Back-to-school meals for kids (who won’t stop eating)

By Monica Smith-Gutherie

 I’m not a backstory person. When I go to a website for recipes, I just want the recipe. So, in that spirit here are the short details:


  • I have two boys (one teenager) and they eat A LOT so there is a lot of pasta/rice going on here.
  • I have dedicated Sunday afternoon to the making of their meals – and I don’t like to spend a lot of time cooking.
  • I’ll make two meals and then swap them every other day. So the children will eat the same meal one than once during the week.
  • I’m not spending a lot of cash – but I also want it to be “clean-ish.”
  • These are the “main” dishes. They are simple so that you can add seasonings to taste.
  • Sides: Add a cup of grapes or a tangerine, roasted chickpeas, apple sauce, a bread roll, cheese stick, gummy snacks – whatever “extra” they like.
  • I’m just figuring this out – if you have any GO-To recipes for kids with big appetites, share them with us!


And with that said, here are my recipes.


Pasta salad:


  • Box of pasta (my teenager says the short spiral pasta are more filling to him)
  • 1 quart cherry/grape tomatoes
  • Half an onion
  • Handful of spinach
  • Italian dressing
  • Extra: Two chicken breasts baked and diced (or shredded)



  • Cook one large box of pasta according to the directions on the box, drain, set to the side.
  • While the pasta is cooking, dice a quart of cherry or grape tomatoes.
  • Dice half an onion.
  • Cook the onions with a tablespoon of oil (I use olive oil) until translucent.
  • Add the tomatoes and after a few minutes add a handful of spinach – stir until wilted.
  • Combine it with the cooked pasta and toss with some Italian dressing (I use about a fourth of a cup – add to taste).
  • If you’re feeling extra fancy, add two cooked, diced chicken breast.




DIY Sandwiches

Note: This has been the kids favorite meal – figures, the meal you work hard on is the one they don’t care for. The meal that takes you no time, that’s their favorite.



  • Kings Hawaiian Rolls (as many as you need)
  • Sliced cheese (my oldest eats two mini sandwiches at lunch so I needed 10 slices just for him - 2 per day)
  • A package of lunch meat (your choice)
  • Lettuce/tomato/onion – whatever they like
  • *My kid’s school provides condiments, but if yours does not, you can buy individual packets



  • Slice rolls in half to make sandwiches put in lunch container
  • Put two slices of meat per sandwich in lunch container NOT in the sandwich (keeps the bread from getting soggy).
  • Put lettuce/tomato/onion and slices of cheese in container (I put cheese in a muffin cup for further separation)
  • Add sides – pack and go.


Chicken and Rice


  • 2 cups rice
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • Seasoning of choice (example: garlic salt, curry, cilantro) to taste



  • Cook two cups of rice according to instructions.
  • Bake two chicken breasts (I cook frozen chicken breasts at 375 degrees for 47 minutes – if you like to season the chicken you can do it now and then put the chicken in the oven).
  • Remove from oven and shred the chicken breasts and stir into the rice.
  • Add additional seasonings if necessary (our favorite is curry).
  • Note: If I use curry, I will add a can of rinsed garbanzo beans to the rice, or I’ll roast them and add them as a side.


Variant: Occasionally instead of rice I will use pearled couscous or quinoa. My youngest loves pesto pearled couscous (we buy the flavored box one).



Taco salad


  • 1 lb ground meat (beef or turkey)
  • Seasonings for taco meat: cumin, salt (I use garlic salt), paprika, cayenne
  • Lettuce
  • Tomato
  • Extras: cheese, salsa, jalapeno, cilantro – whatever you want.



  • This one is pretty straight forward.
  • Cook taco meat and add ¼ tsp of cumin, salt, paprika (you can add more flavor later if you think it needs it – also, you can add cayenne if you like more heat).
  • Shred lettuce and dice tomato.
  • We have a separated Tupperware dish. We combine the meat and tomato in the largest portion with the lettuce and cilantro and cheese in the smaller portion. The lettuce stays more crisp that way and adds texture.


Variant: We don’t eat a whole lot of meat, so depending on how the rest of the week looks, I may forgo the meat and do veggie (bell pepper) fajitas and throw in a few tortillas for them to make their own tacos.



Note: This was something my mom and I made during one of those “Oh no! We need to feed the kids” moments, so my recipe is a little ad-hoc (we also didn’t have a bamboo mat – I told you this was ad-hoc). This is what we did: 

Ingredients (per roll)

  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 carrot
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 sheet seaweed (when the inspiration hit, I didn’t have sushi nori, I just had large sheets of Korean kim/gim – it worked fine)


  • Cook rice according to packaging.
  • Slice onion into strips and cook on a pan with a half a tablespoon of oil until translucent. Set to the side.
  • Cut cucumber and carrot into julienne strips (my mom cut them julienne – I used a cheese grater). Leave uncooked. Set to the side.
  • Open seaweed packet and take out one large sheet – place it on a sheet of parchment paper (or aluminum foil would work).
  • When rice is done, take small spoonful’s of rice and spread it out evenly and thinly, leaving about an inch and a half gap at the top of the seaweed.
  • Fill the seaweed with the onion, carrots and cucumber – spread them out evenly about a 1/3 of the way up from the bottom.
  • Roll the seaweed. If the top doesn’t stick to the rest of the seaweed, you can use rice to help it stick.
  • Then slice the seaweed into small bites. If you didn’t use nori then the bites may need to be cut larger so the seaweed doesn’t break as easily.


LAST NOTE: Again, I am just now figuring this out. Feeding children with big appetites is new to me SO if you have any GO-To recipes for hungry children - please! Share them with us!


Monica K. Guthrie is an Army brat, an Army veteran (Rock of the Marne!) and now an Army spouse with two boys. She is currently the media relations officer for the public affairs office at Fort Sill, Okla., and writes a weekly column called the Okie Bucket List. She also has a photography and graphic design business, Pro Deo Creations, that she maintains between potty training and kissing scraped knees. 

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