I’m always on the lookout for ideas when it comes to what to pack in my daughter’s lunch each day. I shared an earlier post with 15 ideas for you and now I’m back to share Round 2! Here are 15 more Real Food School Lunchbox Ideas…with a total of 37 actual lunchbox pictures! Yep, I counted them all. 🙂
I always like to note with these lunch posts that I know all kids eat varying amounts at lunch time. I would give my daughter more, but when I do, she comes back home with extra food saying she didn’t have enough time to eat it. I think it’s because she’s talking to her friends too much (and she readily agrees with this…), but I’ve mostly learned how much is the right amount to send with her each day. I try to send a variety of foods so she’s eating well-balanced lunches, but I know that’s not always the case. I do my best to serve my kids foods from all the food groups throughout each day, but I’m not going to send veggies in her lunchbox that I know she doesn’t like. I like to save that drama for dinnertime. 😉
I also want to note: In my first post, I said that I was going to have my daughter pack her lunch every day. Well, that didn’t last very long… Oops! 🙂 I wanted to stick with it, but it was so much easier to do it myself and most of the time there was so much produce washing/cutting and things that were still just a little above her skill level (she’s only in Kindergarten), so I ended up taking over most of the time. And now I pretty much do it exclusively. In fact, she used to want to give me input…and now she almost always asks for me to ‘surprise her.’ 🙂
So, here they are, my round up of 15 MORE Real Food School Lunchbox Ideas:
- I figured I might as well start with sandwiches since those are always an easy option. I use homemade bread and buns for mine, that way I can control the ingredients. For sandwiches, peanut butter or almond butter with homemade jam or honey always goes over well. Or you can use lunch meat. Just try to find a good quality brand that doesn’t contain artificial ingredients (or is raised with antibiotics). I like to buy Applegate when I can, but I also like Simple Truth from Kroger. I try to fill the remaining spots with whatever veggies and fruits I have in the house that morning.
- Yogurt is a great source of protein and calcium. I often send in Greek yogurt that I mix with a little maple syrup. Sometimes I’ll sprinkle on a little cinnamon or add frozen blueberries. She also likes it when I send in homemade granola that she can mix in herself. (If you mix it in early, it will get soggy.)
- You can also send in cottage cheese! This time I included a half sandwich, as well, but I don’t always. (If I remember correctly, this was too much food for her to eat in the allowed time, anyway.)
- Leftover homemade pizza always goes over well. She happily eats it cold, but you could always heat it up and put it in a thermos, as another option.
- Speaking of leftovers, any type of pasta is always a BIG hit. In this picture (from left to right), we have angel hair pasta with sauce, lasagna, baked pasta, and macaroni & cheese. I always buy organic pasta and sauces (if I’m not using homemade).
- You can also send in leftover meatballs! This picture is of my taco bites with some organic tortilla chips, but you could also send leftover regular meatballs.
- One other hot lunch idea is soup. This is potato soup from the 100 Days of Real Food cookbook, but you could send any other type that your child likes, as well. (Like my broccoli chowder, tomato soup, taco soup, or chicken noodle soup.)
- Here are more leftovers ideas that my daughter goes crazy over (in a good way! ha): chicken & beans taco filling with organic tortilla chips, chili with dehydrated apple rings, breakfast casserole (made with sausage and spinach), and brown rice reheated with a little butter and shredded cheese.
- Whole wheat muffins that are pulled out of the freezer make for an easy lunch to throw together at the last minute. Add some fruit, veggies, and protein (Babyel cheese, in this case) and you have a well-balanced lunch!
- This is what I send when we don’t have bread, lunch meat, or leftovers…a granola bar! We don’t buy a lot of granola bars because it’s hard to find them with only ‘real’ ingredients, but occasionally I like to have some in the house for times like this (or for when we travel). The first and last are the Bear Naked brand (that I can’t find anywhere locally anymore) and the middle picture is an organic Cascadian Farms bar from Costco (but it falls apart SO easily). I have a few recipes for homemade granola bars, but I always forget to make them until it’s too late!
- This is an easy lunch that my daughter really enjoys, but I don’t buy crackers very often. These are organic crackers from Earth Fare. Better than regular Ritz crackers, but still not totally real, so they remain a ‘treat.’ Anyway, this is simple lunch of cheese and crackers, half an apple, cucumbers, and a square of dark chocolate. This is probably one of her favorite lunch combos. I don’t blame her…who doesn’t love cheese and crackers?? 🙂
- And if you can’t tell by this picture, a common lunch (because of the ease of throwing this together at the last minute): turkey or ham roll-ups with cheese, veggies, and fruit! Like I said before, it’s important to buy good quality lunch meat that isn’t raised with antibiotics or coated in artificial preservatives. Even though I buy better quality brands, I still try not to pack lunch meat more than a couple of times per week.
