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5 Satisfying and Easy Ideas for Kids’ School Lunches

by | Jan 4, 2022 | Family Life, Food, Parenting

Are you in that phase of the school year where packing school lunches has become a chore? Same! We are here to bring you 5 great ideas and tips to make packing a school lunch fun again or maybe help you branch out of a rut. We are not suggesting overly elaborate creations, food that requires the knife skills of a sushi chef, or anything that takes a lot of time, because no one has time for that! Here’s some school lunch inspiration that may help:

When I was in elementary school, I only ate PB&J, every single day. By choice! And you know what, I still love it. However, my kids are not big fans of that classic sandwich and we know many schools are nut free, so over the years I have had to come up with some other options for school lunches. A quick search on Pinterest will probably yield millions of results with holiday themed food, and clever cut-outs but we are narrowing it down to a few ideas and easy hacks that work in real life and may help you pack lunches this week with a smile.

Thermos Faves

When the weather gets chilly it’s nice to have a warm lunch. A small, lidded thermos can be your best friend for a quick, healthy school lunch. Here are some ideas: 

  • Soup is an obvious one, but include small oyster crackers or goldfish crackers they can use to top it
  • Leftover pasta with your favorite sauce or butter and parmesan cheese
  • Walking taco – heat up leftover taco meat and put it right into the bag of chips, then put the whole thing into a thermos. Pack a little cheese or other favorite topping for a fun lunch. 
  • Mac and cheese and chicken nuggets are classic faves

And, here’s my low-tech DIY for separating hot from cold in the same lunch box: Take an empty paper towel roll holder, cut it in half, and tape or rubber band the two pieces side by side to create an easy yet effective buffer between the hot and cold items in a lunch box. Put an ice pack on the cold side and don’t forget utensils. 

Another related idea: use other lunchbox items as ice packs to keep everything else cool, and then defrost for eating by lunch time. Try single serve containers of fruit cups or apple sauce and tubes of squeezable yogurt.

Sandwich Sushi

Skip a soggy or boring sandwich and make it “sushi” instead. If your kids love actual sushi, that makes a great lunch, too, but with this easy and creative method, more traditional sandwich components are rolled and sliced up to look like sushi. Simply roll slices of bread, cut the crusts off, and fill with thin deli meat, veggies and spread and then roll and slice. Here are detailed steps on how to make this lunch box treat. You can use tortillas, too, for a similar and easy result. 

Snack Lunch 

When she is tired of mini turkey sandwiches, my daughter often requests what she calls “snack” lunch. It is just that, a collection of snacks that together become a school lunch. This is not a new idea, many kids prefer small portions of a few different things instead of a “main” sandwich. These are some things we usually include but the possibilities are endless: 

  • string cheese, Babybel, or cut cheese slices/cubes
  • crackers, pretzels, pita chips
  • carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes or cucumber slices
  • Hard boiled egg, turkey or ham roll-ups
  • Grapes, clementine, apple slices or berries
How ‘Bout Them Apples?

Most kids love fruit, but not if it’s soggy, soft or turns brown. We often “start” or partially peel things like oranges or clementines, and we love this hack to keep apples from browning. Simply slice the apple the way you like, keep the core, and then assemble it back and secure it with a rubber band. Genius! 

Think Outside the Bento Box 

I know I said we weren’t suggesting anything elaborate, but hear me out on these easy bento boxes. A friend told me about these great containers a few years ago and I have been using them for school lunches ever since. I have the 3 section ones but there are lots of options. These are great for sandwiches and sides, or the “snack lunch” as mentioned above. Kids love to eat a salad this way, too – the greens and veggies go in the main section, then toppings or protein and then the dressing in the others to keep it crisp. It’s fun to build your lunch and eat it, too. 

Fun fact: I also use these containers to pack the whole family’s lunches if we are going to the beach or on a road trip – they make it really easy to eat on the go and pack in a cooler bag without getting squished.  

When you are stumped on school lunches, ask your kids for their ideas or input – sometimes your kids may see what a friend packs and it gives them an idea of something new to try. Do you have a go-to lunch that your kids love? We’d love to know – please send us your ideas!