Six Great School Lunchbox Ideas that will hopefully make packing lunches for your kids a little easier!
One of the most frequent questions I get asked is what I pack in the boys’ lunchboxes each day. I remember being so overwhelmed when they all started school five days a week. What would I put in their lunches? Would they actually eat it? Was it enough food for them? How much time would I need to allow in the mornings to back their lunchboxes?
Well, now that the school year is almost over, I feel like I’ve finally got it down and I can pretty much pack their lunchboxes without drinking coffee first. 😉
I started out packing them sack lunches with all these little baggies of food. What was I thinking? So wasteful and probably a bit overwhelming for them come lunchtime. A friend of mine recommended these bento lunchbox containers from Pottery Barn Kids so I ran out and got three of them along with the monogrammed lunch bags to carry them in. They’re awesome! The compartments are so great for helping me make sure I include a healthy variety of foods in good portions. They’re so easy to wash in the dishwasher and perfect for the boys to eat right out of during lunchtime. We’ve had them for over 5 years now and they have held up so great.
Our school is so great about leaving any uneaten food in the lunchboxes so I know what they ate and didn’t eat that day at lunch. This has helped me so much in learning what are actually good things to pack in their lunches. If your school doesn’t do this, ask them if they wouldn’t mind so you actually know what and how much they’re eating. The boys usually don’t have much left in their lunchboxes these days, but if they do, I actually have them eat it as their snack when we get home from school instead of throwing it away.
To make packing lunches as easy as possible and to have plenty of food on hand to pack three lunchboxes five days a week, I try to buy as much in bulk as possible. I love Costco for this because they have so many great healthy kid-friendly items to choose from. Here’s a glimpse of some of the lunchbox staples I buy at Costco…
The kids love helping me pack their lunchboxes. They get so excited about what they’ll get to eat that day at school and they get a kick out of promising me that they’re going to eat their fruits and veggies before their “dessert”. 😉
I have six different lunchbox menus that I rotate through to give them a good variety throughout the week. Here they are:
Lunchbox Menu #1: mini hummus packet, whole wheat pita, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, cheese, fruit & a mini granola bar
Lunchbox Menu #2: peanut butter & banana sandwich on whole wheat bread, fruit, pretzel chips, applesauce pack & animal crackers (if your school is peanut-free, try sunflower seed butter, apple butter, another nut butter such as almond butter, etc.)
Lunchbox Menu #3: cheese quesadilla on a whole wheat tortilla, mini guacamole packet, cherry tomatoes, fruit, chips & fruit snacks
Lunchbox Menu #4: leftover whole wheat banana pancakes, bacon, hard-boiled egg, fruit & dry cereal (This is one of the boys’ favorites!)
Lunchbox Menu #5: grilled cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread or these grilled cheese roll ups, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, fruit, pretzels & a mini granola bar
Lunchbox Menu #6: build your own parfait with Greek yogurt, granola, cheerios, fruit, toast and yogurt covered raisins
Tips & Tricks:
- When the boys were younger, I would cut their cherry tomatoes and grapes in half and I would steam the carrots to make them easier and safer for them to eat.
- I will sometimes make the quesadillas and grilled cheese sandwiches the night before to save time in the morning. I’ll make them while I’m making dinner or cleaning up from dinner and just store them in the refrigerator overnight. Most of the time though, I just make them while I’m making breakfast.
- If we have to get up and going super early the next morning, I’ll pack their lunchboxes the night before and store them in the refrigerator overnight, but I usually pack them in the mornings because we don’t normally have room for three lunchboxes in the fridge.
- I will also occasionally put leftovers in their lunchboxes like mac & cheese, pizza taquitos, muffins, baked chicken nuggets, hotdogs, etc., but I usually stick to the menus above.
I hope these ideas help make your life a little easier when it comes to packing lunches and hopefully your kiddos will love their lunches too!
I think I want one of those bento lunch boxes for myself! I like your system of having 6 different options, definitely helps with the chaos!
The lunch boxes are awesome. I was just trying to decide if we needed a new one for next year. Is there room to fit an ice pack? My daughter does not eat much at lunch but I think she would love your system.
Hi Christie! The lunch bags that the boxes fit into definitely have room for an ice pack. I’ve put one in there before when we’ve gone to the zoo or a picnic at the park to keep the food cool in the heat until it was time to eat.
This is a great post! My daughter starts school in September and I am excited but worried about packing her lunch. Now I cannot wait to do it!
So many great ideas! I love the bento style boxes too, so much better for packing lunches and then you don’t end up with 18 dishes to wash every day! Also, I’m a teeny bit jealous that you can send PB sandwiches to school – sometimes that quick PB&J would be awesome to be able to whip up when I forget to make them ahead of time! 🙂
Such cute lunchbox ideas! That’ll keep me from getting in a rut. 🙂
I need to step up my lunchbox game! I’m also pretty jealous that your kids are such good eaters!
I don’t have any kids in school just yet, almost have a preschooler though and am loving these ideas!
This is such a good post! Even though I have a few years before I have to pack lunches, I have a ‘big kid’ that needs lunches! An that leftover whole wheat pancake lunch? I will gladly take!
I love those bento box lunch bags, Maegen! So many great ideas! My son is starting school in September so this is so so helpful 🙂
I have pinned this for future reference. My baby is about to start school and I wonder what to pack her. I don’t want to pack her lunches like I used to get as a kid…soggy Wonder bread with mayo and a limp piece of bologna and American cheese.
I always trying to manage my kitchen tasks and prepring kid’s lunch box before the time. Always find the way in which I can make a delicious, nutritious & wholesome lunch box for my kids every day in under ten minutes. Your ideas of preparing lunch box helps me for next seven days schedule.
Does the cheese require an ice pack? Does the bread become soggy? These are great ideas and we frequent Costco, so this is helpful. Thanks!
Hi Aarti! I don’t include an ice pack in my kids’ lunch boxes, but you certainly could. We have not experienced soggy bread. The grilled cheese and toast are certainly not as crisp/toasty as when first packed, but they still taste great and my kids eat them. Hope this helps! Enjoy!
How do you send the pancakes? Do you make them the night before and store in the fridge? Send them cold?
Hi Lindsey! I either send the fresh cooked leftover pancakes from that morning’s breakfast or cold pancakes straight out of the fridge from a previous morning’s breakfast. By the time they eat them, they’re room temperature. Hope this helps. Pancakes for lunch are a favorite for all of my kids. 🙂
We will survive. I love that. I have two now, but the baby will need a lunch soon enough so this visual is very helpful. I used your PB links to purchase some bentos. Xo
I really, really am thankful I came across this post. I have one son going to Kindergarten and the other son Pre-School (both full day requiring lunches) … then I am home all day with my 2 year old son! I feel like I can prepare all 3 lunches in the morning — maybe even one for me too — and have something to kind of follow. I feel like I am always at a loss for things they like! THANK YOU!
Hi Javin! Yay! I’m so happy to hear you find these lunchbox ideas helpful. They’ve been our go-to for years with pre-school and now elementary school. It’s so nice to have several options to choose from and mix things up with. And I’m the same way with fixing a lunch for myself when I’ve got a really busy day ahead of me. Enjoy and best wishes for a great school year for your little ones!