Steph Barnes
Updated Sep 07, 2017 @ 6:47 am
Tator Tots
Credit: foodsweatbeer /

It’s back-to-school season, and for many, this time of year brings on a lot of nostalgia. You know, memories of fresh notebooks, shiny new packs of gel pens, and counting the hours until that most special of times: lunch. Because let’s be honest, lunch was the best part of the school day. You got a break from classes, time to catch up with your friends, and maybe even the chance to make doe-eyes at a crush or two.

And because our palates weren’t all that sophisticated, for the most part we even got excited for things like sloppy joes, rubbery grilled cheese, and those iconic slices of rectangular pizza (you know the ones). We downright craved foods that our adult selves probably couldn’t be paid to eat at this point.

The good news is, there are plenty of delicious recipes that will call forth days of yore without offending your grown-up tastebuds. In fact, some of the recipes are so good you’ll wonder why you ever enjoyed eating certain foods any other way. We promise!

So without further ado, here’s a list of classic school lunches that have been MAJORLY upgraded for us (sort of) grown ups.

1Philly Cheesesteak Sloppy Joes

Nothing takes us back to school like a good ol’ sloppy joe. But all joes aren’t created equal, and these Philly Cheesesteak-inspired sammies are a cut above the rest.

2Bacon Wrapped Tater Tots

If you enjoy bacon, then you know adding it to literally anything is the ultimate upgrade. Enough said.

3Homemade Tilapia Fish Sticks

Of all the not-so-great mystery foods served in school cafeterias, fish sticks might be everyone’s least favorite. But these whole wheat, breadcrumb-coated sticks just might change your mind.

4Grownup Peanut Butter & Jelly

Just because you’re technically an adult doesn’t mean you can’t rock a PB&J. Try it on a toasted whole grain or seed loaf with all-natural peanut butter and fancy jam, paired with some yogurt and banana. You will literally never go back.

5Carrot Macaroni and Cheese

This mac and cheese recipe is a bit on the fancier side. Ingredients include freshly ground white pepper, tarragon, penne rigate, and 3 lbs of carrots. Yes, carrots! Which means it’s not only a tastier option, but it’s also more nutritious.

6Sheetpan Pizza (aka, rectangle pizza!)

Did someone say pizza? WE DID! You just can’t go wrong with pizza — especially this one with spinach and artichoke.

7Roasted Garlic Fries

You definitely won’t find these in the freezer section, and unlike the french fries you were served at school, these are low in fat and high in vitamin C and potassium.

8Grilled Chicken Tacos

We’re pretty sure these tacos look nothing like whatever your school served on Taco Tuesdays. Made with yummy grilled chicken breasts/thighs, fresh tomatoes, avocados, and onions, and then topped with sour cream. If this isn’t an upgrade, we aren’t sure what is.

9Grilled Cheese

It’s hard to mess up a grilled cheese sandwich, but somehow the ones found in our school’s cafeterias were never quite this gooey and delicious. This particular recipe uses sourdough bread and Monterey Jack cheese, and even adds some sliced andouille sausages.

10Sausage-and-Three-Cheese Lasagna

Stuffed with sausage and covered in an ooey gooey three-cheese mix, this lasagna will have you going back for seconds…and thirds.

We have a feeling your tastebuds will appreciate the upgrades. You’re welcome in advance!