Raising Girls

Creative Lunch Ideas for School

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Part of the school routine is packing school lunches. Packed lunches are a great option when your child isn’t too fond of what the school serves up for lunch, you want a little more control over what your child is eating or you want some creative lunch ideas for school that your kiddo is actually going to eat.

Of course if your child has dietary restrictions or food allergies, packing lunches is a must. Frankly, packing a lunch allows you to include healthy foods your child will actually eat and it doesn’t have to cost any more than what you would be paying for lunch at school.

Of course packing a lunch every day doesn’t do any good if your child doesn’t eat it or ends up trading most of it away for junk food. The key then is to find creative lunch ideas for school that your child loves + enjoys eating.

How To Pack Creative Lunch Ideas for School Your Kids Will Eat

The best place to start is to get your child involved. Depending on the age of your kids, you can even put them in charge of making their own lunches. Not only do you know that they’re likely to pack something they are going to eat but being in charge of packing their own lunch teaches them responsibility.

Start by talking to your kids about what they want in their lunch box. Make a list of options + then head to the store so you have everything you need for each week of school. Getting the kids as involved as possible ensures they end up with creative lunch ideas for school that they end up eating.

While older kids can pack their own lunch, you can get younger children to help. Even a Kindergartner can wash grapes + put them into a container, or pick a snack for her lunch box.

Get in the habit of making lunches together the night before. Over time you can give the kids more + more responsibility for their lunches. This alone can help ensure they eat what they pack.

After all, it’s the lunch they made. Along the way you’re teaching them independence + important life skills.

Of course you want to encourage your kids to pack + eat healthy foods. Insisting on all healthy, organic food options all the time may not be your best strategy though. Strike a balance + make compromises.

If your kids pack + eat a healthy wrap or salad for example, let them have some cookies for dessert. Teach them to make good choices, but don’t freak out if they decide to pack some Cheetos or a pack of Oreo cookies.

Your goal is to get them to eat fairly healthy + make smart food choices, not restrict all access to junk food, causing them to trade with friends for forbidden Twinkies.

Simple Tips To Get Organized + Making Lunch Prep Easier

There is nothing worse than running late in the morning + then desperately trying to figure out something you can put in your children’s lunch boxes. If you find yourself flustered, or end up buying school lunch because packing it seems like too much of a hassle, use these tips to make lunch prep easier.

1. Make a Plan

I jot this info on my paper calendar for each day of the week but find a way that works for you + your kiddos. Plan what you are going to pack for lunch each day.

This way, you don’t have to guess what you or your kiddos are going to pack each day. It also helps you to make sure that you have all of the ingredients you need before you head out to do the weekly shopping or order your groceries for delivery.

Start by sitting down with your kids to come up with a list of lunches they like. This could include sandwiches + wraps, or even homemade lunch-ables, but it doesn’t have to stop there.

If you add a thermos to the mix, you can suddenly pack reheated leftovers, homemade soup + more. The key is to find lunch foods + snacks that your kids are going to eat that are also easy to pack.

Make sure you have appropriate containers for your creative ideas for school lunch.

We use a Bentgo Box for Kids for each of our girls. We found that even if the food itself is not all that creative they get a kick out of eating it out of the bento-style box.

2. Prep What You Can Ahead

When you get home from the store or when your grocery delivery arrives keep lunch foods out to see what you can do to prep things ahead of time.

For example, instead of putting away the bag of grapes away, wash them + separate them into baggies, containers or reusable snack bags that you can store in the fridge now + toss in lunch boxes throughout the week.

The same goes for things like carrots, salads + cheese.

3. Pack Lunches the Night Before

Mornings are busy + not the perfect time to pack lunches. Try making them the night before instead.

Make it an after dinner routine to pack school lunches for the next day. Get the kids involved. Have them help with lunch prep + clean-up after.

You can store cold items in the fridge + put everything else in the lunch box so it is ready to go. It won’t take you long to get into a rhythm of preparing lunches while you’re cleaning up after dinner.

