Change up your lunchbox routine with these healthy, easy to prep school lunches!
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So here we are a couple weeks into the school year…who is needing a little lunchbox inspiration?!
I am pretty sure we all start the year off motivated to pack fun, healthy lunches for our kids…but I will be the first to admit that a month or 2 into the daily packing, unpacking, and washing of trays I start losing a little steam! Guess what? That’s ok! None of us are perfect, we are all human, and school lunch making totally gets mundane after a while!
Which is why it is so easy to fall into the PBJ rut. It’s easy, fast, and a no brainer!
You’ll probably even see it in my daily #rgnschoollunch posts on my Instagram right around April…when I have had enough already with the school lunch packing! Go ahead and browse that hashtag over there to take a look – I can guarantee the sandwich ratio during that last month or 2 of school sky rockets!
So, what’s the big deal then? What’s wrong with PBJ every day?
Nothing! Absolutely nothing if that is how you want to roll with your lunch packing! I am definitely not in your shoes, and I don’t run your house! But, I’m willing to bet because you clicked over to read this post, you are searching for some inspiration. Some ideas to break up the week a little. If you browse my school lunches on Instagram you will notice even I do PBJ once a week. Do it up momma! (PS – if you are in a nut free school zone, coconut butter or sunflower seed butter works as a great companion to jam for those quick sandwiches!)
I am also willing to bet that your clicking over to this post means you have some healthier eating goals in your house. Awesome! Because variety is key in creating healthy, broad taste palates in kids! It makes for less pickiness when it comes to food, and makes those kids well rounded not only in the nourishment hitting their system, but also well rounded in their acceptance of new food.
We pack PBJ *all* the time…where do I begin???
My advice to you if you are a PBJ packer most of the week is to take some small baby steps. If you overhaul lunch in one shot you are sure to get resistance from older kids. Pick *one* day a week to try something new with your kids. I think you would be surprised at how excited they would be to have something different for a change! Show them this list, as well as my other 6 non PBJ school lunch lists, and see what their eyes light up about!
A note on packing time
Because I know what you are thinking…I’m going to be in the kitchen all night packing these kind of lunches! Please note the prepping tips in each lunch idea. I guarantee I don’t spend more than 5-10 minutes packing lunches every evening – promise. I just can’t! I don’t have the time for it. What I do have the time for is making dinners that stretch into lunch and spending an hour in the kitchen over the weekend making things that will stretch into the week.
I hope to see some of these over on Instagram in the coming weeks – give me a tag so I can see your creations!
The Pizza Day Lunch!
Whether it’s the cafeteria pizza day, or a just the end of the week that needs to be celebrated in a fun way, using leftover pizza is the perfect way to enjoy a fun pizza day lunch! Simply plan to make pizza night dinner one night, and double it up so there is sure to be leftovers! I always serve a big salad and some fruit with our pizza nights at home so that everyone fills up on the other stuff too which helps with having some leftovers!
- Leftover GF pizza (Try this GF crust or these thin crust pizzas!)
- Salad with homemade dressing (Try any of these 5 quick popular salad dressings, or this Caesar dressing which is surprisingly a huge kid favorite!)
- Fruit & Nut bites (you can make your own fruit & nut bites, make homemade Larabars, or use store bought Larabars!)
The Comforting Chicken Noodle Soup Lunch!
There is simply nothing like a warm bowl of chicken noodle soup on a cool fall day, or those chilly winter afternoons! Warm those kiddo’s bellies up with comforting chicken noodle soup from home! Plan a big pot for dinner one night and pack up the leftovers right into the thermos! Easy peasy! A fatty, satiating side like avocado rounds out the meal and cinnamon apples are just fun! The cinnamon keeps the apples from browning too!
- Homemade GF Chicken Noodle Soup (pictured is this thermos – I love the wide mouth for these kind of soups – just like a bowl! You can read more about how to keep food warm in thermoses in this post.)
