisins, pumpkin seeds, and whole-grain cereal
  • Jicama sticks tossed with lime juice and chili powder
  • Grape and cucumber “salad”
  • Chopped apples tossed in lemon juice and sprinkled with cinnamon 

Get ready to give grain bowls a go—yes, for the whole family—with our mix-’n’-match recipe chart. Tailor your bowls to what you have on hand, or put out a bunch of the ingredients and let kids craft their own.

Mix N Match Recipe Chart

Lunches inspired by Kate McMillan, coauthor of The Lunch Box; Erin Gleeson, author of The Forest Feast for Kids; and Cherie Schetselaar and Britney Rule, coauthors of The Mix-N-Match Lunchbox.