Easy School Lunch Macaroni and Cheese for Sliding into a New Routine

This 15-minute macaroni and cheese is one of the school lunches I fall back on easily. I only make it once in a while, but it’s a kid favorite, the creamy cheese sauce keeping the pasta hot until lunchtime.

Our day starts as the sun rises. Alarms blare. (To my neighbors, I apologize for Ole’s alarm. He leaves the windows open and then takes a good 20 minutes for the blaring to awaken him from his comatose state. It’s obnoxious, I know.)

The smallest member of our household usually wakes with the alarms, victorious over the nighttime potty training demons. Cheers of encouragement and pride are heard, and then a small amount of work is attempted.

In no time, bleary-eyed children start to emerge from the warm covers, slowly dragging their pajama-clad bodies to the living room, a final stretch and then collapsing onto the couch, ready(?) to start a new day.

By 7:30 a.m. we have reached crunch time. Pajamas are replaced with t-shirts and jeans – skirts for the kindergartener, though you’d think with all the scrapes and scabs she has on her legs, she’d start to see the practicality of pants. The next 30 minutes is a whirl of breakfast, brushing teeth and hair, repacking backpacks and then moving to the business of lunches. Then the door is opened, and out they run to wait for the school bus at the end of the driveway, which leaves the youngest in tears, heartbroken he can’t join his older siblings and go off to school.

Four days in, I can tell you that while the adjustment for the kids has been rather easy, happily running off to school and coming home with stories to tell, the shift has me feeling a bit scattered and tattered.

Trying to get back into the swing of things yesterday, we made one of our favorite school lunches. It takes only 15 minutes, and while the pasta is cooking, I stuffed garden fresh tomatoes, cherries and dried mangoes into lunchboxes, filled the water bottles and made sure teeth were brushed and children were presentable. Plus, the kids came home, all with empty lunch boxes, and that is what I define success as these days.

Early morning cooking with the kids. Melt butter and whisk in flour to make a roux.

Cook it a bit and then slowly add milk and then cream cheese.

Cheddar cheese hits next and is stirred until melty. All that’s left is adding our cooked pasta and filling the Thermos containers.

Little Lene’s lunch. She makes me smile with every kindergarten story she tells, and I’m still a bit sad to have lost my daytime cooking partner.

Warm and fuzzy lunch feelings are sent off with the kids, and one is tucked away at home for a very lonely little Magnus, who saw me editing the photo of the kids’ first day of school up above and started telling me how they were gone and how he wants to play with them in a very sad little boy voice.

What have you been packing for school lunches so far? Check out some of our methods to curb the madness in The Art of Packing School Lunches.

1/2 pound small pasta
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tablespoons cream cheese
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside. In a medium saucepan melt butter over medium heat until bubbly. Slowly whisk in the flour and continue cooking for 1-2 minutes, whisking continuously, until the roux turns golden. Slowly whisk in the milk until all is incorporated. Cook until thick, 1-2 minutes.

Stir in cream cheese until melted. Remove from heat and stir in grated cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring to melt. Season to taste. Serve immediately or pack into preheated insulated containers to enjoy at lunch.

Makes 4 servings.
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  1. That. Is. Precious.

    I might need to eat 15 cans of that, like now.

  2. Oh my goodness, my heart is breaking for poor Magnus. He’s only got stinky ol’ you to play with. Poor kid. 😉

    • I am far less entertaining than his older siblings, I assure you. He did, however, give me the play-by-play on what was happening outside the window, on TV and with his lunch all morning. 🙂

  3. I know it’s so sad when they all leave. I miss having my kids at home now that we’re empty nesters. I love hearing everyone share there back to school experience just so I can reminis.

    As for that Mac and cheese recipe who says it’s for kids. With the weather acting fall and gloomy today I might just make this. I have all the ingredients.

    Please check out my blog today, you’re mentioned.

    Have a great weekend!

  4. Mmm… Yummy school lunch! I need 10 cans of that, please? 🙂

  5. Salt in Suburbia says:

    I just found your blog from today’s conference listing. I don’t think we met, but I love your blog. Question: Where do you get those great little plastic containers for the fruit?

  6. I just made some of this for the kids’ lunches tomorrow. Yum! So worth the extra 5 minutes to use real cheese & milk, rather than a powder mix.

  7. Shaina, this is a fantastic quick and easy mac and cheese. Perfect for school lunches for you adorable children. So cute!!

  8. You just can’t have too much mac & cheese. What kid doesn’t love it?

  9. Delicious recipe! Thank you very much!

  10. always a kid’s favorite. Great photos!

  11. Homemade mac and cheese (my version is similar, but I don’t use cream cheese and do add a little dried mustard) is my go-to meal for days when I forget about dinner until dinnertime is upon us (that’s usually accompanied by deadlines and a flurry of activities). But even though I know how easy it is, I hadn’t though to pack it for school lunch. Great idea!

  12. I may not have kids or anyone to pack lunches for… But, I’m thinking the hubby and I would love to have this for lunch one day this week. 🙂

  13. A lady I used to babysit for made a very similar recipe! She added small peices of broccoli to the mac and cheese! so delish!

  14. Just wanted you to know …. I use this recipe ALL THE TIME and especially for their lunchboxes. Thanks so much – my kids love this mac and cheese so much!

  15. Mrs.holtan says:

    Cream cheese! Genius. I’m always making homemade Mac and cheese that my children complain about but I’m guessing cream cheese is the missing ingredient to make it smooth and creamy. Thank you!

  16. Where do u get the soup thermos?

  17. Where did you get those little square containers that are easily opened by little fingers….ones I found at a Wal-mart or TJ Max are too hard for my daughter to open.

    • They are from Annabel Karmel. The new ones are cups, though, instead of squares. I also love Kids Konserve’s nesting trio for small hands. (They’re extremely durable, too.)

  18. RJ Vargas says:

    This sounds like a wonderful idea but I am not a fan of cheddar. Would other cheeses work just as well? I was thinking maybe Parmesan, a creamy Swiss or goat? Your thoughts?

  19. I can’t wait to try this recipe!!!! Where did you get your black cheese shredder from????

  20. Will use this delicious recipe for my kids lunch box! Thank u!


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