- And speaking of roll-ups, whenever I get a chance to go to Whole Foods (which is NOT very often), I like to buy their whole wheat organic tortillas to make peanut butter wraps for lunches. My kids love these, but I think it’s been several months since we’ve had ANY in the house. One of my biggest struggles since switching to real food has been finding good quality tortillas. Sure, I can make them, but it’s a lot of work and it’s hard to make enough at one time…because we’ll usually eat them two nights in a row for dinner. If you have a Whole Foods by you and have access to these whole wheat tortillas, consider yourself lucky! 🙂
- I also love to send in hardboiled eggs with some fruits and veggies. This lunch included some pretzels, which were leftover from her birthday party…not something we buy often, so they were definitely a treat in her lunchbox!
- And, finally, I was really proud of my daughter for this lunch. I made sausage stuffed mushrooms for dinner a while back, which she LOVES. She really wanted to take them for lunch the next day, but I wasn’t so sure if that was a good idea. She still wanted to take them, anyway, and said she would eat them cold…so I sent them in with some leftover air-popped popcorn (cucumbers and blackberries). When she came home, she told me her friends said “Ewww, gross!!” when she showed them her lunch, but she told them how good they really were and ate them anyway! Love that she stood her ground on that and didn’t let peer pressure sway her. I hope that continues for a long, long time!!
I try to send in as much organic produce (and other items) that I can, but it’s not always feasible based on the time of year and our budget constraints. Typically, I do my best to buy organic when it comes to the dirty dozen, but that doesn’t always happen either. I just try to do my best and not stress over it too much at the end of the day. You may also notice I send a bit of chocolate in quite a few of her lunches. We don’t eat chocolate after lunch at home, but I know that many of her friends are getting ‘treats’ in their lunchboxes (at least from what she tells me…), so I feel like this helps her not feel like she’s missing out as much. I don’t send it every day, but since it’s such a small amount, I’m totally okay with it.
I shared these links in my original post, but here is all the lunchbox gear we use on a regular basis:
PlanetBox Rover Lunchbox – I love this lunchbox! It’s more expensive than many others, but it’s so convenient for her to have a lunch box that only requires one open. The compartments provide the motivation/inspiration I need to keep my daughter’s lunches filled with a variety of different foods. Also, I especially love that it’s not plastic so there is no fear of any chemicals potentially leaching into the foods. It’s dishwasher safe, but I typically only put it in the dishwasher on the weekends. Otherwise, I just give it a quick wash in some soapy water and let it air dry. You can buy these directly from PlanetBox (for more color options!) or on Amazon.
Thermos Ice Mat, 9 cube – This fits perfectly into the above lunchbox case. I bought two so that we’d always have one frozen, but one is probably enough.
Thermos FUNtainer Bottle, 12 oz – She now has two of these so she can rotate them and also have a backup for when we go somewhere else and need a clean one. We’ve both been very happy with them and I really like that they don’t sweat in her lunch box, stay cold for hours, and she isn’t drinking from a plastic bottle. (We also bought two each for our twin boys. So, yes, we have 6 of these in our house right now…Hello Kitty, Frozen, Ninja Turtles, Transformers, Toy Story, and Planes…whew!!)
Thermos FUNtainer Food Jar – This was something I purchased after school started and it’s been SO loved by both of us. She loves that she can take a hot lunch on occasion for something different and I love that I can send leftovers on occasion! 🙂 I bought the Hello Kitty Thermos at Target, but I would have preferred a plain colored one like the one below.
And, finally, I wanted to share that my daughter has been asking A LOT more frequently lately if she can buy school lunch since “everyone else” does and “it’s not fair!!” (Though, she goes on to tell me that so-and-so packs raisins in his lunch every day…). 🙂 Anyway, I finally decided to allow it on occasion… Sure, I’m not crazy about it. I know the food quality at school is not the same quality that we eat at home. However, many of you know that we don’t eat 100% real food all the time and, especially when we go out to eat or travel, we often let the kids eat regular ‘kid foods’ filled with dyes and other artificial ingredients. So, why would I never let her eat a school lunch?? So…we came to an agreement: she will be allowed to buy her lunch once a month. She can pick out which school lunch sounds best to her for each month remaining in the school year. She’s done this three times now since the beginning of January, but my plan for next year will be to put enough money into her lunch account for one school meal per month. She can then choose to spend that money as quickly or as slowly as she wants. I’m hoping she’ll budget wisely….but if she chooses to buy 10 times in the first 3 months, then she’ll be out of luck for the rest of the year. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes when we get to that point… 😉
I hope you found some ideas in this post that you can use in your own kids’ lunchboxes! What is your kids’ favorite packed lunch? I’m all ears for new ideas! It’s going to get very interesting when I have to start packing three lunches at one time…but I still have over a full year before that happens, so no need to think about it now. 😉