You’ll appreciate this new habit in the mornings when all you need to do is grab a couple of things from the fridge + toss them in the lunch boxes. Plus, you have more time to be come up with creative lunch ideas for school when you are not ding it by the seat of your pants.

4. Clean Out Lunch Boxes When Kids Get Home

To make lunch prep even easier, get the kids into the habit of cleaning out their lunch box as soon as they get back from school. Even the youngest can help with this.

Have them toss any uneaten food + bring the containers to the sink to be washed. Older children can easily clean their own containers, while you can clean for your younger kiddos.

Having everything clean + ready to go makes it easier to pack the new lunches after dinner.

Packing Hot Lunches

After a long, hot summer, we all look forward to those first crisp fall days. OK, maybe not all of us.)

With season changes comes menu changes — especially if you are trying to come up with creative lunch ideas for school. Salads, wraps + cold sandwiches are great late summer options, but when the temperatures start to drop, your little ones appreciate a hot dish in their lunch box.

Soup + a Hot Sandwich

A creative lunch idea for school + a crowd favorite is tomato soup + a grilled cheese sandwich. If you thought those were outside your packed lunch capabilities, think again. All it takes is a small thermos, some aluminium foil + an insulated lunch box.

Make the soup the day before from scratch, or heat up some canned soup in the morning, right before school. Get it piping hot + if possible, run some hot or even boiling water in the thermos first to get everything as warm as possible.

Pour the soup in the thermos + place it in the insulated lunch box. Don’t forget to pack a spoon. Last, make the hot sandwich.

Grilled cheese, or grilled ham + cheese or any type of Panini are some options. Fix the sandwich as usual + then wrap it in several layers of aluminium foil. If you’re worried about the bread getting soggy, wrap it in a paper towel first, then the foil.

Keep the sandwich in the insulated lunch box + everything should be staying toasty warm for hours. Mix + match the soup + sandwich combos for endless portable lunch possibilities.

Chili + Stew

Of course you’re not limited to just soup. A nice hardy stew or a bowl of chili with some corn chips or a side of fresh cornbread make a nice addition to any lunch box.

Make a batch of your favorite chili or stew for dinner + put the leftovers in your kids’ lunch boxes for the following days. You can also make a big enough batch for lunches to last to the entire week.

Another great option is to freeze it in smaller portions + take them out as needed to add to lunch boxes. This is also a great time for you to take lunch to work or keep a bowl at home to reheat at lunch time.

As with soup, you can use a small thermos, run hot water in it + then fill it with the piping hot chili or stew. It keeps the lunch warm until well past lunch time.

Leftovers Galore

Last but not least, don’t forget about leftovers. They are great creative lunch ideas for school. There are wide mouthed thermos out there that can hold a variety of leftover food from pasta dishes, to things like fried rice, or anything you can think of that would work well put in a bowl.

If your child has access to a microwave, you can pack just about any leftover that can then be heated at school. Find a few microwave-safe containers that work well + that fit into your child’s lunch box.

Get Creative Lunch Ideas for School With Bento Boxes

Have you heard of bento boxes? If you have eaten at a Japanese restaurant, you might be familiar with the term + concept of a bento box. The container, or bento box, is usually rectangular with compartments for each dish to keep foods seperate.

Bento boxes are traditionally made of stainless steel, but you can also find plastic versions for kids — such as the name brand Bentgo Boxes for kids. A bento box is a great canvas to get creative lunch ideas for school.

Yes, with Bento boxes you can play around with food ideas to come up with some fun + creative lunches for the kids. Cut the sandwiches in cute little shapes, make some fun roll-ups + get creative with fresh fruit, raw veggies, cheese as sides.

If you are ready to get even more creative, do a quick search online for bento lunch ideas. You’ll find ideas from gourmet food to fun + quirky kid-friendly lunch ideas. You can find entire Pinterest boards + Instagram accounts dedicated to creative bento box lunches.

What I like best about bento lunches is that it gives you the opportunity to pack several small, snack like items into one lunch. You may even convince your picky eaters to try new fruits, veggies + cheeses if you cut them into cute little shapes.

