Back to School Lunch Ideas

 Lunch Ideas
So, I did a post this morning where I shared pics of me from middle school (have mercy), so I thought we could share lunchbox ideas over here!
Kensington is my child who likes the same thing in her lunch every single day…but Smith and Ashby want variety (which can be hard!).  Last year, Smith told me he “wanted a hot lunch every day in his lunchbox”.  So…I tried really hard to do that on most days, but let’s be honest, by the time lunch actually rolled around, I’m pretty sure he was eating a cold lunch despite the insulated containers.  Mostly for Smith, I packed any kind of pasta recipe, tortilla roll-ups, tacos, leftover pizza…a random assortment with sandwiches thrown in here and there.  I’ve been pinning away lunch ideas on my Back to School Board…but I’d love yours too!
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You can see my board HERE.
Here are some of my go to ideas, but I would love to hear yours!!  Please comment below and share your favorite lunchbox idea.  I want my kiddos to be excited when they open up their lunch this school year :).
Instead of using bread, I’ll make my Ham & Cheese Biscuit Sliders.  The only thing I change when packing this for school is that I omit the honey drizzle.
Smith loooooves pepperoni!  My Tortellini Pasta Salad has lots of pepperoni tucked inside, so it’s a great little lunch.  I always pack a disposable fork but I guarantee you, my kid eats this with his fingers :).
Pizza Pasta Salad
Speaking of pepperoni…my Pizza Pasta Salad is a good go-to as well!
Pizza Boats
Now, Pizza Boats are my mother-in-law’s recipe and always a HUGE hit wrapped in a lunch box!
Sarah's Pinwheels
Now, I personally would love these pinwheels in my lunch box.  I could eat a dozen of these at one time!
Chicken Wrap
And Smith calls anything in a wrap a taco…so he would call these chicken tacos, I call them Chicken Wraps…either way, they’re easy to throw in a lunchbox.
And our Peanut Butter Rice Krispies Treats are the favorite lunchbox dessert around here.  I don’t make them all the time, but when I do, they’re special inside their boxes.
Ultimate Brownies
And if you really, really, really wanted to indulge them on occasion, my Ultimate Brownies simply can’t be beat!
A few other things I do:
1. I write notes on their napkins every single day (and draw a few little pictures too!).
2. I pop popcorn for a little crunch.
3. I cut out shapes in their sandwiches that correspond to the season (hearts for Valentine’s Day, pumpkins for Halloween, trees for Christmas, etc).
4. I let them make their own trail mix blend on the bulk nut aisle of our grocery store and then we bag it up for their snack at school (they like that they have their own special blend).
5. I sometimes use Nutella or vanilla almond butter for a little change on their sandwich.
Okay…what are some of your ideas???  Please comment below and share your favorite lunchbox ideas!  I want to be a little more creative this school year.

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  • Suzanne August 9, 2016 at 5:19 am

    Great ideas! Schools in Australia are pretty much nut free to cater for those with allergies. Is that a common thing in the US?

  • jamie August 9, 2016 at 5:50 am

    ummmmm have them make their own trail mix from the bulk section that is GENIUS. my son will be 13 in november. he still likes his sandwiches cut with a heart cookie cutter and i am perfectly okay with that! i’m excited to go look at your school lunch boards. zach always gets compliments from teachers/lunch room staff because he has the best lunches!

  • Nicole virgilio August 9, 2016 at 6:13 am

    Hi shay! Love these ideas! How would you keep smith’s lunch insulated? What did you buy? Thank you. 🙂

  • Laura Fredlund August 9, 2016 at 6:41 am

    I try so hard to give my kids variety! Usually its sandwiches or wraps, with some kind of chip, popcorn or crackers, and fresh fruit. You might already do this, but when you use a thermos, put boiling water inside of it first for a few minutes, THEN dump it out and put your hot food in there. It stays hot longer 🙂 My kids love homemade chicken noodle soup in it with a roll on the side and a treat, OR spaghettios lol. I was thinking of even putting a hotdog in the thermos with a bun and ketchup packet on the side. Another favorite of theirs is homemade lunchables. A few ritz crackers, sliced cheddar cheese, and pepperoni or farmland ham steaks cut with a circular cookie cutter.

  • Jill August 9, 2016 at 6:44 am

    Where we live you have to be nut free in any lunch/snack/treat you send into the school. It really puts a damper on making a classic PB & J! Lots of great ideas with the wraps and pasta salad, thanks!

    • Shauna August 9, 2016 at 8:37 am

      We do sunflower butter and jelly!

  • Kristen W August 9, 2016 at 6:48 am

    I do the notes in the lunchbox too!! I have 1 kiddo with food allergies, 1 kiddo who is extra picky and 1 kiddo that has to take her lunch in a paper bag (per preschool rules) so it’s challenging at our household with school lunches. Looking to get some ideas !!

  • Narci August 9, 2016 at 6:55 am

    Great ideas!! That pasta salad looks delicious! My kids would love any of these in their lunchbox!

  • Jess August 9, 2016 at 7:14 am

    What kind of lunch box and utensils do you use? Or will you be doing a post about back to school year? Thanks for the lunch ideas!

  • Jessica August 9, 2016 at 7:28 am

    My son is currently 13 months old. However, when I read your blogs, I always say to myself, “I hope I can be this kind of mom for my son!” I love the idea of their own trail mix! I also L O V E the idea of a note in their lunch every day! Such a special little touch! ????

  • Leslie August 9, 2016 at 8:11 am

    So I’m a teacher and let me tell you how much special lunch treats (a note, their fave snack) means to these kiddos. Such a sweet thing for them. Love the tortellini salad recipe!

