School Lunch Ideas for Kids

School Lunch Ideas for Kids

Publish Date June 5, 2023 4 Minute Read

There are roughly 180 days in the school year, which could mean 180 packed lunches. Inspiration for school lunch ideas can be hard to come by, especially when you’re looking for something easy and healthy.

A Crash Course in Easy Lunchbox Packing

Somewhere between work, sports, playdates and homework you still have to find time to pack a healthy and delicious lunch for the kids. But don’t worry, we’ve put together some of our favorite tips on how to make brown bagging a breeze.

Prep Like a Chef

Prepping meals is one of the best ways to make sure that your lunches are taken care of for the week. Check out the tips and tricks below that can help with school lunches and even dinner.

  • Wash and cut each meal’s produce at the same time and save in airtight containers.
  • Pre-portion sides like raw veggies or salads and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Keep dips and dressings separate until it’s time to pack.
  • Center meals around 1-2 proteins. Cook, cut and store proteins for use throughout the week.
  • Pre-make and freeze fruit cups that can double as additional cooling for the lunch bag.
  • Make and freeze more time-consuming foods like egg bites, cookies, muffins or pancakes.

Try out your favorite prepping techniques with our packed lunch ideas, or make your own with our printable meal planner!

Leftovers Reimagined

It’s no surprise that many kids aren’t big fans of leftovers, but putting a new spin on an old dinner can take it from dull to delightful. Here are a few ideas for turning leftovers into quick, easy lunches.

  • Quesadillas and tacos can be made with almost any leftover protein from dinner (like chicken, ground beef, and pulled or slow-cooked meats). Pro tip: Keep bagged salad mix on hand to top tacos or to make a fast side dish.
  • Pasta salad is a great way to use leftover pasta and get a lot of veggies into your kid’s lunch at the same time. Consider using a bagged broccoli slaw mix or frozen vegetable medley.
  • Rice can be used to create bowl-style meals with the addition of any leftover protein and either frozen or pre-chopped vegetables.
  • Wraps can be made with bagged salad mix and a leftover protein.

Check out some of our favorite quick and easy school lunches that are sure to get you an A+.

No-prep Lunch Sides

Adding more deliciousness to lunch, without adding time.

Tips and Tricks for Perfect Packing

You’ve packed a healthy, delicious lunch. But how do you make sure it stays cold, hot or even crisp by the time lunch rolls around?

Keep it Cool

How can you keep a packed lunch cold when it’s sitting in a locker or classroom all morning?

  • Use an insulated lunch bag: It may seem obvious, but these bags are designed to help keep food cool.
  • Ice packs: For optimal cool, put the ice pack closest to the coldest food item.
  • Frozen treats/water bottle: Certain fruits like cherries, grapes and blueberries (which taste delicious frozen) can be used as a snack and an ice pack. You can also freeze a water or juice bottle so it helps maintain the temperature inside their lunch box.
  • Stainless steel containers: Store stainless steel containers in the freezer the night before to ensure that they’re nice and cold when they go in the lunch box.

Heat it Up

It can be tricky to keep a packed lunch warm, especially in the winter. Here are a few ways that could help.

  • Insulated bag: Not just for cold lunches, insulated bags help to keep the temperature consistent with what’s inside.
  • Thermos: Prep the thermos with hot water first. Simply pour boiling or very hot water into the thermos and let it sit with the lid on for 5 minutes. Then pour out the water and fill the thermos with the liquid lunch of your choice.
  • Aluminum foil: Wrapping warm items in foil can help keep them warmer, longer.

Maintain Crispness

A question for the ages. How do you keep crispy food crispy? We have a few tips that may save those chicken nuggets from going soggy before lunch.

  • Let crisp foods come to room temperature before packing.
  • If you're short on time, pack warm, crispy food in a small paper bag and cut a few vents to allow heat to escape.
  • Pack crispy food in a paper towel to absorb any moisture.

Maybe you just want to keep toppings or sandwiches from getting soggy. If so, we have some ideas.

  • Pack granola separately to avoid sogginess. Put toppings like chocolate chips, coconut flakes, fruit and nuts in a separate container and add to granola before eating.
  • Let the kids add condiments themselves to avoid bread sogginess.
  • Place any sandwich ingredients with excess moisture (like tomatoes, pickles and cucumbers) away from the bread, if possible, by layering them between sandwich meat or cheese.

Ditch the Plastic Bag

Help reduce your environmental impact. By packing your meal in a bento box instead of sandwich bags, you’ll easily reduce the amount of single-use plastics you use every day. Combining function and style, bento boxes are the perfect lunch companion. One bento lunch box can carry an entire meal (main dish and sides) in a single container, making it a convenient alternative to traditional lunch boxes.

Ready for More Easy School Lunches?

Packing delicious lunches doesn’t have to take forever. With some simple recipes and helpful tips, you can pack like a pro.

For more A+ recipes, check out some of our other easy meal plans.