The Easiest Back-to-School Lunch Box Ideas For Kids
June 22, 2020
“Yay! It’s time to pack a lunch bag again," said no one, ever. Well, maybe the parents who love to splash out on Pinterest with their stylized lunches fit for a fine restaurant, but really, who has time for that on busy school mornings?
Research shows that healthy lunches can help improve student performance. Needless to say, it's important to supply our kids with a school lunch box packed with love. Here’s the great news: You can do that every morning with these easy lunch box ideas for kids, perfect for the back-to-school season and all year long.
The key to being able to put together easy lunches for kids on the fly lies in the planning. Here’s how to get ready to beat the lunch crunch with easy school lunches that will keep your child satisfied.
1. Make a list…and check it twice
We know you’ve probably got the school supply list on your mind—and that’s important. But we have a suggestion for another list you’re going to want to make—and that’s one to take to the grocery store to make sure you have everything you need for nutritious, tasty and easy lunch for kids.
Did your child swoon over bagel sandwiches in their lunch bag last year? Well, chances are good that whatever used to top the list has puzzlingly become a thing of the past over the summer. And we know there’s nothing more disheartening than filling your fridge with healthy lunch fixings only to have your child turn up their nose at what ends up in the school lunch box. A good strategy is to take them shopping with you so they can help select the items they prefer.
Pro Tip: As you make your list, don’t forget to add the hand sanitizer—you can grab a big bottle for their desk and a smaller, portable one to stash in their lunch bag to help keep them healthy all year long.
2. Get the right lunch containers
Packing easy lunches for kids is a breeze when you have a variety of lunch containers that keep your food hot or cold and protect it from being smashed. Of course, part of the fun of school shopping is picking out your school lunch bag or box so make sure that’s on your school supply list.
But what goes in the school lunch box is just as important. Here are some storage items and lunch containers you might want to consider stocking up on for packing easy school lunches for kids:
Bento boxes for keeping food items organized and separate
Different size storage containers
Soup mug with a lid
Noodle bowl with a lid
Lunch "cubes" that hold smaller containers in one
Save money (and the planet!) with sturdy containers, but try to opt for quick-clean items that can be put in the dishwasher, and double-duty lunch containers that can be stowed in the freezer or popped in the microwave.
3. Learn to love leftovers (or as we call them “planned overs!”)
If you have leftovers lurking in your fridge, chances are good that someone didn’t like the meal in the first place—which is why it’s “left.” That’s why “planned overs” make a more appealing lunch box idea for kids …by deliberately making extra of favorite menu items, you can ensure a tasty, easy school lunch the next day.
Great “planned over” items include:
Sliced chicken for sandwiches or wraps—or just to eat with crackers
Pasta that you can toss with a little vinaigrette and veggies for a salad
Rice that you can make complete with the addition of veggies and a protein
Taco meat to make a salad or a wrap
Stir fry meats and veggies
Soup or chili (packed in appropriate lunch containers, if your child has access to a microwave)
Bonus: With planned overs, you can pack the lunch while you are cleaning up the kitchen from dinner and make your morning that much less rushed.
4. Bring the fun
Yes we love to gawk at the Pinterest-lunch parents and marvel over how they do it, but here’s a secret—sometimes it can be really simple to prepare an easy school lunch that looks impressive. Here are five ways to do it.
Cut sandwiches or cheese and meat slices with cookie cutters.
Pack a variety of finger foods in a cute bento box.
Draw on any fruit that they’ll peel—like bananas and oranges—with a marker.
Write a love letter on their napkin.
5. Make it different every day
Yep, kids suffer from lunch fatigue, just like you do. The good news is that with this mix-and-match list of easy school lunch ideas—10 for each category!—you can pretty much make different easy school lunches every single day. One day you might stash the items in a bento box or other lunch container; another day you might thread food on skewers like a kabob; and when you’re in a hurry, you can just put them in a zip-top bag.
Ready for the best, easiest lunch box ideas for kids ever? You can print the list, pick one or two items from each category and voila…instant variety, fast packing guaranteed.
Your Ultimate Mix-and-Match List of School Lunch Ideas
Carb item (choose whole wheat when possible!)
Cold cooked pasta
Cheese sticks or cubes
Peanut butter (if allowed at your school)
Almond or other nut butter
Almonds or other nuts
Cherry tomatoes (yes, we hear they are technically a fruit, so your call)
Sugar snap peas
Lightly steamed green beans or asparagus
If your child likes dips, try vinaigrette, BBQ sauce or marinara for a low-calorie, high-flavor garnish they’ll love. Finally, you can add a favorite small snack or sweet, and in five minutes flat you will have packed creative, easy school lunches they’ll love.
About the author
Cathie Ericson is a freelance writer who specializes in small business, finance and real estate.
All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is” and neither the author nor Office Depot, Inc. warrant the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.
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