School lunchbox ideas

Packing kids lunches can either be a struggle or a simple fact of life.

I want my kids to eat healthy meals and I don’t want it to be a big challenge for any of us, so I let them have some (measured) freedom in making lunch choices.

First we look at the lunch calendar ahead and pick the days to buy their favorites. Then we plan the pack days, by me asking asking for their general ideas first, then referring to this list and then planning the main item for each day together. I write down their decisions on the calendar so there aren’t any surprises (except the occasional treat I might pack, or a love or joke note from me) and then we are good to go until it is time to pack.

So what do we pack?

I typically pack a sandwich, kabob or roll-up with a crunchy snack-like side item, fruit and a drink.

(They pick and pack the fruit as I pack the rest. Sure, they could pack their own lunches, but I want to pack them for them at this age.)

Here’s our basic go-to list:

Kabob (use toothpicks or small skewers)

Hawaiian: Ham, pineapple, Canadian bacon

Meat and Cheese: Chicken, turkey or ham cubes alternating with different types of cheese

Fruit: strawberries, grapes, cantaloupe, pineapple, melon (whatever is fresh!!)

Add something sweet to the fruit: mini marshmallows, angel food cake, banana bread squares

Sandwich kabobs: make a favorite sandwich, slice it into quarters and put on skewers or toothpicks for a new twist

Depending on your kabob, consider adding a dipping sauce in a small container: peanut butter w/ a touch of apple sauce, honey and cinnamon, ranch dressing, yogurt, barbecue sauce.


Sandwich guts/ interior ideas:

Leftover barbecue chicken or pork

Chicken salad with grapes

Turkey, ham, roast beef (with or without cheese)

Melted cheese

Tomato sauce and sliced meatballs

Peanut, cashew or almond butter and thinly sliced apples or bananas (or both) with a touch of honey

Peanut, cashew or almond butter and jelly

  • Add berries or bananas
  • Add honey
  • Add granola


Sandwich exterior ideas other than ‘regular’ bread when we need a change:


Pita pocket

2 slices of bread flattened with a rolling pin, stuffed, rolled and sliced like sushi

Tortilla (rolled or toasted on the stove like a quesadilla)

Bagel or mini bagel

English muffin

Hot dog bun


Ham, turkey or chicken around a cheese stick

Ham, turkey or chicken rolled up & stuck with a toothpick

I keep this list handy and know my kids will eat from it, but I don’t make any effort toward rotating through the whole thing. Often we’ll go for weeks with the same 3 lunch items. And I think that is okay. Like I said, I try to keep lunch simple and enjoyable… and if all they want is something simple day after day, as long as it meets my nutrition requirements,  I joyfully give it to them.

I also try to get my kids involved in cooking in the kitchen as well as planning. Here’s a link to a post on our guest chef night where you can see another way I get them involved.

Hope this helps you in planning and packing your own lunches. Please share any ideas that your family enjoys. I’m always looking for something new and fun!

This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesday and Ultimate Recipe Swap.

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  1. says

    Thank you so much for this list! We started our homeschool this week and I quickly realized that if I don’t plan and pre-make some of our lunches then the day doesn’t go very smoothly. I love the kabob idea and also the flattened out bread for the sushi like roll. Can’t wait to try those!

  2. says

    What a fantab list! I am going to be linking to this in my next post about lunchbox love!! I have similar ideas but not as good as yours! Now following and look forward to more great info!

  3. Adrienne says

    these are great ideas, even for those of us who don’t have kids in school yet. my lunches needed some fresh ideas. thanks :)

  4. says

    Great list! Just in time for me. My son’s class is a nut-free zone due to allergies, and I needed some new ideas.

    I love the kabob idea. Do you think toothpicks would be a problem for a three year old? I wish I could find some small skewers with a more blunted tip…

  5. Catherine says

    Great list! Sometimes I think we go overboard with the choices. I was perfectly happy having the same lunch for 3-6 months straight when I was a kid. Baloney sandwich, pretzels, fruit and pudding. YUM!

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