My picky-eater, my 4-year-old, started eating more food when we packed it in a Bentgo Box for Kids. Not only did we serve her hummus, Naan bread + olives in for lunch but we also arranged her dinner in it at night. It is was convinced her to eat her food!

The possibilities are almost endless with bento box lunches.

Go Beyond the Sandwich for Creative Lunch Ideas for School

When you think about packed school lunches, PB&J or ham + cheese sandwiches come to mind. While sandwiches certainly make for a nice school lunch, they are not your only option. Mix it up by fixing something different for your kids this school year.

Make It A Wrap

A quick + easy alternative to a sandwich is a wrap. Grab some tortillas + fix your child’s favorite sandwich as a wrap.

Wraps are also great for adding lots of lettuce and extra veggies. Hummus + cucumbers make a delicious vegetarian lunch option.

When you’re done adding your toppings, roll it up like a burrito + if desired, cut it in half. The wrap is good as is, or you can pack a small serving of salad dressing to dip.

Be sure you pack it in a small, airtight container so your child doesn’t end up with dipping sauce all over her lunch box.

You can also skip the tortilla. My oldest daughter loves when we roll cheese inside of turkey slices to create a wrap.

Snack Food + Homemade Lunchables

I have yet to meet a child that doesn’t love lunchables. You can make your own lunchables version with fresh ingredients + food you know your child will eat.

Start with some sandwich meat + cheese cut into bite-sized pieces. Add some fresh raw veggies like sliced cucumber, cherry tomatoes + baby carrots. Throw in some fresh or dried fruit + you have a delicious, healthy, homemade version.

Of course you can turn any of your child’s favorite snack foods including popcorn, trail mix, crackers, cheese, fruits + veggies into lunch. Grab a container with lots of little dividers (bento boxes are perfect) and fill them up with kid-friendly favorites.

Healthy Salads

Salads are another great lunch option, particularly for older children. Get a container with a tight fitting lid + add all your child’s favorite salad ingredients minus the dressing in there.

Start with a bed of lettuce greens, add raw veggies, croutons, bacon bits, nuts + seeds. Top it with a source of protein like cheese, hard-boiled egg, ham or turkey, or even some grilled chicken.

Pack dressing in a separate container along with a fork + napkin + lunch is done. You can assemble the salad the night before + store it in the fridge.

The key is to make sure all your ingredients are very dry. If you’re washing your lettuce, use a salad spinner, or dry it on some paper towels before starting to pack it.

Cutting everything into small bite-sized pieces ensures that the lunch time salad is easy to eat.

Fun + Creative Lunch Ideas for School

Banana Burrito Ideas

PB & J

  • Whole-Wheat Tortilla
  • 2 Tbsps. Peanut Butter
  • Banana
  • 1 Tbsp. Jelly

Nutella and PB

  • Tortilla
  • 2 tbsp. Peanut Butter
  • Banana
  • 1 tbsp. Nutella

Fluffer Nutter Roll-Up

  • Tortilla
  • 2 tbsp. Peanut Butter
  • Banana
  • 1 tbsp. Marshmallow Fluff

Directions:

  1. Spread peanut butter over the tortilla.
  2. Peel banana + put it at the edge of the tortilla.
  3. Spread the banana with your optional topping (jelly, Nutella, marshmallow fluff).
  4. Roll up the tortilla. 
  5. Fold the ends to hold all the ingredients inside. 
  6. For a yummy alternative warm up the tortilla in the microwave for 10-15 seconds for an ooey-gooey treat.

Pair with these items to make a delicious lunch your child is sure to love:

  • Fruit cup
  • Yogurt
  • Non-sugary drink like Water, Bai, or Crystal Light

Italian Sausage + Broccoli Egg Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. Italian Sausage
  • 8 Large Eggs
  • 1 Cup Broccoli Florets
  • 1/2 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Milk
  • 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
  • Salt + Pepper to Taste
  • Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions:

  1. In a large pan, fry up the sausage until it’s no longer pink. 
  2. Remove from heat + add broccoli florets.
  3. In a medium bowl whisk together eggs, milk, oil, baking powder, salt + pepper.
  4. Lightly spray a 12 cup muffin pan with oil.
  5. Spoon the sausage mixture evenly into each tin.
  6. Pour the egg mixture over the top + sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 375 F.
  8. Refrigerate lunch portions overnight + add to lunch box in the morning. It’s portable + yummy!

