21 answers

How to Put Variety in School Lunches

Good Morning Moms,
I know school is going to be starting for all the kiddo's and I usually make my children's lunches. However, they are burned out on what I make and often times do not like what is offered at the schools. I usually make the FAMOUS P.J. sandwich, turkey or chicken sandwiches. I add a bag a chips (been trying to use the baked chips), carrots, something for the "sweet tooth" and a caffeine free soda, green tea, or bottled water. I have a son in college so he usually grabs a bite on his own. My to other sons (ages 14&17) are the one's who need a change. Any creative suggestions for this age group? I certainly can't make shapes out of the sandwiches, they would think, "what a joke!" LOL! Any how, your suggestion on foods that will still be semi fresh by their lunch break would be greatly appreciated. Blessing to each child as they start the new school year. May they all eat their lunches!!!!!!

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you ladies for all your awesome input. I will take something out of each response and put a great plan together. I look forward to a new school year with brand new ideas that each one of you have shared with me. I also wanted to let all the moms know that YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE! Well, time to go grocery shopping. Blessings to all!

Featured Answers

You have some wonderful suggestion from the other ladies. However, have you heard of the warning against hot dogs. Actually against any kind a processed meat? I seems they have discovered it does do brain damage, especially in children. It was on the news in Dallas this summer.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi C.-

If you buy them each a thermos you can heat up ravioli, soup, stew, etc in the morning and it will still be warm by lunchtime. Dried fruit or trail mix is also a nice treat.

Good Luck,

1 mom found this helpful

More Answers

Here is what I do for my husband...who takes his lunch everyday to save money in our budget. I have a different sandwich of the week...such as roast beef with sharp cheddar and a horseradish dressing, then I send pickles, a piece of fruit, and a drink. The next week I might do ham with swiss cheese and a mustard dressing (hot or Dijon), then a cold cut combo the next week with salami, bologna, and left over ham. Pastrami and provolone cheese with an Italian dressing.

Oh, and I always change up the rolls that I pack the sandwiches on...croissants, sub rolls, rye or pumpernickel rolls.

That way each week is like going to a sandwich shop and getting a gourmet sandwich. I can get all the ingredients for $10 to 12 dollars a week. So for about $2 a day my hubby has a great lunch. Now he will even ask if he can have a certain combo for the week to come.

Hope this helps...{{{{hugs}}}}

3 moms found this helpful

I make chicken salad or tuna salad and send put it on a bed of lettuce or spinach, with carrots, crackers, and fruit. To drink: bottled water with a pack of Emergen-C for flavor, Hi-C juice box, CapriSun juice "pouch". Fried chicken is something doesn't have to be warmed up. Instead of potato chips, they acn eat Wheat Thins or Triscuits, just to add some "mature" variety. Also, those natural sodas from Whole Foods are good, in lots of flavors, too. Raw sweet potatoes or even sweet potato pie is good to add. Also, you can change up the fruits--apples, peach, grapes, strawberries, pear, banana. Sometimes that change can turn the whole lunch around.

It's not easy. Happy "new year" to you!

3 moms found this helpful

My son was picky about lunches too, and after 6-7 years of pbj sandwiches, we found those lunchables. He loved the pizza and taco ones, but now they have mini hot dogs too. They are a healthy balance and can be ate at room temperature without any problems or heated in a microwave if their school offers that in the lunchroom. Also, Tyler Florence on the FoodNetwork has some great creative, healthy school lunch ideas. Good luck :)

2 moms found this helpful

You have some wonderful suggestion from the other ladies. However, have you heard of the warning against hot dogs. Actually against any kind a processed meat? I seems they have discovered it does do brain damage, especially in children. It was on the news in Dallas this summer.

1 mom found this helpful

Maybe I am from old school, but at 14 and 17 I would have them make their own lunchs! Then they can decide what to put in them! Am I alone on this? or do others think that they are old enough to start thinking for themselves? I hope that they clean their own rooms, make their own beds and help out around the house and /or yard. If not then you are setting them up for failure as adults and God bless the poor women that they end up marrying. Sorry, I don't mean to be harsh, but when I read your request I thought it to be a good question until you let out their ages! JUNE CLEAVER is a myth! I'ts important to show our children/teens a glimps of the real world! Boys have to eventually become men!

1 mom found this helpful


Fruit salad (people usually eat more fruit if its cut up.
A little lemon juice keeps apples from turning


Granola bars


Hard boiled eggs

Salad (you can add craisens, candied nuts, sunflower seeds, eggs, cheese, croutons or bacon bits for more appeal) Put dressing in a small container

If they like "wraps" try making their sandwiches with tortilla or flat breads

Cut up raw veggies with ranch dressing

1 mom found this helpful

Hi there...
I give this speech to parents every year in our summer camp program. There are many things you can pack for lunch that will stay good up until they eat it. Children don't need HOT lunches; and most likely would prefer them at room temp or cold depending on the climate they are in.

I pack my boys things like:

baked chicken nuggets, chicken patty sandwich, fish fillet sandwich, hamburger, hotdog ,etc...wrapped in foil. It will not be refrigerator cold when they eat; luke warm rather...so no bothers.

I'll take a glad bowl and put mac and cheese, spaghetti, lasagna, cooked carrot rounds, corn, YOU NAME IT... in it for a side.

AND LEFT OVER PIZZA?... kids love that!!! Don't even warm it in the microwave the next morning... straight from the refrigerator, foil it up and put it in the lunch box. It won't be cold by the time they eat lunch.

As for packing yogurts, gogerts, cheese sticks, pepperoni slices, and things like that... you can preserve and protect them by FREEZING a capri sun or Kool-aid (we keep several frozen in our freezer)and using it as an ice pack w/the foods that need to stay cold.... by the time your child eats lunch, the food is good and the drink has thawed to a point they can drink it! Then they don't have to bring back and forth a heavy ice pack either!!!

