Breaking Down School Lunch Box Ideas

Rethinking ideas for the school lunch box from sandwiches to wraps to crackers and cheese and fruit on a stick.

Let’s talk for a minute about this business of school lunches. Just one more time, I promise.

We’re a week and a half in. I’ve sent hard boiled eggs with my kids three times. In my defense, my sweet kindergartener asked for them today while batting her long lashes and looking cute in her little red and blue dress, picked out specifically for “red” day.

The point is, I’m already in a rut. Each morning I stare at the empty containers and try to think of something fun and exciting to put into them, and when I think I do a good job – fresh, local strawberries today – those little eyelashes return home and poo-poo my efforts.

It’s an odd phenomenon how feeding a child at home can be so different than feeding the same child away from home with no parents or siblings to dictate. With Lene, for example, it’s not that she doesn’t like strawberries. She will happily eat strawberries any day of the week, but she did not appreciate strawberries in a container when opening her lunch today. Her reason: “They got slimy from bumping around in my lunchbox.” Lesson 1: Lene does not appreciate bruised fruit, not even a little bit.

So here I sit, negotiating feeding another child away from home. What are the things that she will like, and what sorts of things can I try, try again or make interesting simply by adding, well, toothpicks. (Do not doubt the power of a toothpick or a small appetizer fork in the lunch box. It’s a powerful tool.)

Here is my list of potential ways to twist the same food into as many different lunches as possible, keeping your kids interested and giving me plenty of options to try on that precocious little lass of mine.


  • Homemade Applesauce
  • Apple Fries with Nut/Sunflower Seed Butter to Dip
  • Slices with Cheese
  • Homemade Fruit Rolls


  • Chicken Salad and Cherry Tomato Slices
  • Cheese and Lunchmeat
  • Cream Cheese and Olives
  • Hummus and Sun-Dried Tomatoes




  • Cream Cheese and Thin-Sliced Cucumbers
  • Peanut or Nut Butter and Jam
  • Cheese and Lunchmeat
  • Avocado Slices and Smoked Salmon


  • Waffle with Cream Cheese and Fresh Strawberry Slices
  • Naan, Hummus and Roasted Red Peppers
  • Banana Bread or Cinnamon Swirl Bread with Fruit Filling
  • The Classics: PB&J, Cheese, Lunchmeat




What do you do to keep lunch interesting for your kids?

In other news, I’m still working on fixing the feed. It’s hard because I have to wait for it to update without posting to see if the changes are helping with the delivery. Thank you SO SO MUCH for being patient as I work out the bugs.

I have been busy writing at my usual places, so do check them out if you haven’t had enough of me:
::Tour de Farm and the Celebrity Chef Tour Join Forces
::10 Ways to Eat Your Squash and Like it Too
::Healthy Alternatives to Childhood Favorites
::Kitchen Organization = More Me Time
::Packing School Lunches in No Time at All


  1. I’ve send hard-boiled eggs at least four times now with my 2nd grader and we’re only in the second week of school, but that’s what he said he wants. πŸ™‚

  2. What wonderful suggestions and options girl! Plus, we really like hard boiled eggs around here. Its a great go-to! πŸ™‚

  3. Great ideas! I was making turkey sandwiches the first week and just switched to tuna tapenade sandwiches. I’ve also been making some whole grain muffins, so maybe I’ll just pack that as a snack or for lunch to mix things up.

  4. Had to share last Friday’s Fancy Friday post where we share our Lunch Box Inspiration!

    My kids’ personal favorites fruit sides? Strawberries cut up with a sprinkling of sugar (Obviously extra sugar is not needed, but it does pack a little yummy punch that makes them smile that Mom gave them an extra treat!) And, Apples cut up and sprinkled with cinnamon!

    Happy fall! ~Chris Ann

  5. This is an absolutely fantastic list of lunch ideas. It’s time to mix things up a bit in my kids’ lunch boxes. And yes, you’re so right about the power of a toothpick.

  6. I’m sorry I can’t relate [no kids], but I’m sure I’d be in the same boat! You’ve got a great list, they’d work for me – and nothing wrong with hard boiled eggs, I’ve definitely been eating my fair share lately πŸ˜‰ ps. The picture of your little girl is just adorable!!

  7. A handy list for sure. I’m soooo in a rut myself. It’s as if my brain shuts down as soon as it sees the lunchbox. Thanks – REALLY!

