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Beyond PB&J: 10 Easy and Fun School Lunch Ideas

school children gathered for lunch eating sandwiches, finger foods, and more
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

We understand the importance of providing your kiddos healthy food, but we also know you don’t have time to carve animal faces out of your kid’s fruit. Here are 10 easy school lunch ideas to start trying this week!

It’s That Time of Year Again

It’s officially that time of year again. School is in session and busy days blend into busy nights, and eventually, the sun is up, and you’re at it again. Get the kids dressed, put breakfast on the table, load up the backpacks, and of course, don’t forget the school lunches. The chaos never ends!

Maybe we can help with some easy lunches that you can streamline right into your morning routine. We gathered a list of 10 easy lunch options you can make the evening before. Have those lunch boxes prepacked, so all you have to do is maybe a quick microwave nuke in the morning and then grab and go. Here’s what we’ve got for you.

Mini Fruit Pancakes with a Side of Maple Syrup

What’s great, is you can make these weeks in advance and freeze them till you’re ready to use them. Purchase your favorite pancake mix made with whole grains and prepare a batch of batter. If you’re looking for a nutritional boost that kids won’t even notice, we can’t recommend Kodiak Cakes batter mix enough—the pancake and waffle mix starts with 14g of protein per serving and boosts up to 21g if you mix it with milk instead of water and add an egg.

High Protein Pancakes

Kodiak Cakes Protein Pancake Power Cakes, Flapjack and Waffle Baking Mix, 20 Buttermilk 60 Ounce (Pack of 3)

Kids love pancakes and waffles, and you'll love that you're sneaking some extra protein into their diets.

Pour enough batter to make mini pancakes that can be eaten with hands and easily dunked into a side of maple syrup. Don’t forget to add strawberries, blueberries, or a few slices of bananas. Your kids will love this tasty treat.

Cheese Quesadillas with a Side of Salsa

Packed lunch with cheese quesadilla, mixed berries, an apple and a banana
Emilee Unterkoefler / LifeSavvy

Cheese quesadillas are among one of the most effortless lunches you can make for your little ones. Turn your stove to medium heat, and place an eight-inch flour tortilla on a warm skillet. Add cheese to the tortilla, and warm until the cheese begins to melt.

Fold the tortilla in half. Once it’s browned on both sides, take a pizza cutter to slice into strips and provide a side of salsa, or guacamole depending on your child’s preference. You can make these the night before, and they taste great cold.

Deli Meat Roll-Ups with Wheat Crackers

Kids love deli roll-ups and depending on whether they prefer turkey or ham will determine what your roll-up consists of. Roll the deli meat and cheese up. Then, slice them into bite-size pieces. Serve this with whole-grain or wheat crackers, and you’ve got yourself a homemade and healthier version of a Lunchable—minus the markup and the shockingly high sodium content.

Rotini with Red Sauce

If your kids love pasta with sauce, then why not pack it for lunch? If that’s what you’re making for dinner one evening, set a little bit aside and warm it up the morning after. Place it in a thermos, and it will stay warm enough for your little one to eat during lunchtime.

Thermos Funtainer

A thermos is good for more than just drinks.

Grilled Cheese Bites

Grilled Cheese bites with cheese and crackers, and a fruit yogurt bowl.
Emilee Unterkoefler / LifeSavvy

Make a few grilled cheese sandwiches for the kids, and slice them into strips once they’ve cooled enough. Pack these in a Tupperware container with a side of ketchup for dipping.

For older kids or more adventurous diners, you can try different breads and cheeses for a wide variety of flavors.

Ovente Electric Sandwich Maker with Non-Stick Plates

Yes, there is such a thing as a grilled cheese maker.

Veggies with Ranch or Hummus

Whoever said a proper lunch had to be a sandwich with a bag of chips? If you’ve got carrots, celery, and cucumbers on hand, create a fresh platter and serve it with hummus or a side of ranch. Not only is this super healthy, but with plenty of fruit and other snacks to go with it, your little one’s tummy will be full and happy.

Hamilton Beach Food Processor & Vegetable Chopper

Make your own hummus with a food processor.

A Colorful Fruit Salad or Yogurt Parfait

Giving your child a big beautiful fruit salad for lunch is super nutritious and oh so yummy.

Fill a Tupperware container with grapes, banana slices, mixed berries, and even watermelon if it’s in season and at a reasonable price. If your son or daughter also loves yogurt, add a container with their favorite flavor and a little granola on the side. Fruit parfaits are the best.

8 oz Mason Jars

If your kids are old enough to remove the lids, mason jars make great containers.

Mac N Cheese in a Thermos

We all know Macaroni and cheese is a big favorite for kids, so why not pack that up for lunch. If that’s what you’re cooking for dinner, then warm up and pack the leftovers in a thermos the following day. Even the teachers might get jealous of that one.

Bentgo Stainless Insulated Food Container

No cheesy leaks with this insulated food container.

Whole Grain English Muffin Pizza

English muffin pizza with green beans and a banana
Emilee Unterkoefler / LifeSavvy

English muffin pizzas are super easy to put together. Just cut open a few English muffins and place them on a cookie sheet, then spread a bit of pizza sauce on and sprinkle them with cheese.

Pop them into the oven at about 375 degrees for around 10 minutes, and you’ve got yourself a simple yet delicious school lunch. As long as your child doesn’t mind eating them a little cold, you’re golden.

Nordic Ware Natural Aluminum Commercial Baker's Half Sheet

A baking sheet is your only requirement for this meal.

Mini Whole Grain Bagel with Cream Cheese

Next time you’re at the supermarket, grab some healthy bagels, and your child’s favorite cream cheese. Whether that’s strawberry, veggie, or plain, slap some on the bottom half and place the top back on your bagel. Wrap it up and go. It’s that simple.

Hoan The Original Bagel Guillotine Universal Slicer

Make slicing those bagels so much easier.

Sandwiches are an old standby for good reason, but a little variety is nice. With these simple recipes on hand, you’ll be able to spice up your child’s lunches with minimal effort.

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »
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