Back To School Reunion Dinner

Back To School Reunion Dinner

Do you ever just see something at the store that you just have to have? Then it spawns a crazy, out of the world concept and you think how on earth did I ever come up with this idea? Well welcome to my back to school reunion dinner!


So here is how this all happened, I was shopping several months ago and I ran across a set of old school lunchroom trays and I thought “these are so cool, I just gotta have them”.  So I tossed them in my cart and never looked back. Took them home stored them in my bat cave (aka the crafting store closet) for almost 3 months and saw them the other day and thought it is almost back to school time, but what am I going to do with those crazy trays I just had to have and the Back To School Reunion Dinner and local school supply donation drive was spawned.

Crazy nostalgia, it makes you spend money in ways I can not even begin to explain, lol.  So, I got these trays and I thought what on earth can I do with them to make a fun back to school blog post, here were a few of my brainstorming ideas:

  • A Kindergarten Round Up Meet & Greet Breakfast
  • Who’s Your Teacher? A Neighborhood Meet & Greet for Kids In The Same Classroom or Grade Level
  • The Night Before the First Day of School Dinner – A Practice Run for First Timers (learn to eat in cafeteria setting)
  • A Mother’s Backpacking Group- Ladies Group Packing Up The Kiddos Bags, School Supplies, Labeling, Etc.
  • Team Building Teacher Luncheon & Classroom Setup
  • Here’s What I Ate Today- The Night The Kids Made Dinner For the Parents

These were not bad ideas, but nothing really resonated with me, or seemed to fit my personal style, however I am sure there are a lot of people that are looking for things to do with their small groups, and local friends right now as we are trying to figure what this new school year looks like. Needless to say, I loved these trays and I wanted to use them, what was I going to do with them. Then it hit me, what if I invited a few of our friends from school in the area, and had a sudo-reunion dinner. That could be fun, just like the olds days, right? We could serve up cafeteria style food on the trays only better, lol. So I decided the tablescape theme would be exactly what our old lunchroom tables usually looked like, when we all landed for lunch.  So basically a hot mess, usually covered with books, folders, a variety of pens, graded papers and notes that we had shoved in our lockers. Oh yes, this was going to work nicely, since this was all stuff I could quickly dig up around the house.I took some old craft paper and covered some old encyclopedias, the same way we used to cover our books back in the day and we even had a few actual text books still laying around the house. No they were not mine, do I look like I took Physics or Calculus? I am an Interior Designer so that would be a big NO! You can ask my other half, mister engineer, I am pretty sure those are his books and why would you want to keep them? LOL,”Nostalgia, he just proofread this for me and said Nostalgia” ah geez…Speaking of Nostalgia remember these? I think today they are called cootie catchers, LOL! Why? I do not know, but I am pretty sure in “my day” we called them fortune tellers. The reason we called them fortune tellers is because you had the names of all the boys you liked inside and you had to pick numbers to see which one you would marry. Clearly a true scientific formula here, lol. Maybe that is where the whole cootie catcher name thing came from, idk, but cooties were what you got from boys, so guess it is possible?Anyways, I decide they would make a fun menu so I labeled them with our lunch room style dinner. Philly Cheese Steak Sloppy Joe’s, Tater Tots, Side Salad and of course Spice Cake. Which is kind of an inside joke for those that I sat with at my  lunch table, “ummmm spice cake, yum, yum, yum” (use your George Takei voice or cookie monster whichever works for you) So once the table was set I decided it would be cute to run a lunchroom line through the kitchen across the main island. So I pre-loaded the tray with buns, cake and salad fixings, then we added all the hot items in a line formation, just like a working cafeteria.You can check out my easy Instant Pot Sloppy Joe recipe here, along with my other great recipes under my 5 Quick Weeknight Instant Pot Dinners. Which is sure to save you time on those busy weeknights through the school year, especially with all the extra circulars.