  8. Great list Shaina, and I was hungry for lunch before I opened this…….now I’m starving……egg salad here I come!

  9. I did breakfast fir lunch the it her day and sent home madecwaffle sticks…along with fruit and the kids loved it. How do you pack deviledceggs fir school!

    • Cheryl, I just fill the yolk opening and then stick the two halves together to pack the deviled eggs. My kids pull them apart or eat them just by biting in. πŸ™‚

  10. I’m going to make the smoothie recipe you have posted. I purchased the little Ball jars for this very reason. I love those little containers. How about adding fruit slush to the list? My kids love to take these in their lunches.

  11. I discovered a great trick with apples while doing WW, and my daughter loved it. Slice up an apple, but it in a ziploc bag, add some cinnamon, seal bag, shake it up. The cinnamon keeps the apple slices from turning brown!

  12. My daughter is not school aged yet, but I love this list for fun toddler lunch ideas, too! πŸ™‚

  13. Yeah, I kind of feel the same way about the slimy fruit, lol. It’s hard to offer variety in a lunch box, I used to get the same thing everyday in mine. This list is a great resource for parents.

  14. fabulous ideas!! Very helpful for my 3 kids

  15. Great list! I’m constantly searching for alternatives to the classic and most often requested PB&J sandwich. Your mac and cheese recipe is on my “make list.”

  16. My children are in college, so I don’t pack their lunches any more, but I’m saving this post for ideas for my own lunches. Thanks for all the great suggestions!

  17. I agree…a tiny toothpick holds big power! Great round-up, Shaina.

  18. Lunches are hard for me, period…whether the kids are home or at school. Thanks for the great ideas!

  19. such great ideas for school lunches! I see too many girls going over to the microwave with frozen meals. I know they would much rather have any of these wonderful choices!

  20. What a great list for both my son and me!

  21. I swear, coming up with interesting lunches that all my kids will eat is so tough. This is a great list and I am tickled that you included my fruit snacks!

  22. PS – came across your pumpkin pie fruit leather when looking up some things on google…I am so trying those!

  23. Where did you find local strawberries in September in the Twin Cities? I need some of those.

    • These were from Untiedt’s at the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market. I don’t know that they’ll have them again, especially after the cold weather this week.

  24. this is all MUCH better than anything you buy packaged healthwise and tastewise. i would have loved for this to be my sandwiches growing up. didn’t get anything nearly this delicious πŸ™

  25. Made homemade chicken nuggets and sweet potato fries tonight and taco meat tomorrow JUST so son can mimic the hot lunch schedule a few times. Hopefully, mine look better. πŸ˜‰ Luckily those things are good cold, at least if you’re 6.

    His other favorite is a cream cheese and jelly sandwich or crackers, and I’ve rolled lunchmeat around cream cheese and pickles for a grain-free main dish a few times.
    πŸ™‚ Katie

  26. i let my kids choose what they want in their lunches and they help me pack it, my girls love veggies and fruit but prefer them straight out of the garden, so we got to pops house and raid the veggie garden once a week and put the items they pick into the lunch, they love being involved too it makes a big difference πŸ™‚

  27. These are great tips you have provided. It is easy to get in a rut if you don’t have a list of ideas at your fingertips when you need to pack the lunch. That is not usually the best time to get creative. I especially like your idea of using a waffle for a type of bread.

  28. The problem I’m trying to deal with is that my 7-year-old son will not eat at school the same things that he will eat at home. I send a variety of healthy options each day, enough for lunch and two snacks (his teacher has a great in-class snack policy; she believes that hungry minds can’t learn), but most of it comes back home. He’s not trading or eating other kids’ food (I asked his teacher to double-check this for me). Any suggestions?

    • Hi, Jessica. I have similar issues with my 5-year-old at the moment, and I used to have issues with my now 7-year-old son. I’ve found that one thing that helps is having them involved in the process. Even if I can have them pick out one thing at the store and then give them the choice of two mean dish options, I’ve seen a huge improvement in what they will eat. This week my son asked for pumpkin seeds, which I gladly provided, and he’s been so excited to pack them, even reminding me when he thinks I may forget.

      I hope this helps, and good luck!

  29. Some fabulous ideas. You can never have too many lunchbox suggestions as most children will like different things which can make preparing lunches for multiple kids a challenge and a half. I find it’s trial and error and they are alwys changing their minds about what they like and don’t like!


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