Not Sad Desk Lunch

12 Childhood Lunches to Bring Back into Heavy Rotation

January  5, 2016

In elementary school, lunch was never about what was in your box, it was about the trades. One pizza bagel could usually score you pre-packaged cheese and crackers, and squeezable yogurt was good for one chocolate chip cookie if you were lucky. And then there was always the lucky King of the Playground who was sent to school with the all-reigning, cake-flavored Pop-Tart.

Just try to top a homemade Dunkaroo. Photo by Molly Yeh

While Dunkaroos don't carry quite the same weight they once did, there's still an undeniable joy that comes from biting into a perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But now the store-bought, cloyingly sweet jelly and sodium-packed bologna has been replaced by the finer things in life, like homemade preserves. And words like charcuterie have found their way into our vocabulary. Here are 12 childhood lunches, updated:

If you liked PB&Js, try an upgrade:

If you liked Bagel Bites, make your own pizza bagel:

If you liked Lunchables, try a cheese and cracker plate...

If you liked Pop-Tarts, try an actual tart...

If you like instant ramen, try making your own...

If you liked chicken fingers, update them with an herb blend...

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Caroline I yolo-sole
    Caroline I yolo-sole
  • Heather | Delicious Not Gorgeous
    Heather | Delicious Not Gorgeous
  • Tori Cooper
    Tori Cooper
I eat everything.


Caroline I. January 10, 2016
Yum. Love the homemade dunkaroos.
Heather |. January 7, 2016
ahhh, good times. i'd trade slices of cheddar cheese for kimbap (yes, i grew up in a very asian bubble).
Tori C. January 6, 2016
This awesome list just made my day! I totally love the idea of a pizza bagel upgrade, YES!