I’ve always preferred to have my kids bring their lunches to school, rather than buy there. It’s easier to cope with food preferences, and we’re good at keeping costs under control. The hardest part is figuring out how to keep lunches interesting yet still simple enough to handle on a busy school morning.
One key tip I’ll tell you right now is to encourage your kids to make their own lunches as much as possible. By middle school, each of my kids has to handle their own lunch every day, and my youngest is welcome to make her own any day she chooses. It encourages independence, although I will still call them out if the lunch isn’t good enough, such as the time my son tried to bring two slices of bread for his. Nothing else, just bread.
I keep basic supplies around for my kids. Bread, tortillas, various cheeses, lunch meats, hard boiled eggs, fruit, and vegetables, for example. We have a stack of containers the kids can pick from, and they have reusable bottles for drinks. I prefer stainless steel drink bottles because they can take a lot of abuse.
Sometimes one of my kids will want milk with their lunch, and that’s not difficult. I freeze milk in ice cube trays, then bag them. Put a few cubes in the bottle with regular milk, and it will keep cold until lunch. How many cubes depends on how hot the day is – you don’t need a lot of frozen milk if the day is going to be cold, but you’ll need a fair number on hot days. Make sure the bottle is cleaned out immediately after school – soured milk is nasty!
I’m really fortunate in that it’s easy to keep some costs under control in my area. We have an awesome dollar store in our area called 99 Only. They’re only in CA, AZ, NV, and TX so far. The things I find there range from “what the heck???” to “I can’t believe this is so cheap!!!” but overall I have a lot of luck there with fresh vegetables, although it helps to know which day they’re delivered. Combine them with a local produce shop that is much cheaper than the grocery store, and I do really well price-wise.
Here are some school lunch ideas I’ve collected from other bloggers. Most look pretty easy to make.
Some of these contain nuts, which can be problematic at many schools. Check with your school to see how they handle food allergy issues. You don’t want your child to feel responsible if someone at their school reacts to their lunch. Kids who have food allergies can have a hard enough time avoiding allergens without others adding to the problem.
Healthy Make Ahead Lunches for Back To School!
This has some great ideas to make lunches ahead of time for your kids. It’s a great idea for those days when everyone’s running behind and you just want to get those lunches packed. Your mornings might just get easier.
5 Simple Tips for Making School Lunches Creative and Easy
More tips to make it easier to make school lunches more easily.
“Veggie Faces” No-Bake Vegetable Pizzas and Wraps
These are adorable, although possibly a little difficult to get in most containers and survive until lunch at school. Still, they’re great for getting younger kids involved in preparing lunch, even if it’s turned into a wrap after.
Hungry Hippos (Fun Sandwich Recipe for Kids)
These are adorable, and super easy to change to suit any child’s preferences.
Easy Chicken Greek Salad Wrap Sandwich
Here’s a way to use up that leftover chicken while making a good lunch.
No-Bake Fruit “Pizzas”
Surprise your kids with a lunch on the sweet, yet healthy side.
Zucchini Pizza Bites Recipe (Low Carb, Gluten-Free)
These look nicely portable yet fun.
Air Fryer Simple Grilled American Cheese Sandwich
I have to admit, I never would have thought of using an air fryer to make grilled cheese.
This one has a spicy addition. Best for the child who likes some spice.
Greek Tortellini Salad
You can try different salad dressings to figure out which your child likes best.
Ham & Cheese Horns
These look really easy to make and eat. Lots of kids love ham, so it’s likely to be a hit.
Air Fryer Chicken Nuggets
Kids love chicken nuggets. You can make up a batch of these and freeze the extras for future lunches.
Quinoa-Crusted Chicken Nuggets
When you want to make chicken nuggets a little healthier, try using quinoa for the crusting.
Homemade Lunchables with Ham
It’s easy to make lunchables at home, with less plastic waste and better food choices.
2 Back-to-School Recipes Using Tortillas
A quinoa salad wrap and a rainbow veggie rollup. My kids don’t like quinoa on its own, but love it with rice, an option to consider if your kids aren’t sure about quinoa.
Easy Appetizer Pinwheels Recipe (Great for Lunch Wraps Too!)
Whether you serve these as wraps or pinwheels, these are easy to adapt to your child’s tastes.
Shepherd’s Pie Pockets
Good food that’s easy to eat. These are filled with lamb and mashed potatoes.
This is a really cute idea. Sushi, but in a form that’s more like a sandwich.
Snacks & Sides
What’s lunch without something a little special in with it. Kids are far more enthusiastic about their lunches if there’s a treat in there too. While store bought granola bars, fruit snacks and cookies are fun to include, there are lots of things you can make at home in advance that your kids might love too.
Easy Chunky Salsa
This looks good if your kids like tacos, taquitos or chips as a part of their lunch.
Crunchy Granola Snack Bites
Personally, I’d use dark chocolate, but then dark chocolate is pretty much my answer for everything. I think these would be a good addition to a lunch, or packed as a snack for kids who still have snack time at school.
Chocolate Peanut Butter No Bake Cookies
If your child loves peanut butter and can bring it to school, they’ll probably love these.
3 Ingredient Banana Oatmeal Cookies
Kids love cookies. They’ll appreciate having some choices that you can include in their lunches without feeling bad about what you’re feeding them.
Whole Wheat Cheese & Chocolate Snack Rolls
A bit of chocolate will make most kids a lot more excited about their lunch.