Simon finished school last week, Nora finishes next week, and tomorrow is Dave’s last day!!
Thanks to the fact that Dave started school super early in August, he’ll finish the year in MAY instead of June. So crazy!
I’d honestly rather have him start later (closer to Labor Day) and end later in June (more like Nora’s schedule) — but apparently his school district doesn’t care about my opinion! 🙂
Either way, he’ll be home all summer long after giving one last exam tomorrow morning! I can’t wait to put him to work at home!
Although I love having everyone home during the summer, lunch time in the summer months is always a big change for me as I often feel like I need to cook or prepare a big meal since everyone is home.
However, after a few summers of Dave continually reassuring me that simple summer lunches are just fine, I thought it was a good time for me to re-share some of our favorite quick and easy at-home lunches (perfect for busy families with lots of kids home all summer long!)
I personally don’t “plan” all our lunches ahead of time (like I do our breakfasts and dinners). Instead, I have a short list of favorite hot and cold at-home lunch ideas that we choose from every day around 11:00am.
Sometimes I have an idea in mind as to what would be the best choice for lunch on specific days, but most of the time I just ask the kids “what would you like for lunch today?” and after a few minutes of conferring, we come to a consensus (I try to always make everyone the same thing for convenience sake!)
Easy At-Home HOT Lunches:
Back before the kids started school, I made hot lunches almost every single day. At the time, my kids wouldn’t eat sandwiches at all, and it was just easier to reheat leftovers or make one of the foods listed below versus try to force feed sandwiches to stubborn toddlers!
Now during summer break, we enjoy hot lunches at least once a week — usually as more of a special treat!
Here are some of our favorites — all of which are fairly simple in my opinion.
- Chicken Nuggets
- Fish Sticks
- Quesadillas (bean and cheese, just cheese, meat and cheese, etc.)
- Grilled cheese and tomato soup
- Baked Sandwiches
- Pizza Sammies or pizza quesadillas
- Mac and Cheese + Hotdogs
- DIY personal pan pizzas
- Leftovers — casseroles, soups, etc. (this is my personal favorite)
- Pancakes, eggs, and sausage (if we didn’t have a big breakfast earlier in the day)
- Occasional fast food — Arby’s is their favorite and it’s almost walking distance from our house!
Easy At-Home COLD Lunches:
At this point, everyone in our family enjoys cold lunches, which makes life a lot easier for me.
We have 3 types of cold lunches that we eat — but there are several variations among them so if we rotate through these a couple times a week, everyone is satisfied!
1. Meat and Cheese
This option is by-far the preferred cold lunch for all 4 kids. It basically involves me cutting up various types of meat and cheese, and serving it along with cut-up fruit, raw veggies, pickles, and maybe a few crackers or pretzels.
If you look in the meat drawer in our refrigerator, you’ll almost always find containers of sliced summer sausage, pepperoni, salami, already cooked bacon and sausage, and a grilled chicken breast or two. And the cheese drawer ALWAYS has containers of sliced, cubed, and stick cheeses — I just slice or cube them from larger blocks and always try to keep a variety available for quick meals and snacks.
Sometimes I get all fancy and serve everything on a big platter — like a kid-friendly Charcuterie!
2. Sandwiches or buns
Peanut butter and jelly on homemade bread or ham and cheese on my homemade rolls are usually the kids’ request.
The kids don’t eat salad very willingly, but I almost always have at least one or two different pre-made salads in the fridge (I make them myself; I don’t buy them). I make enough for 2-3 days worth of lunches each time — which is SO nice when I’m busy making kids’ lunches and don’t always have the time or energy to cut up everything for a nice salad each afternoon.
Here are a few of our favorite lunch salads:
- Apple, Bacon, Pecan, Salad with Apple Vinaigrette
- Avocado Salad
- Broccoli Bacon Salad
- Broccoli Brussels Sprout Salad
- Chicken Salad
- Corn, Tomato, Avocado Salad
- Fiesta Chicken Salad
- Greek Salad
- Harvest Spinach Salad w/ Homemade Honey Mustard Vinaigrette
- Italian Chopped Salad
- Italian Marinated Veggie Salad
- Layered Lettuce Salad
- Loaded Kale Salad (my current lunchtime favorite)
Easy At-Home Side Dishes:
I’ve always been big on variety when I eat (I love buffets!) and my kids have followed suit. So I try to have a large variety of side dish options that can be prepared ahead of time and just dumped on their plates as they request it.
Here are a few of our favorites.
- Already washed and cut up fruits (strawberries, grapes, bananas, blueberries, pineapple, melons, and clementines are favorites around here)
- Already washed and cut up veggies (here’s how I prep and store them)
- Finger Jell-O
- Craisins or raisins
- Frozen blueberries
- Dill Pickles
- Gogurt or Yogurt pouches (I usually make my own using these pouches)
- Pretzels, crackers, or nuts
The thing I love about almost every food listed above is that they all have some elements that can be prepared ahead of time and ready to go for lunches.
The meat and cheese can be sliced ahead of time, the fruits and veggies can be washed and prepared ahead of time, the salads can be made ahead of time, even PB&J sandwiches can be made ahead and frozen if you’re really in a bind.
This makes it easy to bring lunch outside or go on a last-minute picnic (both of which the kids LOVE doing). It’s also really nice when unexpected visitors stop by mid morning (something that happens regularly around here) and decide to stay for lunch. It might not be ‘fancy’ food, but it is simple, quick, and easy.
Our lunch options are much more limited than our dinner options, but we still have enough variety ready to go each day that we don’t get bored or feel like we’re eating the same things day after day.
What are YOUR favorite at-home summer lunch ideas?