Lunch Box Ideas

by Wendy Copley on July 15, 2009

It’s back to school week here on Wendolonia and I’m going to focus on lunch-packing (of course!).

Today’s topic: what to pack in the lunch box!

The same scene plays out every weekday morning in kitchens across the country: a tired parent leans forward with one arm holding the refrigerator door open, eyes scanning the shelves for something to pack into a lunch box. What do we have in the house? What do we have that’s healthy? What do we have that he will eat?

Preschooler Bernto #16: May 27, 2008

I’m faced with the same daily questions and after months of starting from scratch — and getting into ruts — I finally decided to write down all the foods my sons like that can be eaten cold or at room temperature. I asked friends and blog readers to send me their suggestions as well and came up with a fairly comprehensive list.

Not all kids will eat everything on here of course (my son wouldn’t touch carrot sticks if his life depended on it) but even the pickiest eaters will find some things on this list that they’ll enjoy.

Make your life easier on hectic mornings Download a printable version of this list, print it and stick it to your fridge for instant inspiration:

Wendolonia Lunch Box Idea List – PDF

Carbs/Tummy-fillers

  • whole grain crackers
  • pretzel sticks
  • mini-muffins
  • goldfish crackers, cheddar bunnies or other snack crackers
  • pretzel thins
  • bagel chips
  • mini-rice cakes or rice crackers
  • cooked ball of rice
  • leftover pasta — toss with some chopped veggies and vinaigrette or a little olive oil, garlic salt and parmesan.
  • granola bars
  • banana bread, zucchini bread, or other quick breads
  • cereal bars
  • dry cereal
  • mini-bagels
  • hot dog buns, hamburger buns or dinner rolls
  • garlic toast
  • pita bread — I usually toast these so they don’t get soggy. Mini pitas are fun or you can cut a big one into wedges.
  • leftover pancakes or toaster waffles — mini-waffles go over especially well.

Preschooler Bento #85: October 14, 2008

Fruits

  • apples slices or chunks (dip in pineapple juice to prevent browning)
  • berries — strawberries, blueberries, raspberries
  • cherries
  • grapes
  • bananas
  • melon chunks — watermelon, honeydew or cantaloupe
  • dried fruit — raisins, dried cranberries, dried apples, banana chips, etc.
  • canned peaches or pears — drain and rinse with water to remove excess sugar.
  • applesauce
  • pineapple chunks
  • orange or clementine wedges

Preschooler Bento #31: June 20, 2008

Veggies

  • carrot sticks
  • sugar snap peas
  • red bell pepper strips
  • cucumber slices
  • celery sticks
  • grape tomatoes
  • steamed green beans
  • steamed broccoli spears
  • frozen peas — run them quickly under warm water to start them thawing
  • frozen corn

Preschooler Bento #45: July 18, 2008

Proteins

  • leftover meat from dinner cut into chunks — you can send almost anything: roast chicken, pork roast, chicken legs and carne asada leftover from tacos are all things my kids have enjoyed.
  • chicken or turkey sausage with bbq sauce or catsup for dipping
  • deli meats — turkey, ham, salami
  • beans
  • peanut butter “sandwiches” made with crackers or graham crackers
  • taquitos with salsa for dipping
  • baked tofu
  • quesadillas
  • mini-burritos
  • mini-pizzas — top mini-pitas with sauce, cheese and pepperoni
  • hard boiled eggs

Preschooler Bento #155:  March 11, 2009

Dairy

  • yogurt
  • cheese cubes
  • cheese slices
  • cottage cheese
  • string cheese, Laughing Cow, Babybel or other small single-serving cheeses

Preschooler Bento #6: May 1, 2008

And then there are sandwiches, of course! But we’ll talk about those more later in the week.

Don’t forget to download and print this list! I’ve made it easy for you:

Wendolonia Lunch Box Idea List – PDF

What do you send in your kid’s lunch? Do you send something with your kids that I’ve left off this list?

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  • http://www.hemacken.blogspot.com/ Helen

    These are some great ideas.

    Some of them I do, some I will be doing!

    My son always enjoyed bagel chips or melba toast with cream cheese on the side, for dipping of course. With all the cream cheese flavours it’s great!

    I also make my own ‘lunchables’. I did once let my son pick out one and try it he thought they were disgusting! How great is that?!?!

  • http://www.hemacken.blogspot.com Helen

    These are some great ideas.

    Some of them I do, some I will be doing!

    My son always enjoyed bagel chips or melba toast with cream cheese on the side, for dipping of course. With all the cream cheese flavours it’s great!

    I also make my own ‘lunchables’. I did once let my son pick out one and try it he thought they were disgusting! How great is that?!?!

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  • Aimi

    You could fill the Rubbermaid container with water & juice the night before and put it in the freezer. Take it out in the morning and put the lid on. Homemade frozen juice box!

  • Aimi

    You could fill the Rubbermaid container with water & juice the night before and put it in the freezer. Take it out in the morning and put the lid on. Homemade frozen juice box!