  • Lisa August 9, 2016 at 8:14 am

    I head to the bagel store on the weekend. I slice each bagel and then freeze each one in a sandwich bag. The night before I take out a bagel for each kid, then the next morning they are fresh and ready for cream cheese. My youngest daughter ate one every single day. They are filling with a side of fruit and a crunchy snack.

  • Allie August 9, 2016 at 8:17 am

    Using Hawaiian sweet rolls, slice the tops off of a 12 pack of rolls. Mayo, mustard, cheese, and lunch meat. Or whatever u like on a sandwich! Place the tops back on. Cut the sandwiches as rolls. Then u have finger sandwiches and it makes several for each kiddo!

  • Sarah August 9, 2016 at 8:25 am

    I buy napkins in the party section so they change all the time. At holidays I use holiday ones. My kids love it! My oldest loves when I put taco meat in a thermos and then a bag of chips on the side to dip. My other daughter likes homemade lunchables (divided container with salami or pepperoni, cheese, crackers). Thanks for your ideas! It’s fun to mix it up!

  • Shauna August 9, 2016 at 8:34 am

    My son’s school is nut free, but he is gluten free, which makes school lunch packing a little tricky. But to those above who asked about nut free schools, I use sunflower butter. It doesn’t taste exactly like peanut butter, but with jelly on top he doesn’t mind!

  • Kara August 9, 2016 at 9:08 am

    My oldest starts JK in September, so I’m new to this whole lunch making. I’ll definitely be checking out your board for inspiration. What do you use for containers to put the food in and lunch bags?

  • Ashley August 9, 2016 at 9:22 am

    I don’t have kiddos yet, but I’ve made SO many of these recipes for myself! I especially love the tortellini pasta salad! My dad always wrote me notes on my napkin in my lunch and I loved it 🙂

  • Jennifer Jackson August 9, 2016 at 9:28 am

    Being a teacher, I’ve seen some really neat things for lunch. I know that if you put boiling water into a thermos then pour it out and dry it before adding food, it will keep everything warm-er until lunch time. You could add chicken nuggets, a burrito, queso or beans then send chips, or you could send whole wheat pasta with sauce. I also like the idea of the little bento boxes where the kids have a lot of variety and this makes it easy to include healthier options like fruits and veggies, hummus or other dips, little finger sandwiches, pretzels or trail mix.

  • Kaci August 9, 2016 at 9:48 am

    I love your meal planning Monday. Could you possibly do a meal planning Monday for school lunches? Maybe even every other week? Mine will just be starting Pre-K so packing a lunch will be completely new to me!

    • Nikki August 16, 2016 at 10:37 am

      I love this idea ????

  • Alice H August 9, 2016 at 9:49 am

    My 6 year old likes Chicken Caesar Salad wraps, so I do the items separately so it doesn’t get soggy and he puts it together at lunch. He also likes pizza muffins, DIY lunchables, tacos/burritos/quesadillas/nachos, and breakfast muffins with fruit and turkey. This year I am going to make pizza muffins and see what he thinks about those. Thank you for your ideas. I am going to do the popcorn for him because he LOVES popcorn!

  • Stacy August 9, 2016 at 9:55 am

    I would also like to know what you use to keep things hot. i have a small thermos I send for soups, but that’s it. Thanks!

  • Grace August 9, 2016 at 11:00 am

    Hi Shay, for keeping food warm I would try HydroFlask! They are a bit pricier, but SO worth it! I’ve kept ice in there for 2 days, and it’s kept things hot for HOURs! I’m sure it would have no problem keeping smiths food warm. Have a great day! ????

  • Leanne August 9, 2016 at 11:21 am

    Love this! Can I offer some tips from the school side, especially for the younger kiddos? Please pre-peel oranges if your child can’t do it. Teach them how to peel a banana. Don’t send juice boxes if they can’t yet insert the straw on their own. Get an extra pair of child-sized scissors and keep them in their lunchbox for opening any packaging they need help with. Lunchbox sized thermos for all the warm food…fill with very hot water for several minutes, dump out and then add the hot food; put the lid on and it will be warm for their lunch. All these things help with lunchtime independence and your lunchroom staff will be able to focus on bigger needs!

  • Suzanne August 9, 2016 at 11:44 am

    Here’s a great post from a teacher friend. It made packing lunch pretty easy.

  • Christina August 9, 2016 at 12:56 pm

    What type of sandwich would you make with Nutella or almond butter for a little change? Thanks, christina

  • Kelli August 9, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    Thanks for all the great ideas! Loved you this morning on the Hallmark channel. Loved your Lilly dress!

  • Julie August 9, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    My kids LOVE “tiny tacos.” We put taco meat in a thermos (to keep warm) and then do little cups of shredded cheese, lettuce, tomato, whatever your kids like. And then we use the “scoop” tostitos for the taco shells. Easy and everyone likes!

  • Ellie August 9, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    You don’t even cut the tomatoes in half for that pizza pasta salad??

  • Allison West August 9, 2016 at 7:18 pm

    I also make quesadillas and send taco soup with chips, chili with crackers, breakfast casserole and a biscuit. Not sure which container you use but I have sistema containers for cold things and I use a thermos I bought on Amazon for hot things. It’s amazing. The insert comes out and can be microwaved so I just pack it when I’m putting up leftovers at night and pop it in the microwave in the morning. Then it clicks into the insulated portion. My sons leftovers are still a little warm after we get home from carpool.

    I blogged about it years back but I’m sure it’s still available–

  • Danielle August 11, 2016 at 5:37 am

    Can you please tell me where you got you “first day of” signs? They are so cute. I have looked but others have too much busy stuff on them all. Thank you! Love reading your blog everyday.