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Back to School with G.A.P.!

By August 23, 2022September 6th, 2022Audience: Everyone, G.A.P. Meal Ideas

It’s that time again… back to school. Summer is winding down and stores are instantly flooded with spiral notebooks, #2 pencils, and glue sticks. Getting back into a regular routine is refreshing, but it’s also demanding. If you find your days starting with “What can I pack for lunch?” and ending with “What can I make for dinner?”, you’re not alone. (And, yes, we dread the “what’s for dinner?” question as much as you do.) The good news? G.A.P. has you covered. In a time of rising food costs and compressed time schedules, we’ve put together some ideas that will help you conserve both.

We’re a big fan of cooking a whole protein (like chicken or ham) and finding lots of ways to add it to lunches and dinners the rest of the week. We’ve also come up with a few casserole ideas, slow-cooker go-to’s, and some new muffin pan favorites. We hope you find lots of recipes to save and make over the next few crazy weeks.

Just don’t forget to look for the G.A.P. Animal Welfare Certified label when you shop and #MakeitGAP! Each purchase rewards producers for raising their animals humanely, brands for sourcing these raw materials, and G.A.P. for developing standards that put the animal first. A big thank you for your support!

Get into gear!

Before we dive into some recipes, it’s time to check your equipment. You probably have a lunchbox for you or your kids, but it’s time to get creative about what’s inside. Have you thought about Bento box containers? A new Thermos? Dishes and portion cups with lids? It’s time. We love cooking casseroles and prepping meals in glass casserole dishes with lids – they make storage a cinch.

Bento Boxes

Who doesn’t love to have their food neatly compartmentalized? We love Bento Box lunchboxes. Here’s a fun full Bento Box lunchbox for teens or adults. And here’s a fun kid version. Already have a lunchbox or lunch bag? Try these fun dishwasher-safe containers to place inside. Need small containers for dips or condiments? Try these inexpensive lidded cups. Make lunchtime more fun with creative ways to pack your Bento.

Time for a Thermos
Tired of packing sandwiches? Warm up some leftovers (or cook extra pasta the night before) and add it to a Thermos! We like these options: Thermos brand and Maxso. Note: we searched for our favorites on Amazon but look for like items in your favorite store. (We don’t get paid for these links!)


Meal Prep on Sundays with Whole Proteins

Do you meal prep each week? Grocery shopping and prepping for the week isn’t exactly the most exciting way to spend your Sunday, but it sets you up for a week of ease and efficiency. We love the idea of cooking a large “whole” protein on Sunday and then turning the leftovers into lunches and dinners for the rest of the week. We suggest purchasing a couple of whole chickens, a whole turkey, or a whole ham (G.A.P. Animal Welfare Certified, of course) and popping them in the oven on Sunday after your morning coffee. Don’t have that kind of time? Purchase rotisserie chickens from your grocery store or wholesale club. If you’re up for cooking, here’s a Roasted Chicken recipe and Herb Roasted Turkey recipe.

If you decide to cook a whole chicken or pick up a rotisserie chicken from the store, here are some quick recipe ideas for turning the leftover chicken into quick and delicious lunches for the week!

Lunchtime Mini Chicken Tacos – Pack mini flour tortillas stuffed with shredded leftover chicken into a Bento Box with salsa, shredded cheese and/or shredded lettuce, and snacks in the other compartments.
Chicken Quesadillas – Spray a stovetop griddle with cooking spray. Over medium heat (or in the microwave), warm a large flour tortilla. Top 1/2 of the tortilla with leftover shredded chicken, shredded cheese, and chopped peppers or onions (optional). Once the tortilla is lightly browned, top the chicken with a bit of shredded cheese, fold the tortilla in half, and press. Flip it and continue to warm/toast until the cheese is melted. Note: these can be re-warmed in the microwave or served cold in lunches the next day too. Bonus!


Easy California Chicken Salad – This is a healthy, easy next-day lunch with leftover chicken. Thinly slice 1/3 head of iceberg lettuce. Top with 1/4 cup grated Monterey jack cheese, 1/4 cup halved red grapes and a handful of slivered almonds (optional) with 1/2 cup shredded cooked chicken. Top with Easy Lemon Vinaigrette (see below) just before eating. A quick lunch to pack – just keep the dressing separated and remember to pack a fork.

Easy Lemon Vinaigrette – combine 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 Tablespoons water, 2 Tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, and a pinch of garlic powder. Add a pinch of salt and a pinch of black pepper (to taste). Whisk to combine.

Prep Your Casseroles Ahead

Stretching your dollars? You can’t beat the value of a casserole! We’ve got lots of recipe ideas to add some new dishes to your rotation. Just don’t forget to look for the G.A.P. label when you shop!


Casserole Heaven – try these favorites from G.A.P.:

The slow-cooker is your weeknight friend

We can’t get enough of our slow cookers in the fall and winter. Here are a few of our favorite recipes with a few tips for making them stretch. Bon Appetit!

Top 4 Slow-Cooker Favorites from the G.A.P. team:
Tips: To stretch this recipe, serve your chili over a bed of spaghetti or other pasta and top with cheese. Also, consider doubling your batch and making chili dogs for lunch or another night for dinner. The classic “Frito Pie” is yet another way to put leftover chili to good use — serve it over a plate of Fritos and top with melted cheese or queso (and pickled jalapenos, for a kick).
Tip: Warm leftovers in the microwave in the morning and send to work/school in a Thermos
Tip: Another perfect lunch in a Thermos the next day…
This recipe is great for entertaining on a budget!

Break out your Muffin Tins!

Muffin Tin Mini Egg Bites - #MakeItGAP RecipeEgg Bites
Have you used your muffin tins to cook egg bites that you can reheat in the morning for a protein-packed, on-the-go breakfast? We love this one with bell peppers and ham: We also love adding browned ground sausage to egg bites with spinach or your favorite veggies. You can bake them on Sunday night, refrigerate them, and heat them up in the microwave each day before work or school.
Tip: If you’re cooking a whole ham for meals that week, don’t forget to add ham to your egg bites! Or you can make these delicious ham and cheese pinwheels with crescent roll dough – these can be reheated too!
Mini MeatloafCauliflower Beef Meatloaf - #MakeItGAP Recipe
Use this recipe to make mini muffin tin meatloaves — Put meatloaf mixture into muffin tins (about 2/3 full) and bake at 350ºF for about 30 minutes. Leftover mini meatloaves can be rewarmed in the microwave for lunch the next day or – better yet – make mini meatloaf sliders with slider buns and your favorite toppings.
Tip: To stretch this recipe, you can add 1 serving of cooked Minute Rice® and/or 1 cup shredded zucchini to the meatloaf mixture.


We hope you have found our tips and recipes helpful as you embark on your back-to-school / end-of-summer adventures. Here’s to a great school year and work year! Thanks for helping us #MakeitGAP when you cook!