Back to School, Back to Lunch: Lunch Box Ideas

by Wendy Copley on August 16, 2010

It’s back to school week here on Wendolonia! I’m going to be bringing you a new article  focused on lunch-packing every day this week.

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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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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  • Amy K

    Do you have any crafty ideas for lacto/ovo veggie? I'm getting tired of the same ole pb& j, although I know she will eat that. The meat roll-ups are adorable. Is there a substitute you could think of? Counting down the day until she's in kindergarten, which is still many, many days away, years in fact. 🙁 I finally picked up a laptop lunchbox so I'm ready..!

  • Des Wong

    i love this list! thanks so much!

  • Yes! I often do roll-ups with sliced cheese and I love making cut-outs with baked tofu. Egg molds are also fun to use to form hard boiled eggs into fun shapes. You can find them at or on ebay.

  • mandi

    in addition to what you've listed, we sometimes pack mini meatballs, chips (sunchips or tortilla chips mostly at our house), oyster crackers and for a treat graham crackers with frosting and sprinkles

  • Brandy K

    LOVE the list! Thank you so much for putting it together. I'm putting it on the frig today! I check your site often for great lunch ideas, and I love all the other fun stuff you post. LOVE YOUR BLOG!

  • Amanda

    awesome list! thank you so much! love your blog too!

  • Diana

    thanks for the download! my almost 3 year old is starting preschool next week and i can't believe how excited i now am to pack his lunch! if you had told me that, even a month ago, i would have said you were crazy. but that is parenting i guess! anyway, i think that printout will be great in case my husband ever needs to pack lunch (or make it at home for that matter. last week he made PLAIN RAVIOLI for dinner, despite the half opened jar of sauce in the fridge and whole jar in the cupboard!?! he usually isn't that clueless and i hate spelling things out for him!)
    thanks again!
    (i found your blog through your post on alphamom, btw).

  • You are a life saver, I was already fretting over next weeks start of the school year. Thanks!

  • megan

    Pickles, olives, and marinated mushrooms! I almost always have those on hand, and both my kids love them.

  • Excellent ideas, Mandi! Thanks for sharing.

  • That's a pretty funny story! Ha! I have a list of ideas on our fridge for my husband too. Usually lunch-packing is my job (obviously), but on the occasions where he fills in it helps get the ball rolling for him.

  • Yum — more good ideas!

  • Celeste

    Thank you for posting this Wendy!! I pass the word about your blog as much as I can. You Rock!

  • What cute ideas! This is exactly what I was looking for since I have to leave the comfort zone of peanut butter and jelly this year (due to a peanut allergy in the class). 🙂 Thanks for the list to print.

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  • Rose

    One of my favorite ideas for lunches is mini quiches. You can get little tart trays, like muffin trays but shallower. I make two or three dozen at a time. I prepare four or five fillings, but only put two or three in each quiche (it only takes a tiny amount to fill them), and then bake and freeze. Then I can pull out three or four in the morning, and they’re defrosted by lunchtime. My son loves them.

  • That sounds great! Quiches are one of those things that my boys could go either way on, but maybe if I ease them into them they would eat them for lunch. And if it doesn’t work, I can eat them all!

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  • Alexandria Duran

    I love the idea of bento lunches. I don’t have any kiddos, but I love the idea for myself. Thank you for all of the links and such, they’re great for someone who is researching and wanting to get started!

  • Kmgable

    Just came across your blog, and I love it! This post in particular is super helpful. I’m trying to gather as many lunch ideas this summer as I can, since my son is starting Kindergarten in the fall and will be packing each day. Thanks for all the inspiration!

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  • Jdaniel4smom

    I love all these ideas. I tweeted and pinned this post.

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