As for juices... there are 100% juice packs on the market now.. I would stay away from soda; encourage water bottles, you can refill water bottles w/the crystal light packets or some powder drink packet too.

YOU HAVE A LOT OF GREAT responses here on your page... bottom line I'd have to say... toss out the idea of "typical lunch for kids". Rather think about the USDA pyramid and what a well rounded lunch would be: One serving from the protein group...used to be meat; now protein: meat, egg, cheese, nuts, yogert, etc); two servings from fruit/Veg group; and one serving from the bread group.

Have fun and good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi C.-

If you buy them each a thermos you can heat up ravioli, soup, stew, etc in the morning and it will still be warm by lunchtime. Dried fruit or trail mix is also a nice treat.

Good Luck,

1 mom found this helpful

I actually got this idea from this website a few months ago. Try getting a tortilla or spinach wrap, spread some cream cheese on it and add some turkey. My three year old and one year old love it. Instead of potato chips, I give them Chex mix or Cheez-its. I also found that the prepackaged cut up apples with yogart that HEB offers is great to put in a back pack as well as the individually packed mandarin oranges. When my daughter was little I would use different cookie cutters to cut her sandwich. She loved the shapes and would eat the whole thing. She could not stand the crust and I wanted to make it a little more fun for her. Hope this helps

1 mom found this helpful

-Freeze pita bread. Put them in a toaster oven to defrost and toast slightly. After it cools, fill with turkey, ham, chicken or egg salad, salomi, cheese, bean sprouts, lettuce, tomato, avocado, etc. (Or wraps with tortillas)
-Leftover soups and pastas (or whatever you made) from the night before and put it in one of those great thermoses that are short like a bowl.
-drinkable yogurts statisfy the sweet tooth.
-cold pizza or cold quesadillas.
-If they have access to a microwave at school, a potato topped with chopped beef, sloppy joe ground beef, ham chunks, etc....and cheese too.
-Whole grain crackers to scoop out a bowl of hummus, chicken salad, egg salad, pimento cheese, etc.
-Deviled eggs! Yum.

1 mom found this helpful

Do you kids like a trip to Subway? If they do, one day a week make sub sandwiches. When our kids were growing up some 30 years ago, we would buy one of the long french breads, make the sandwich and cut into pieces for them. Since they were different ages, we gave them a piece according to their appetites. After all this time, they still talk about them. With all the different kinds of meats and cheeses available, the variety is endless. Since there are only 2 of them, you will have some left for your lunch. You could get the hoggie buns and make them different for each child.

Hope this helps.

What a great service you could do for them by just having them make their own lunches! By the time we were teenagers, my mom had us making our own lunches...she just made sure we had healthy options on hand and we got to decide what we ate. That way we always knew it was something we wanted and she knew she was raising self-sufficient children. We could always ask her to add something we wanted to the grocery list if we didn't have it on hand.

Hi C.,,
when it comes shopping time ask them what do you guys want in your lunches this week or to you want to eat at the school there old enough to know what they will or want eat
good luck L.

I would avoid anything w/mayo/salad dressing or that is delicate like yogurt b/a of food poisoning.

Our absolute favorite is whole wheat noodles w/ red sauce or, even better, Paul Newman's Soy Sesame dressing and veggies (cooked or fresh) on the noodles - my daughter loves them!

Mini whole wheat pitas w/ lunch meat or special jams and pb ....

good luck!

Hi C., You seem to be a very caring, loving Mom to your boys! My suggestion is simply that, now that they are older, do their future wives a favor and teach them to start making their own lunches. My husband is very self-sufficient and therefore is very grateful when I do help him. Great character traits! This will also alleviate your problem of food variety while teaching them great nutritional choices for life!

My kids like bagels with cream cheese. Bagels come in many flavors and so does the cream cheese. Or you can put peanut butter on a bagel too if they don't like cream cheese. Other things are different cheese (cubed or sliced) with some crackers or hummus and crackers.

Let them make their own lunch menu!!!

Make a school day lunch calendar with a bunch of blank spots. Then, on a seperate piece of paper, make a bunch of choices (that YOU are willing to deal with!) and let them decide which choice they want on which day. THEN, GLUE the choices onto their calendars and tell them its done for the month. They get to make the choice (of items you select) and make their own calendar. Now they are in "power" of their own lunches. You don't get the flack for them being bored because THEY made their choices. But you know that the choices they make are going to be healthy (because you picked the stuff out). At 14 and 17, there is not much room for them to complain about really, they shouldn't be as bored as say 9 year olds.
Good luck.

Your boys are old enough make their own lunches. Help them plan a week's nutritious menu, budget and shop for the ingredients, and prepare and pack their own lunches. They will appreciate the skill when they have to leave home in a few years. Remember a parent is supposed to make the child self-sufficient by the time they leave the nest.

My kids love chalupas or tostadas, so they pack them at a square container and then put beans, meat, chopped tomatoes, sour cream, gucamoles or whatever they want to put on top in small containers. Hard boiled eggs, bacon and egg tacos in foil paper, chips and salsa, sliced cucumbers with lime and salt, tamales, etc.

I would suggest try having them make their own lunches with what you have in the house and see what they come up with for their lunches. Then it will get them thinking about their lunches and they might have more ideas for you to shop for things they would like to eat.

pretzels instead of chips, fresh fruit, cheese sticks, even salads can go into lunches, left overs can be reheated or made into sandwiches. Soups can go into to go containers. All these can go with bread, rolls, crackers. Cold fried chicken is always good. Good luck

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