School lunches! It’s time to talk about all things school lunch, AND adult lunches when we work at home or in an office. Join Darlnee and Kristi for this Back To School: Lunches edition of Tough Cookie podcast!


Listen on your favorite podcast player. 

Show notes for episode 25 – Back To School Lunches: 

Big Question: Who makes school lunch at your house? You, or your kids? 

Kristi’s School Lunch Routine: 

Kristi DOESN’T actually makes lunches – she has her kids do it. Typical school lunch includes anything and everything. Protein, fruit or veggie, and some kind of carb option. If she can get her kids to buy school lunch, she will! 

When do you make it? In our house, if the kids are taking lunch to school, they must make it at night. So, it doesn’t cause us to be late. 

Do your kids eat all their lunch? Sandwiches, chicken nuggets, pasta (when leftover). Most of the time, it looks like a bunch of snacks slapped together to make a meal. That said, its not always pretty. 

Do you have to deal with allergies or the school restricting certain foods? Not anymore. But, when my oldest was in preschool, it was a peanut-free campus, so we had to reconsider EVERYTHING we knew about lunches before then. 

#Protips for school lunches: 

  • Set expectations ahead of time. Don’t ask open-ended questions, such as “what do you want for lunch.” This will undoubtedly cause a dispute. “No, you cannot take ice cream to school for your lunch.” Consider giving options, or telling them what they can pick from for lunch. 
  • Keep a “school lunch” section in your pantry or cabinets. Have items such as fruit leathers or dried fruit (such as chocolate covered raisins), crackers, applesauce, canned fruit or other easy to “grab and go” items. We’ve also done “make your own trail mix.” You can do the same in the fridge, such as cheese sticks.
  • Consider having a master-list of foods for lunch. Make sure to switch it up so you don’t end up “killing a food” (where you have tons of that food item in stock at home that the kids decided they didn’t want to eat it anymore.) 
  • Back up plan, what happens when you can’t go to the grocery store and you don’t have food for lunches??? 


Darlene / Adult Work from home lunches + What a 2-year-old eats: 

We eat leftovers for lunch almost every day, or sometimes we’ll make a wrap or sandwich. I will NOT eat lunch at my desk anymore. I only eat if Libby is also awake – if she’s napping, I am working. 

Sometimes I’m shooting for a blog recipe and I’ll have whatever that is. 

Lunch ritual – heat food up/get it ready, put Libby in her chair with some Libby food, sit at the table, turn on Netflix. (Forensic Files!) 

Libby eats random stuff or leftovers of dinner too but usually not heated up. Fruit, meat, and veggies if we have any she likes.

Emergency Lunch: This Avocado Snack


Kristi’s Tips for Adult Lunches: 

  • Think ahead: What happens when you haven’t gone to the grocery store and you are out of food at home? What happens when you have only 15-minutes to eat? 
  • Re-imagine leftovers: Use chicken from tacos for a taco salad. 
  • When making dinner, think about what you can prepare for lunch the following day. For example, cooking pasta while making dinner to use for lunch.
  • Consider using a combo of pre-made and fresh ingredients, such as a freezer burrito with a piece of fruit. 
  • If you can forget to eat: set a timer! You can even use a timer to prep your lunch. 


Pictured above: Cool Gear with ice pack (blue), Got Fresh (yellow), Sistema (clear). 

Kristi’s cookbook recommendations ^ 

Food for thought: 

Be creative. No need to “follow the rules” with foods. Some of my favorite meals are “different” such as a bunch of snack items put together like a meal (or an adult Lunchable). If you don’t like traditional lunch ideas, boring sandwich with an apple, switch it up! Bonus, if your feeding kids, they can get ridiculously excited about new and different ideas or food presentation. For example, putting chunks of cheese and lunch meat on a toothpick like a kabob is more intriguing than putting in a pile on a plate (of course assuming your child is old enough to know not to eat the toothpick).


Food inspiration: 

Kristi – Fruit for dessert. Especially with all the fresh fruits available for the season. My fav, strawberries.

Darlene – Still using all the kitchen appliances- air fryer, instant pot, induction burner – outside. Repurposing leftover meats and other random leftovers into things.


What’s for dinner: 

Kristi: Kabobs. I’m starting to feel the countdown to Fall, which means the number of grilling days is dwindling. So, I want some bell peppers, red onions, with pineapple on skewers with BBQ or teriyaki chicken. We’ll probably have rice with it too. 

Darlene: I’m feeling the countdown too but it’s hitting me in a different way! I want all the slow-cooked meats and fall flavors now so I’m giving into that a little bit. Pulled pork (slow cooker, NOT instant pot – ours came out raw in the instant pot a few weeks ago), Beef Brisket, Cauliflower gnocchi with sausage and spinach (potato gnocchi is better). Tonight is leftover brisket made into Sopes with beans, onion and salsa and feta cheese instead of queso fresco. 


Where to find Darlene

Pickle Jar Studios website
Pickle Jar Studios on Instagram
Tough Cookie on Instagram

Where to find Kristi:    

kristi coughlin

Effectual Nutrition website
Effectual Nutrition on Instagram