Lunch Box Idea List

Free Printable Lunch Box Idea List |

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?

Toddler Bento #44: August 31, 2010

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
  • edamame

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

Wendolonia Lunch Box Idea List – PDF

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Everyday Bento: 50 Cute and Yummy Lunches to Go -- AVAILABLE NOW! But wait! There’s more!

My book, Everyday Bento: 50 Cute and Yummy Lunches to Go is packed with ideas for fun, delicious lunches. With 50 brand new bento box lunches and step-by-step photo tutorials showing how to make them it will provide you with loads of inspiration when it’s time to pack lunch. Order today from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Powell’s.

  • Olimaxsoap

    Loving this!

  • Amor

    Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful ideas. I was at lost as to what meals to prepare my 16 month old son to school until I saw your website.  Thank you! Thank you! Oh yeah, after I showed this site to my husband, he is also requesting a bento box for lunch. :)

  • Kelly

    Love this!! Thank you so much!!!

  • mommy

    thank you so much for posting this, it is extremely helpful

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  • Chhudman

    Thank you so much for the printable!! This will be super handy.  Lunch is my hardest meal!

  • Amy H

    Bless you!

  • Anna

    hi wendy!  this is going to be an awesome list for me thank you!!! I do have a question though.  I pack lunch for my oldest and sometimes I was putting strawberries in a small cup next to some crackers in the same container, but then the crackers get soggy by her lunch time (from the moisture in the strawberries I assume)  any advise?

  • wcopley

     The best strategy for this is to keep the drier foods away from the moist ones. I like the two tiered lunch boxes for this — one layer can have crackers, etc. The other can have berries and veggies. If you don’t have a two layer box, you can seal either the berries or the crackers in a lidded container inside the bigger box.

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  • Stephanie

    most schools i know don’t want peanut products in the schools due to severity of peanut allergies

  • Gagnonfamilyorchard

    Thanks for the ideas….with 4 picky kids and summer vacation starting soon, this will really help out!

  • Sara

    I tried to look at your Bento Box Gallery, but it told me that I had to login first?

  • wcopley

     I know! I’m sorry! It’s undergoing maintenance right now. I hope to have it back up in the next week or so.

  • Jenny

    That would suck if you couldn’t eat gluten…

  • Bobbi Ashbeck

    Thanks so much! This is a great list. I will use it to help pack my daughter’s food for the babysitter and share with parents I work w/ getting their children ready for kindergarten if that’s alright with you.

  • aurora

    Where do you get all your cute cookie cutters, please?

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  • L Mill

    Just found your site today and I am SO GLAD I DID. School starting up again and I’m trying to have a plan. Last year, my daughter moved to the middle school and ate hot lunch every day– eech… She’s tired of it now and wants to go back to packing one. She’s never been hard to feed– but my 2nd grade son is the pickiest boy in all the world and I need some new ideas! I’m printing this list and THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  • Brenda Uribe-Estrada

    Love your site…just now leaning about Box Lunches aka Bento lunches!

  • Cassie

    Thank you! My youngest has decided to take his lunch to school again after Christmas Break. I was searching Pinterest and brainstorming all the things he would eat that would be quick and easy to pack. Heck, I might just use these for my own lunches!

  • Silke

    Also works with squeezable water bottles- just make sure they are not full to the top.
    We always freeze our water for trips to keep from having drink hot water and keeps the snacks fresh.

  • Lu Ridl

    Hi. I am just starting to “bento lunch” and am so glad I found your website – I’ll be a regular visitor from now on!

  • Nadia

    I just fell in love with your blog! Thank you so much for the ideas :)

  • Jenn M.

    I’m going to have to tell all my mom friends about this. I was in a bit of a panic trying to figure out what to pack my kids when they start kindergarten (we lived on pb+j until now which isn’t allowed in schools). These look so delicious I think I’m even going to start eating lunch. And your gallery is amazing. I’m not good with coming up with different ideas like that. (Poor kids would eat the same thing over and over…) I can’t thank you enough. Thank you!

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  • cee elac

    now I got cool source of wonderful bento box how to. thank you. I have these nice classic bento boxes that I got from and I can’t wait to apply these ideas on my bento boxes <3

  • Destiney Yates

    lol i love the sprinkles. i have found that a ducting of sprinkles can get the girls to eat a whole bunch of stuff they wouldnt even look at before

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  • Mari Jo

    I LOVE these lists and ideas, as my grandson was a preemie, with all those fun sensory issues and colors that work…sigh. He is just staying off a NG tube for feeding, and I sprang into action to make him want to eat. He will eat a grand total of 11 things. So we pick safe food then one new one. Same new one for one week, must try a corner if in sandwich, or a taste in a spoon. We have 6 different bento boxes, and a whole bag of stuff we see you use in your boxes. He is going to list what he likes and we can use that as 60%, then add an ok food for 35%, totally new for 5. Slowly all week we up the new food. This is the plan…lol

  • Gloria

    I can’t download the PDF :(

  • wcopley

    Hi Gloria — What happens when you try to download the file? It’s working OK for me.

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  • Heather

    You are a goddess! Thank you especially for this list. It will save me much headaches and make my life so much easier.

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  • James Bond Bond

    No wonder why you receive countless of feedbacks..