  • http://www.stephenson3.blogspot.com/ Chelsea

    Hello! Can I just tell you how much I love your blog! I love it because I have a 18 month old boy who loves food and i’m always looking for ideas…and I make my husband lunch to take to work everyday! I get some awesome ideas from you and I love this post about the different food groups!
    Thank YOU!
    Chelsea

  • http://www.stephenson3.blogspot.com Chelsea

    Hello! Can I just tell you how much I love your blog! I love it because I have a 18 month old boy who loves food and i’m always looking for ideas…and I make my husband lunch to take to work everyday! I get some awesome ideas from you and I love this post about the different food groups!
    Thank YOU!
    Chelsea

  • ramona

    Wow- you are to be commended for the wide variety of food your little man eats! Way to go mom!! I need to go through your blog in detail to get some more of your great ideas!

  • ramona

    Wow- you are to be commended for the wide variety of food your little man eats! Way to go mom!! I need to go through your blog in detail to get some more of your great ideas!

  • http://timeevaporated.blogspot.com/ Sharon

    This is a great list!! I am sure many people will appreciate it. I have really enjoyed the bento pics and am impressed by the variety that your son eats! I agree with you that the more color the better and also cute shapes help when trying new foods. Thanks again for the great tips!

  • http://timeevaporated.blogspot.com Sharon

    This is a great list!! I am sure many people will appreciate it. I have really enjoyed the bento pics and am impressed by the variety that your son eats! I agree with you that the more color the better and also cute shapes help when trying new foods. Thanks again for the great tips!

  • http://www.no2108.canalblog.com/ karen

    I would like to thank you.

    my daughter starts grade 1 next week and for the first time I”ll have to make her lunch.

    she’s excited to go to school with her new Hello Kitty lunch box from Japan and I just got her silicon baking cups.

    thanks a lot (again!!) for your list – I printed it, it’s on my fridge ;o)

  • http://www.no2108.canalblog.com karen

    I would like to thank you.

    my daughter starts grade 1 next week and for the first time I”ll have to make her lunch.

    she’s excited to go to school with her new Hello Kitty lunch box from Japan and I just got her silicon baking cups.

    thanks a lot (again!!) for your list – I printed it, it’s on my fridge ;o)

  • Casey

    Thank you so much for all of this. We’re getting ready for school next week and we now have some new dietary restrictions. Your list and photos are going to come in very handy!

  • Casey

    Thank you so much for all of this. We’re getting ready for school next week and we now have some new dietary restrictions. Your list and photos are going to come in very handy!

  • Becca

    Wow- this is an amazing list! I have a bento and I can never figure out what in the world I should put in it. I started school today and used some of your ideas. It was so helpful! Pre-school lunch ideas or not, I used them.
    Thank you again!! =)

  • Becca

    Wow- this is an amazing list! I have a bento and I can never figure out what in the world I should put in it. I started school today and used some of your ideas. It was so helpful! Pre-school lunch ideas or not, I used them.
    Thank you again!! =)

  • http://selenasphotos.blogspot.com/ selena

    Just wanted to say thanks for the inspiration! My daughter starts preschool next week and we have already practiced eating lunch out of her new bento box…she LOVES it!

  • http://selenasphotos.blogspot.com/ selena

    Just wanted to say thanks for the inspiration! My daughter starts preschool next week and we have already practiced eating lunch out of her new bento box…she LOVES it!

  • Missy

    This is a wonderful site!! I have a son that started kindergarden 2 weeks ago (did not attend Pre-K so this is all new to us). He is a picky eater and I try to make sure he gets something health during the day. Thanks for all of the ideas. I cannot wait to try some of them.

    I wanted to comment on the juice box. Motts makes an apple juice box (it may come in other flavors in your area) that is already diluted. They are called Motts for Tots. It’s an alternative if you are short on time.

  • Missy

    This is a wonderful site!! I have a son that started kindergarden 2 weeks ago (did not attend Pre-K so this is all new to us). He is a picky eater and I try to make sure he gets something health during the day. Thanks for all of the ideas. I cannot wait to try some of them.

    I wanted to comment on the juice box. Motts makes an apple juice box (it may come in other flavors in your area) that is already diluted. They are called Motts for Tots. It’s an alternative if you are short on time.

  • youn

    Hi!
    Your bentos look very very beautiful and yummy!
    where can I get those bento and catchup container??
    I’ll add your blog to my bookmarks. :)
    thanks!

  • http://younjung_cho@hotmail.com youn

    Hi!
    Your bentos look very very beautiful and yummy!
    where can I get those bento and catchup container??
    I’ll add your blog to my bookmarks. :)
    thanks!

  • shannon

    Thanks for the great tips…. I just sent my first jk lunck box last week and I did mini pita bread and had on the side sliced turkey pepperoni, mozza cheese and pizza sauce so that my son could make his own mini pizzas…. went over pretty well.