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5 from 3 votes

Philly Cheesesteak Sloppy Joe's

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Natural Release 10 minutes
Servings 6 people
Calories 265kcal
Author Jennifer


  • Instant Pot 3 Qt. Mini ( can be doubled for a larger 6 Qt. Pot)


  • 1 lb. Ground Sirloin
  • 1 Onion, small sweet, (Vidalia onion) minced
  • 1/4 cup Garlic minced
  • 1 Bell Pepper green or red, chopped
  • 1 8 oz Mushrooms fresh, sliced
  • 1 envelope Lipton Onion Soup Mix
  • 2 Tbs Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbs Lea & Perrin Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 Tbs Brown Sugar
  • 1 can Beef Consomme' Soup
  • 1 Tbs Cornstarch
  • 1 package Bakery Buns
  • 1 package Slice Provolone cheese


  • Turn Instant Pot on to Saute', add olive oil, onions, garlic and peppers. Saute' until onion are translucent. 
  • Add ground sirloin to brown slightly 
  • Add mushrooms, soup mix, cornstarch, and brown sugar. Stir then pour beef consume over mix.
  • Place lid on pot and set to high pressure cook for 10 minutes.
  • Allow to cool and decompress before opening. Serving on toasted buns topped with cheese and favorite sides like tots or side salad. 

At my party everyone got to pick there seats, which was part of my party game conversation starter. Each seat had a chalkboard easel with a class elective listed.  I told each person to pick a seat for there favorite elective they took during school. The twist is they later would have to share an embarrassing story about something that happened to them during that particular elective. It’s a great conversation starter and if your party consists of people you went to school with most of them might even remember the event or have been a part of it. If you have a few spouses not part of the group or have decided to host this theme with neighbors that you did not go to school with, it is also a great way to break the ice.My Story-  I picked P.E. which should be kind of obvious, as I am not the most athletic individual, lol. However in high school I was a little more athletic believe it or not. I was actually on the track team, surprised? Well, this is why I no longer run, anywhere, ever! Let’s just say that while I did run, mainly only for warm ups, I did go to state for tossing a Discus and Shot Put around, so there is black and white proof out there. Anyways, one day we were sneaking off to the weight room to avoid, you guessed it, running and decided to take a short cut over a fence. Let’s just say I was not a hurdler, and my shorts got hung on the fence and pretty much I got hung on the fence, unable to reach the ground. Thank God cell phones did not exist back then I would have been an internet sensation or a young adult film star. Ahh yes good times,  now it is your turn!So of course I went first, as an ice breaker, just to get the conversations going. Let’s just say we all have our tales to tell and talking out our glory days of high school is always a fun way to pass the time. We even decided to break out a few of our old high school yearbooks and really reminisce a tad further since our memories do not serve quite as well as they used too.I also decided that every cafeteria lunch had to have jello! So I made some fun little strawberry banana jello shooters, which also helped to break the ice a little bit too for the storytelling and the pop quiz! Yep I even designed a fun little pop quiz for my guests, you can check it out below. Check out the fun old floppy disks we used for drink coasters. LOL, I think kids today would be like”what are those?” Coaster, the answer is they are coasters. However my generation this is how we stored everything from our homework to online video games, but now they are jpegs or jump drives or just get an app for that, LOL!

The “DO GOODER’S” That Pay It Forward:

You may have noticed a donation bucket in the background of the previous picture. I want to explain that, no I am not in need of school supplies. But, many schools and classrooms are, and I know so many teachers that end up using a lot of thei own personal money to add to the supply closets each year to make sure that no child is left out. In line with our back to school theme dinner, we asked each couple to fill up a book bag to donate to a local school for children that are in need of school supplies. Things like Kleenex tissue, hand sanitizers are all great, but we also want to make sure that the students had what they needed after they leave the classrooms too. Just a little way to give back to our community.


Okay, so I may have mentioned that I created a little pop quiz for my guests. Think of it like the honeymoon game meets, Never Would I Ever and Horrible People. It was kind of like a naughty version of Senior Superlatives, in a secret ballot form.

