School Lunch Ideas

It’s Money-Saving Monday at CookingManager.Com

Eating Lunch at School

Since starting school last week, my 5 and 8-year-olds have taken sandwiches every day. One likes peanut butter with a little sugar (ugh!) and the other takes soft white cheese and sliced tomato. In honor of the new year here are some practical and nutritious ideas for your kids’ (and your own) lunchboxes.

Today I’ll stick to dairy or vegetarian options.

Sandwich spreads:

  • Experiment with pita, tortillas, and whole-grain breads.
  • Natural peanut butter–preferably without sugar or jelly (if there are no allergies)
  • Different kinds of cheese
  • Chumus, a middle-eastern chick-pea spread that you can buy or make.
  • Tuna, but that can get smelly quickly
  • Egg salad or a scrambled/fried egg

Many sandwiches can be prepared in advance and frozen, saving hassle in the mornings. You’ll never know until you try.

Cooked foods:

  • Leftover noodle casserole or spaghetti
  • Homemade pizza
  • Muffins or pancakes
  • Tuna or vegetable patties
  • Pasta or potato salad. You don’t have to include mayonnaise, but jarred mayonnaise is full of preservatives and won’t spoil. (The acid in homemade mayonnaise means that it keeps well too, but that’s a subject for another post. )
  • Quiche

I make extras of these for school lunches. For the long-term, they can be frozen in individual portions and partially defrosted overnight in the refrigerator. Resist the temptation to microwave them. Instead, let them finish defrosting in the schoolbag.


With the right container or thermos, you can send anything to school including a bowl of oatmeal. Teach kids to bring home leftovers and clean the containers. Leftovers, even if inedible, give you an idea of how much to send next time. I prefer to recycle used food containers and bags from bread, cottage cheese, etc.

Fruits and vegetables:

If your kids are tired of the usual apple, pears, or banana, fill a container with grapes or sliced melon and add a toothpick. Vegetables can be plain, part of a salad or casserole, or sliced into a sandwich like my daughter prefers.


Only water. Juices are expensive and messy. Even natural juice fills up small tummies, and doesn’t leave room for real food.  In hot weather, fill small mineral water bottles halfway with water and store in the freezer overnight. In the morning, add more water.

What do your children like to take to school?

If you enjoyed this post you might also like:

Feeding Picky Children Without Wasting Food

Simple Entertaining

Do You Need a Second Freezer?

Photo credit: Tervilliger911


  1. Thanks for using my photo!

  2. hard-boiled eggs are also a favorite in my house. usually a lunch with eggs also has cheese, crackers, fruit and veggies.

    plus i always include dessert – usually just one cookie. i figure if my kiddo has to be in school all day he should at least have a cookie.

    The other lunch favorite in our house is cinnamon apples. Slice the apple (i use the apple corer thingy), put into a ziptop bag (i haven’t yet found a really good reusable container for this project) with a few shakes of cinnamon. It coats the apple and prevents it from looking brown (well, the cinnamon is brown) and tastes super good.

    Great new site, Hannah!

  3. Great ideas, evn for growm-ups. This year I´ll be eating packed lunch once a week because of my schedule.

  4. My kids are not picky eaters at home, but are impossible to make lunches for. THey don’t really like sandwiches, toasted cheese is the exception.
    In terms of containers – they ALWAYS loose them – so that rules of the pasta/ cut veggies option.
    I find making lunches one of the hardest jobs.
    Any advice?

  5. Maybe some kind of casserole that holds together that they can eat with their hands? Muffins or quiche would work too.
    Our elementary school is making a big deal about not sending plastic bags, which is ironic considering how many notebooks, workbooks, plastic envelopes, plastic notebook covers, markers, crayons and so on that we have to buy.

  6. Samantha says

    I love this post! Just gave me more ideas for my kid’s packed lunch. Everyday is a struggle whenever I prepare his lunch. It needed to be healthy and delicious at the same time. Looking forward for more recipes. Thank you!