Sides:

  • Jello with fruit at the bottom
  • Apple slices
  • Milk

Ham & Mozzarella Sticks

Ingredients:

  • 4 Ham Slices
  • 2 String Cheese Sticks
  • 2 Green Olives
  • 2 Toothpicks

Directions:

  1. Take two ham slices + wrap around one cheese stick.
  2. Add the olive to the seam + secure with the toothpick.

Serves: 1

Sides:

  • Red Seedless Grapes
  • Mini Pretzels
  • 100% Real Juice Box

Mini Calzones

Ingredients:

  • 1 Can of Biscuits
  • 1/2 Ricotta Cheese
  • 2 Cups Shredded Mozzarella
  • 2 tsps. Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Dash Salt
  • Dash Garlic Powder

Directions:

  1. Open the can + roll each one out flat with a rolling pin. If the dough sticks to the rolling pin take a little bit of flour + sprinkle over the rolling pin.
  2. For each biscuit add a 1/4 tsp. of Parmesan cheese onto one half of the flattened biscuit.
  3. Then add 3 Tbsps. of mozzarella + a tsp. of ricotta.
  4. Sprinkle with a little salt + garlic powder.
  5. Fold the biscuit over on itself.
  6. Crimp shut with a fork.
  7. Cook at 350 F for 14-17 minutes or until the biscuit is golden brown.

Sides:

  • Spaghetti sauce for dipping
  • Green salad with dressing
  • Iced tea

Pizza Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 Tbsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1/4 Cup Sugar
  • 1 tsp. Each Salt + Dried Basil
  • 1 Cup Cheddar Cheese, cubed
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 Cup Yogurt
  • 1/4 Cup Butter, melted
  • 1/4 Cup Pizza Sauce
  • 1/2 Cup Mozzarella, shredded

Directions:

  1. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt + basil.
  3. Stir in cheddar cubes.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, yogurt + butter until smooth.
  5. Stir into flour mixture until well combined + no dry spots remain.
  6. Add batter into muffin cups, dividing evenly.
  7. Spoon 1 tsp. pizza sauce on top of each muffin; sprinkle each with shredded mozzarella.
  8. Bake at 400 F for 20 minutes or until golden + a toothpick inserted in center of one of middle muffins comes out clean.
  9. Let muffins cool in the pan for at least 5 minutes before removing, then let cool completely on a wire rack.
  10. Freeze muffins in an airtight container for up to 1 month; defrost at room temperature.

Sides:

  • Spinach salad with dressing
  • Fruit punch
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10 Comments

  • Katie Frazier

    My son is only 3 months old so I’m not quite at school lunch age, but I pack lunch for my boyfriend everyday for work. He’d love some of these ideas too!

  • Sarcasm Wine Repeat

    These are great ideas! I especially like the options for hot lunches, I would have never thought of sending a hot lunch because it seems like it wouldn’t stay hot but you proved otherwise! Thanks for sharing!

  • Sarah

    Great ideas to help mix things up and keep it healthy at the same time. My son used to only want sandwiches for his school lunch, but starting last year we mixed it up here and there with homemade Lunchables and leftovers and he loved it. Going to give some of these other ideas a try this year when the school year starts.

  • Stacy

    Thanks for the tips on how to pack hot lunches! I never knew I could do that! While my kids don’t need lunch packed yet, there are times I pack my own and would love to save time without having to run to the back room to microwave.

  • Sam

    Fantastic ideas! I like having the ability to prepare somethings the night before so it’s easier to get things done in the morning so there’s no excuse for not packing lunch. These are great tips for adult lunches too!

  • Munish|mytwolittlecubs

    After reading your post, I am running out of ideas. My kids are frustrated over eating vegetables. I always find sneaky ways to add them. Italian Sausage and broccoli egg muffin is a new thing which I should give a try to make for my kids’ lunch.

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