Right about now—when my kids' new classroom assignments and their school supply lists pop into my inbox—the back-to-school frenzy starts to ramp up. Our mornings will soon be busier and our afternoons packed with soccer practice, piano lessons, and playdates. My kids will return to school a wee bit taller and a lot tanner after a summer full of trips to the pool.
I'll see them less, but in some ways I'll think about them more, as the lead lunch packer and chaperone for our family. Oliver needs an extra packed snack because he has a playdate after school. Remind Ethan to check lost-and-found for his water bottle, again. Pick up frozen pizzas for nights I don't have it in me to make dinner—Hugh likes pepperoni.
Likewise, Simply Recipes has back-to-school top of mind. But when our editors gathered to plan lunchbox recipes and tips, we got sappy and sentimental. The thing is, when we think of lunchboxes, we get nostalgic about the lunches our own parents packed us or the cafeteria foods we stood in line for. Some of us parents got mushy about of our own children—the little love notes we tuck into their lunchboxes, the foods we hope they don't get teased about, and the everyday ways we show them we love them.
Don't worry! We have lots of packed lunch recipes and back-to-school survival tips to share with you. And we also have stories—lunchbox love letters—that we hope will remind you to give your loved ones a hug as they walk out the door with their packed lunches.
—Myo Quinn, Senior Editor
Most parents, like Thao Thai, can remember their child's first day of school. "What’s a word for homesickness, when your home is a person? That’s what I felt on that first day...as you walked through the doors of your big-kid school." The answer can be found in daily lunchbox notes she writes for her daughter that say, "I <3 U."
Read the story: A Love Letter to Wonder Girl, on the Eve of First Grade
For most of her teenage years, Rachel Knecht ate school lunch at home with her mom, who struggled with a mental illness. In this love letter to her mom, Rachel reminisces about those days and bridges the gap between pain and love with sweet memories—and vanilla pudding.
Read the story: A Love Letter to Mom: I Remember the Sweet Parts
Katie Morford packed over 5,000 school lunches for her now-grown kids—frenzied mornings getting them out the door for school were hard. "You're going to miss it," she says in a love letter to her past self as a reminder that she is doing a great job. We could all use a kind reminder like that.
Read the story: A Love Letter to My Past Self: You Are a Great Mom
After moving away from New York City, Myo Quinn shares her appreciation and longing for the city where "school lunches were being packed every morning across the city with only love and no fear." Now that she's in a new city, will her children get teased at their school if she packs them the Korean foods they love eating at home?
Read the story: A Love Letter to the City that Kept My Boys Safe
We always need inspiration for what to pack for school lunches. Lucky for us, Stephanie Ganz and Trader Joe's are here to the rescue. "I have Trader Joe’s to thank for making a bunch of convenient, mini, and crave-worthy lunchbox goodies that my kiddos actually want to pack and eat." Here are her and her kids' favorite picks!
Read the story: 5 Trader Joe’s Finds I Always Pick Up for School Lunches
The best thing to do with your leftover dinner? Pack it for lunch! It's "the secret weapon for any lunch packer," says Katie Morford. She gave us her favorite dinner recipes to take your packed lunch game to the next level. Chili, fried rice, pasta salad, and more—you'll be glad to have these leftovers.
Read the story: 10 Dinner Leftovers That Make Great Packed Lunches
No brown-bag lunch bags here! These are our favorite functional, spill-free, and super cute lunchboxes you'll love packing and your kids will love unpacking. The best news? We made sure that they will "survive the drops that inevitably happen during your commutes."
Read the story: The Best Lunch Boxes for Inspiring Midday Meals