  • shannon

    Thanks for the great tips…. I just sent my first jk lunck box last week and I did mini pita bread and had on the side sliced turkey pepperoni, mozza cheese and pizza sauce so that my son could make his own mini pizzas…. went over pretty well.

  • Jasmin

    Hi – I’ve been lurking for a while and am just reading your old posts. I admit I’m a bit late but I had to write in as you are such an inspiration! You are giving me plenty of ideas for us to try when my little girl starts school – we are lucky in that the nursery she attends give her very balanced organic meals through the day, but not all are like that, and she’ll move up in a year or so. My tip – soft chickpeas. My little one loves them and they are perfect to snack on. Oh, I just discovered you have a new baby boy – congratulations! – I wish you many more lunching adventures with your little ones. xx

  • Jasmin

    Hi – I’ve been lurking for a while and am just reading your old posts. I admit I’m a bit late but I had to write in as you are such an inspiration! You are giving me plenty of ideas for us to try when my little girl starts school – we are lucky in that the nursery she attends give her very balanced organic meals through the day, but not all are like that, and she’ll move up in a year or so. My tip – soft chickpeas. My little one loves them and they are perfect to snack on. Oh, I just discovered you have a new baby boy – congratulations! – I wish you many more lunching adventures with your little ones. xx

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  • Sarah_L

    This is great! Thanks so much — I love your blog. You inspire me :)

  • http://aubandrob.blogspot.com/ Aubrey

    Thanks for all the great ideas! It makes me excited to make lunch for my kids. And sprinkles on fruit is genius! My kids went crazy excited for that!

  • http://www.wendolonia.com/blog wcopley

    Isn't it amazing how kids love the sprinkles? It adds virtually no sugar to what they're eating, but it makes it feel like a super special treat.

  • golonghorns

    Wow! I just now saw this list and am super impressed. I just have had some luck getting my son to eat cucumbers along with his carrots. I had been toying around with the idea of sending a hot dog and see you've done that for your little man. This is a great list for all the variety and will come in handy since we are required to be peanut free for my son's preschool. Do you mind if I post a link?

  • http://www.wendolonia.com/blog wcopley

    Cucumber is a great idea. I'll have to try that! And of course, you're always welcome to link to any page on this site!

  • http://mommytoo.wordpress.com/ kira

    i'm also de-lurking to chime in… did you see that mothering magazine has an article about bentos this month? i wonder if that's part of your uptick?

  • Piper

    These are great ideas. You got me hooked on Bentos and my girls are so excited to see whats packed for lunch. Thanks for the ideas.

  • golonghorns

    Hi Wendy,
    I have some more lunch ideas I thought I'd share for your list. Some I haven't tried yet and some are working well. We have had luck with spaghettios, a healthier version is annies organic stars but they are super expensive here in Canada. I'm planning to try egg salad, chicken and tuna salad. If you were worried about mayo you could omit and do italian or just olive oil. Another idea is cooked shrimp, this would need good refrigeration as well. Beef jerky and nuts if your kids can eat them and it's okay with the school. I send those for Hubby's lunch as fillers. For more fruit ideas my son likes dried apricots and clementines when they are in season. He just decided he likes plums, woo-hoo! For more veggies edamame on a tiny skewer is fun. My daughter likes pickled asparagus and pickles. At some point I hope they'll try olives but that's a little bit more sophisticated taste I suppose. I forgot pasta salad! And I have yet to try this but his prschool just made jello in a cup and homemade jello cups every now and again would jazz lunch up! Cheers!!!

  • golonghorns

    Oh man, I wanted to add hummus to that note. Hope it wasn't too long and Thanks again for your awesome list!

  • lisaklin

    Thanks so much for posting this. I'm getting ready for bts, though its not for another month!

    If you have a local Borders bookstore, they have some cute containers which would make great bento boxes. I didn't see a BPA-free label on them, but I also did not pay attention to where they're made, etc…

  • lisaklin

    Thanks so much for posting this. I'm getting ready for bts, though its not for another month!

    If you have a local Borders bookstore, they have some cute containers which would make great bento boxes. I didn't see a BPA-free label on them, but I also did not pay attention to where they're made, etc…

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  • http://sassyinspirations.blogspot.com Tara

    FINALLY!!!!!!!! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you SO SO much for this post. I have been searching for REAL advice about what to pack for my 4 years old's lunch and YOU have come to my rescue. She picked her lunch box today but I just wasn't sure what to put in it or how to do it. I am so grateful for your blog. Hugs from Texas, Tara

  • Three Pixie Lane

    Thank you so much for this list!  I draw a blank on what to pack!  This is great!  Christie

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  • Tanya

    THIS IS SO GREAT- THANK YOU- makes life easier. Going on the fridge. :)

  • Tricia

    Ok, I am new to packing these lunches…How do the foods stay in the muffin cups after being jostled on bus, classroom etc. It seems like it would get all mixed up…?

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