Spice up School Lunches

I don’t know if you’re like me, but it seems like after a few weeks of school, I am out of ideas for my kids’ school lunches. I can’t seem to think of anything besides PB and J and they’re sick of it by now. So, I’ve drummed up some new ideas which, so far, seem to be a hit. And, with such a variety of yummy dishes in their lunch, they no longer complain about the occasional traditional PB and J. Here are my top ten. Feel free to add.

1. Dip Day-My kids love to dip things…ANYTHING. Literally. My 8-year old doesn’t care what he’s eating as long as he’s dipping it in something. Which is what gave me the idea of Dip Day. One day a week is dip day. Veggies in Ranch, Chips in Salsa, Pitas in Hummus, Fruit in Carmel or Yogurt, Grilled Chicken Tenders in Honey Mustard Sauce, Crackers in a soft cheese, carrots and celery sticks in Peanut Butter (yes, I said carrots in Peanut Butter…try it. It really is good).

2. Cracker Sandwiches. My kids love cracker sandwiches. Go figure. They don’t really love ham, turkey or cheese on bread, but cut it up into little pieces and serve it with Ritz crackers and they think they’re in heaven. I send cut up pieces of each in separate bags and let them create their own sandwiches.

3. Roll-ups or Pinwheels. Ditch the bread. Instead lay out a flour tortilla. Spread with a thin layer of cream cheese or hummus. Place ham, turkey, cheese, lettuce, etc. on top and roll. Either leave as a roll or cut into circles for pinwheels.

4. Hot Day-I’m not sure if all schools are like this, but ours allows access to an microwave for kids in 3rd grade and above. For these kiddos, I send leftover hot food like pizza, grilled chicken, spaghetti….whatever they love from the night before.

5. Incredible Sides. I used to think that somehow a sandwich had to make it into the lunch to make it a complete meal. But, then I realized, it just needs to be balanced, with protein, fruits, veggies, carbs and dairy. With that I have one day that’s just amazing sides. I start with trail mix with mixed nuts and dried fruits. Add a yogurt, some veggie sticks, and a piece of fruit, and I’m set. They like having lots of choices and they fill up quickly.

6. Kabobs-Thread chunks of ham, chicken or turkey, cheese, fruit or cherry tomatoes on a skewer. The kids are bound to have fun threading them off. Why is that the more they get to touch their food the more they love it?

7. Pitas-As far as I’m concerned, Pitas are like suitcases. You just stuff them as full as you can with whatever you’ve got. Somehow, because they are pitas, they love them. I’ve done pepperoni, cheese and pizza sauce (especially if they can heat it up), deli meat, cheese, lettuce and tomato, rice, beans, cheese and salsa, taco meat and toppings. It’s the perfect way to get creative.

8. Bagels-Instead of bread for club sandwiches, go for bagels or bagel thins. Or just send bagels and cream cheese.

9. Spice Up the PB and J– Admittedly, we still eat a lot of PB and J, but the kids like it a lot more if it’s not on the traditional bread. Instead, spread it on graham crackers for a special treat. Or, a rice cake for a healthier alternative that kids LOVE! (It’s my kids’ personal favorite).

10. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s variety. Have a bunch of things on hand so every day is something new: nuts, chips, crackers, cheeses, fruits, muffins, granola bars, dried fruit, veggies, yogurts. Grab new sides and mains each day and they’re bound to love it.

Add a few jokes or notes to the lunchbox, and you’ll be supermom in their eyes. Check out Kerri’s post for some great ideas and a free printable.

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About Janae

Hello from Colorful Colorado! My name is Janae and I live at the edge of the beautiful Rockies with my six kids and wonderful husband. We’re a busy family who loves to work together, learn together, and most of all, play together. Like a post? Please comment.
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4 Responses to Spice up School Lunches

  1. PB&J Queen says:

    Thank you – thank you – thank you! Every year I think, I have GOT to go googling for some lunch ideas. Now I have a whole bunch of them all in one place!!!

  2. Janae says:

    Great ideas, Kerri! thanks!

  3. Kerri says:

    GREAT ideas Janae! And I totally feel that lunch-blase’ coming on. Some other ideas to add to the pot:
    1) Freeze smoothies in freezable mason jars. By lunch time, it has thawed enough to drink.
    2) Nutella (hazelnut butter and cocoa, no added sugar) & Banana sandwiches is another variation on the sandwich theme
    3) Ham & Cheese rolls ups — cut a strip of cheese (1/2 thick or so) and wrap it up in a deli slice of ham, turkey, whatever. Ditching the bread.
    4) Fruit Kabobs
    5) French Toast Bites (just your normal french toast you had for breakfast last week, that you froze, and now cut up into strips or quarters or whatever will fit in your lunch container). Can dip in syrup, jam, fruit puree, whatever.

    And make life easy and freeze leftovers or sandwiches ahead of time. When lunch packing time comes at our house, I go to my freezer and pick out a sandwich I’ve already assembled, or a leftover item that would be fine eaten cold (no microwave for our school). Same for those occasional dessert treats I send in his lunch (yes, occasional…don’t want to wipe him out by the afternoon on a sugar-drop): When we have cookies, cakes, whatever, I freeze the leftovers (or the would-be leftovers if I had enough self control) individually so I can pull them out and add when needed.

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