For some reason in January I noticed there were a lot of searches on the blog for snack ideas and school lunch ideas. Usually I see those searches at the beginning of the school year but since people seemed to be looking for inspiration, I decided to put together a post with all sorts of lunch and snack ideas for the kiddos.
I do put some effort into lunchboxes. I usually spend 15-20 minutes per night making them for my girls and then I make something very similar for my husband and myself. I want my girls eating good food so they have energy to get through the day and so they can concentrate and focus on schoolwork in the afternoon. It is also important that they are excited to eat lunch- those of you with little ones know what a big deal lunch and snacks can be for children. Mine get extremely excited to open up lunchboxes and see what waits inside.
I usually pick my battles with food for the kiddos- dinnertime is when we arm wrestle over what they will eat- for lunch I prefer to stick to things I know they like. That eliminates waste and also they haven’t reached the stage yet where they just throw things away and pretend to have eaten it 🙂 I can see exactly what they eat and for the most part these lunchboxes come home completely empty. Sadly my girls don’t like so many things– lunch meat (with the exception of salami or roast beef), avocados, most vegetables… the list goes on and on.
Oh and this school year the kids have been really excited for lunch– they actually open it in the car on the way to school and it is so fun to hear them chatter. “Oh look Addy we got watermelon today!” or whatever and I can hear them already sneaking a few bites of this or that. So I do feel the small amount of time at night really pays off.
Some things I take into consideration- I don’t pack things that will potentially get soggy like quesadillas or things that really are better hot like English Muffin pizzas. I also try not to pack things that will take too long to eat. The kids like to hurry through lunch to get to recess time so nothing fussy or they miss recess.
Anyhoo– these aren’t perfect lunches (we eat cookies and crackers and chips in moderation) but they are examples of things I have packed over the last month or so. I do wish I could have lunchboxes filled with broccoli and avocado and beets and tell you my little ones ate every bite- but sadly I tend to stick to cucumbers and carrots as I know they will for sure eat those. One of my kids is allowed peanut butter and one is allowed peanut butter but she has to sit in a specific section of the cafeteria so I try not to use it in her lunchbox. Otherwise, we don’t have any food allergies or other dietary concerns.
My girls love those little Bento Boxes from Starbucks so this was a copycat of one of the bento boxes- sliced apples and peanut butter, grapes, hard boiled egg, crackers and cheese cubes. For the no-peanut butter kid, I use the almond butter recipe here instead.
This particular box was actually not for lunch but was what I packed for an airplane trip. The girls ate every bite.
Kiwi, Oranges, crackers, Applegate salami, cucumbers, grape tomatoes and a homemade marshmallow 🙂 (recipe for marshmallows here)
Cheese, crackers, strawberries, celery with peanut butter and raisins, Greek yogurt and the very best gummy bears ever (from Sprouts in the bulk bin)
For my little girl that can’t take peanut butter to school, strawberries, tomatoes, cheddar and crackers, Greek yogurt and amazing gummy bears 🙂
Cucumbers, sandwich soldiers, pretzels, grapes and a homemade peanut butter cup (the no peanut butter daughter got a solid chocolate cup instead) Recipe for homemade peanut butter cups here
Macaroni and Cheese – we like Back to Nature box mix and I usually make it the night before, put it in a large bowl and in the morning heat it up to extremely hot. Pop into a thermos and the girls say it is still warm at lunch. Carrots as a snack. This is hands down their favorite lunch 🙂
“Nachos Lunch” with brown rice chips, shredded cheddar, tomatoes, oranges, kiwi and blueberries. My big girl prefers shredded cheese to cubed or sliced cheese. Go figure.
Raisins, watermelon, cucumbers, Pirate’s Booty, oranges and a chocolate dipping sauce. I had this in the fridge overnight so the chocolate was warmed slightly before we left for school to make it a sauce. (Chocolate sauce recipe here– it is DELICIOUS but the chocolate hardens when it gets cold.)
Banana Coconut Oatmeal with maple syrup (used the recipe here and it was fantastic) and kiwi and mango for a snack.
Blackberries, cantaloupe, watermelon, cheese and tortilla wrap, celery with Boursin cheese and a homemade gummy candy (recipe here)
This was a big hit as you might guess 🙂 Pumpkin seeds, cucumbers, strawberries, watermelon, mini buttermilk pancakes with almond butter and pure maple syrup for dipping.
Papaya with lime and coconut, homemade oatmeal cookie, Roast Beef sandwich, tomatoes and mozzarella and blackberries
Pirate’s Booty, our favorite Sprouts gummy bears, homemade pretzels (my husband made these for Superbowl), cucumbers, rainbow carrots, red pepper hummus and strawberries.
Nachos again- tomatoes, olives, shredded cheese, brown rice chips, Girl Scout cookie, strawberries. Salsa in a little cup would have been good too or black beans.
Andes mint (Christmas leftover- ha!), blackberries, oranges, carrots, hard boiled egg and Ritz crackers with Boursin cheese. Sometimes I do hummus or peanut butter in cracker sandwiches- my kids love them.
Cashews/almonds/chocolate chips, carrots, hummus, frozen blueberries, kiwi and BLT sandwich skewers. *I only include frozen berries because the kids LOVE them and eat them at snack around 9am. Otherwise they would melt in the lunchbox and create a mess.
Pretzel roll with pickles, lettuce, tomato and cheese and shredded carrots, apples with cinnamon, Aussie Bite, homemade coconut marshmallow (recipe here), Greek yogurt.
Strawberries, cheese sandwich, brown rice chips, milk with a drizzle of vanilla agave syrup (delicious!)
Crackers, colby cheese cubes, pepperoni (cut with mini cookie cutters), carrots.
Every so often I make chicken nuggets for the girls– these I make in the morning before school and I like to cook them just slightly too long so they are very crispy. I wrap them in foil and they seem to stay fairly warm for lunch. If they are crispy they won’t get soggy but the time the kids eat them- our favorite is the Rocky Free Range Chicken Nuggets from Costco. I also included BBQ sauce, apples with cinnamon and cucumbers.
Yogurt covered pretzels, cantaloupe, black olives, plum, cucumber and cream cheese sandwich and a blueberrie/spinach and pineapple smoothie with apple juice.
I can send the smoothie with my 7 year old to school- she won’t spill and she will close the lid tightly. My 5 year old, I bring the smoothie for an after school snack on the way home since she will spill and blueberries stain 🙂 Some people get upset that I give children mason jars but we have never had a broken mason jar and they have used them since they transitioned out of sippy cups. If you have a plastic cup or thermos that works just as well.
And here are a few supplies I use when packing lunches–
We use the Pottery Barn Kids All in One Lunchbag (I got them for $37 on sale)
Thermos Funtainer-– these seem to be the Thermos’ that work best and the kids like them.
I try to use real forks to avoid waste but sometimes I send mini cocktail forks– I get these at Walmart in the party supply section.
And a few other tips:
I’d love to hear what your great tips and ideas are for great school lunches!