Kids' lunches should be 3 things:
1. Enjoyable for your kids
2. Can be prepared ahead of time
One of my favorite ideas that meets all 3 of those is pasta salad. I know. Boring, right? NO WAY! Pasta salad is the best go-to lunch and I will give you 7 reasons why:
1. Pasta salad is easy to make. All you have to do is cook your favorite shaped pasta (long noodles aren't the best here, save those for your favorite weeknight dinner), add your kid's most beloved vegetables (some classics are sliced cucumbers, halved cherry tomatoes, olives, red/orange peppers, mushrooms, or spinach), toss with favorite salad dressing and bam! You are done. Also, your kiddo can help too. It's easy for them to cut tomatoes in half or pick out the pasta shape at the store.
2. You can add leftovers. Didn't finish that roasted chicken from dinner? No problem, cut it up the pieces into bite-sized kiddo chunks and toss right into your pasta salad. You can also add in leftover roasted vegetables, cheese (like feta, parmesan, or small cubes of hard cheese).
3. It's versatile. Not only can you add any meat or veggie you like you can turn leftover pasta salad into a delicious soup. Yep, when the pasta salad runs low or your a bit tired of it. Heat up your favorite soup stock, add a can of chopped tomatoes, or a tablespoon or two of tomato paste, then add the pasta salad leftovers. This is one of my favorite go-to moves with leftovers (depending on what they are).
4. Adults can take it in their lunch too. Chop up some lettuce, add a scoop of pasta salad, maybe some extra protein, and you too can have an easy, quick, and healthy lunch.
5. Skewer it. Sometimes kids just need food to be fun. When I need something easy but fun, I just add the pasta salad on a skewer. Same lunch, new look. So sneaky.
6. Pasta salad is super affordable to make. Pasta isn't expensive and you can add as much or as little as your budget allows. Pasta salad doesn't require fancy ingredients to taste good.
7. Lastly, the longer the pasta salad is allowed it to sit and marinate the better. This is the real secret to why pasta salad is a great lunch for kids. You can make a large batch of it on Sunday that can last the whole week long. Be sure to refer to #5 when your kids get bored.
Pasta Salad Recipe
This recipe is extremely versatile. You can add in your favorite roasted veggies leftover from dinner like sweet potato, zucchini, onions, brussel sprouts, mushrooms, or kale. You can add in soft raw veggies like cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, shallots, green onions, shaved carrots, or spinach. I don't recommend large, hard chunks of meat or veggies as little kids might choke on them. When in doubt keep it simple: pick 1-2 veggies, 1 protein, and your favorite pasta noodle.
2 cups cooked pasta
1 cup raw or cooked veggies
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, chopped
1/4 cup vinegar (red wine, sherry, or apple cider)
2 Tablespoons cold pressed olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup roasted chicken
1/3 cup favorite cheese (feta, cubed cheddar, or parmesan)
1. Toss all ingredients in large bowl and store in large air tight container.