- Avocado (wrap the flesh up in plastic wrap or rub it with lemon juice to keep it from browning!)
- Apples with cinnamon (or other seasonal fruit you have on hand!)
The Hummus Dipper Lunch!
I don’t think I’ve met a kid that doesn’t love to *dip*! Hummus is a pretty typical kid friendly dipping side and gives a little variety to lunchtime! Whether you like to use crackers, tortilla chips, or crisped up rice tortillas like I have pictured here, it is perfect for little hands rounded out with fresh veggies and fruit, as well as a hard boiled egg for protein and brain nourishing fat. (Hard boiled egg prep tip! I hard boil 1 dozen eggs every Sunday to keep in the fridge for quick lunchbox addtions!)
I’m even giving you a little permission to cut your time in half and use some store bought hummus if you don’t have time to make it. I love to make hummus, but I rely our Costco organic hummus a lot. Just be very sure to check the ingredient list to avoid junky oils or additives.
- Rice tortilla “chips” with hummus (crackers, tortilla chips, etc would work too!)
- Sugar peas and tomatoes (or whatever fresh veggies you have on hand!)
- Hard boiled egg
- Oranges (or whatever fresh fruit you have on hand!)
The Classic Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Lunch!
It doesn’t get any better than this! We all grew up on this classic lunchtime staple and I love packing these memories for my kids! The fresh tomato soup is such an easy recipe – you can make it to enjoy over the weekend and pack the rest away in the thermos for a school day during the week! My kids will eat the grilled cheese cold and I think if you get that bread done up right with a generous helping of butter and cheese, just about any kid would happily gobble it up! It takes just minutes to cook in the pan the night before or that morning too. Fresh veggies and dip with a sweet potassium rich date on the side too!
- Fresh tomato soup (pictured here is this thermos – I pack a short, stainless steel smoothie straw to drink it easily!)
- GF grilled cheese
- Bell peppers & sugar peas with 5 minute Ranch to dip (or other fresh veggies you have on hand!)
The Loaded Salad Lunch!
Think of your favorite cobb salad or salad bar pile-ons! Sure fresh chopped veggies are nice too, but add in some chopped nuts, eggs, seeds, and raisins too! A kid friendly dressing like homemade Ranch, Thousand Island, or French is not only loaded with brain nourishing fat, it makes it taste even better! Make some breakfast cookies, granola bars, or energy bars on the weekend in a doubled up fashion so you can keep them in the freezer for quick lunch additions too! This lunch truly takes just minutes to make!
- Salad with carrots, hard boiled egg, and Thousand Island dressing (Check out these 5 kid friendly popular brand name salad dressings! 5 minutes to stir up in the jar! Promise!)
- Protein rich Cinnamon Apple Breakfast Cookie (These are some great freezer cookies: The ultimate breakfast cookie, molasses protein breakfast cookie, lemon breakfast cookies, banana protein muffins, energy bars
- Grapes (or whatever fruit you have on hand!)
The Fiesta Lunch!
Who doesn’t love a good Taco Tuesday?! In my house any day of the week is good enough for a fiesta, so this is a popular lunchbox with my kids! Have a taco night and make a load of guacamole so there is enough to pack up in the condiment containers for the next day! Pictured here I crisped up some rice tortillas to make chips for the guac, but you could use tortilla chips or crackers too! Guacamole is a great brain nourishing fat as is the olives! 15 minute Chicken Tortilla soup goes well with this lunch (really any soup for that matter is fine!).
And again, there are some great store bought guacs out there if you just don’t have the time for making it. Avocados are extremely expensive at times where I live, so I do rely on certain guacamoles at Costco here and there – take a look around and please be sure you are checking ingredient labels – some of those brands get sneaky with their preservatives, junky oils, or other additions!
- Rice “tortilla chips” with guacamole (crackers or tortilla chips work too! Just watch the ingredient labels!)
- 15 minute chicken tortilla soup (picture here is this thermos)
- Pear (or other seasonal fresh fruit!)