A few examples might have included:

  1. Who failed the most classes:
  2. Name the nark:
  3. The dinner guest most likely to get caught smoking behind the gym:
  4. Which couple was caught making out under the bleachers:
  5. Who has the most detentions:
  6. Name the biggest teachers pet:                           Extra Credit~Name the teacher:
  7. Which classmate illegally operated construction equipment without a license:
  8. Name the school’s TILF:
  9. Who wrecked the most cars:
  10. Who snuck out of the house all the time and allegedly never got caught:

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  1. What an awesome idea for a party! I’m going to pin this to use it at my next club gathering. As a teacher who’s already spent over $500 of her own money this year, thank you for donating supplies. So many kids–especially junior high and high schoolers–don’t have what they need.

  2. Thank you Tracy 🙂 We are so happy to help out in any way that we can. Teachers do so much that behind the scenes that many parents don’t realize. I have so many friends that are teachers, and hear about the daily struggles they are seeing, children unable to buy the subsidized lunches, or not having a winter coat, let alone notebook paper and pencils, or a backpack. We just do what we can, and I hope to get the word out there are maybe inspire others to maybe do the same 🙂

  3. Urban Farmgirl

    Jen this is such a fun idea, to get you friends together this time of year. I really love that your collected school supplies for children in need too, that is really awesome of you guys!

  4. The Busy Bee

    This is really cool! I like your photos and how you set-up of the table is really nice. Also love that you took up the donations for supplies what a great idea!

  5. This is such a great idea. I might have to do it this year! Thanks

  6. The Blue Arrow

    Such a fun idea and you decor is absolutely spot on. How fun that made a cafeteria based meal but to gourmet standards, that is funny. I mean a philly cheese sloppy joe, that is brilliant.

  7. The Delightful Farmhouse

    Oh my goodness this looks like so much fun. Those tray are adorable, where ever did you find them. I think my kids would love a set for every meal, not that I would , but hey if they say their vegetables then okay.

  8. That is such a fun dinner party idea! I also think the trays would be great for kids that hate having their food touching

  9. The Wooly Farmhouse

    You throw the best parties, I bet all your high school friends are so jealous of your beautiful home, I know I would be. Either that or they all want you to come decor there homes, ha ha ha.

  10. This is frickin’ adorable. I squeed outloud at the menu design. So many super-cute and well-themed ideas. Pinning for later!

  11. This is super cute Jen ! It makes me want to have a special family dinner for my little guy before he heads of to kindergarten!

  12. Jenn

    This is such a fun thing to do! I love the paper wrapped books!

  13. OMG, I feel so nostalgic now! I loved loved loved your theme and your party decor. I have got to try this myself *starts planning a school reunion*
    Thanks for this!

  14. sunshine and daisies

    What a cute idea, I love these trays and the entire back to school theme. It would be fun for any of the party ideas you suggested, but it is super cool you did a reunion, and had a cootie catcher menu, that is awesome!

  15. The Wooly Farmhouse

    I enjoyed this post so much, it is such a cute idea, as is all your tablescapes and dinner parties. You have such a creative way to make everyday so much more fun.

  16. Amanda

    Thank you for the great write up filled with ideas it in fact was filled with amusement to read.

  17. I love sloppy joes! That was the perfect meal to make! Love the photos too!

  18. Such an amazing and cool party idea! Your interior designing skills are so evident in all your pics! I remember the fortune teller but I am sure we called it something else.. Thank you for sharing your creative ideas!

  19. Your party skills always amaze me and this is such a fun idea for bts

  20. What a fun theme! My kids haven’t been at their actual school in over a year. They would love for me to do something like this.

  21. Amber Myers

    This is such a cute idea! I might have to do it for the kids. I love the set up.

  22. Bella

    This is such a wonderful idea, I bet your kids loved this. I will have to share this with my friend that has kids 🙂

  23. This looks so adorable! What a unique idea. I love it.

  24. Megan

    5 stars
    Such a fun idea! The lunch trays are a blast from the past!

  25. 5 stars
    Awesome table set up! So fun and creative! I think my sister can a host something like this!

  26. Tisha

    5 stars
    This is such a cute idea! Perfect or back to school.

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