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Kids think they have it rough? As lunchboxes are acquired or unearthed across the country, I think it’s possible to hear the collective groan from parents getting ready to face the demands of yet another school year.

Somehow, the simple task of packing a midday meal turns excruciating when you know you’re going to have to keep it up for 10 long months. Time for some serious inspiration. Introducing the Magic Five – a handful of versatile ingredients that you can cut, cook and coax into 25 different lunch ideas, whether you’re feeding a culinary ascetic or a budding gourmand. Or even – who knew? – yourself.

Choose an ingredient

Navy Beans



Cooked Chicken


* = ready in 10 minutes or less