We were not paid to write this story. The products and services mentioned below were selected independent of sales and advertising. However, Simplemost may receive a small commission from the purchase of any products or services through an affiliate link to the retailer's website.
Getting the kids ready for school is challenging, especially at the beginning of a new school year. You need to make sure they have everything they need from new clothes to school supplies to backpacks.
Then there is the epic challenge of deciding what to pack for their lunches. Your kiddos can only handle so many PB&Js (if peanut butter is even allowed at their school), but finding foods that are nutritious and simple to put together—and ones that they will actually eat—seems next to impossible.
Not sure where to begin this year? We’re here to help.
Start by picking up a small assortment of containers and accessories that give you flexibility. For instance, a divided container allows you to pack various lunch components; a thermal container keeps food warm or cold; and small containers with lids are perfect for dips and loose treats, such as crackers or fruit snacks.
Once you have a solid collection of containers, you can focus on the fixings. To save you some time and stress, we’ve pulled together a fun roundup of kid-friendly meals with ideas for even the pickiest palates.
1. Pizza Rollups
No need to wait for pizza day on the school lunch menu. Whip up these three-ingredient goodies over the weekend (they freeze beautifully) and expect them to become a fast favorite.
2. Nut Butter Wafflewiches
Who says waffles are only for breakfast? Add nut butter to homemade whole-grain waffles (use a mix to make it easier). Spread with peanut butter and jelly or your child’s favorite sandwich filling for a protein-packed lunch they will love.
3. Sandwich Kabobs
Food is always more fun on a stick and sandwiches are no different. Cut bread, meat, cheese and other favorites into fun shapes and serve them on skewers.
4. Pita Wedges with Hummus
Chickpeas are loaded with protein, fiber and vitamins, so you can feel great about serving kids this super-simple lunch staple. The dipping factor adds a measure of fun, to boot.
5. DIY Pizzables
Swap the processed packages and offer a healthier alternative. Kids can assemble their own pizzas using your favorite flatbread, rounds, tortillas or even bagels as the base.
6. Leftover Chicken Salad
A rotisserie chicken from the grocery store can be a weeknight lifesaver for busy parents. Don’t toss out the leftovers, because you can transform them into a succulent salad for your child’s lunchbox.
7. Homemade Spaghetti-Os
Upgrade those saucy, circular noodles from your own childhood by making them from scratch. You’ll get oodles more noodles for your money without all of the unwanted preservatives. They’re surprisingly simple to make, as well.
8. Granola, Apple and PB Wraps
This well-rounded wrap provides tantalizing taste and texture with sweet, chewy raisins; creamy nut butter; crunchy granola and crisp, tart apple shreds rolled up in a whole-grain flatbread.
9. Twice-Baked Potatoes
Make a few extra taters at dinner for a vitamin-filled lunch that will satisfy your hungry student. Send them cold or pack heated potatoes in thermal containers to ensure a warm, filling meal.
10. Salad in a Cup
Encourage kids to eat their veggies by stuffing salad into a plastic cup, with a lid, of course. Drizzle on the dressing or serve it on the side.
11. Taco Bowls
Any day can be Taco Tuesday. No shells necessary! Just fill a bowl with meat, cheese and other favorite fixings.
12. Hummus Veggie Wrap
A non-dip way to use healthful hummus is to spread it on your favorite wrap. Load up sliced fresh veggies and creamy avocado for a satiating and speedy lunch.
13. Caprese Salad Skewers
Salad on a stick is possible (and fun) when it consists of cherry tomatoes, mozzarella balls and a drizzle of balsamic glaze.
14. Canned Tuna Sushi
Sushi from home can be super easy when you start with canned tuna. This recipe is highly affordable and so simple to make, the kids can even help.
15. Veggie Pasta Salad
Make a big batch of this vibrant and delicious pasta salad on the weekend and dole it out for lunches as needed. The beauty of it is you can use any veggies you have on hand.
16. Cheesy Veggie Quesadillas
Pile cheese, veggies and other yummy ingredients (pesto, anyone?) onto tortillas. Heat them in a skillet for just a few minutes and you have gooey goodness perfect for packing in lunch boxes.
17. Avocado and White Bean Wraps
With protein, healthy fats and tons of vitamins, this sandwich substitute has everything a young student needs to have a productive Meatless Monday (or any day, for that matter).
18. Turkey Pesto Pinwheels
Keeping a jar of pesto on hand will let you roll up these lunchbox goodies in a snap. Smear on some cream cheese and layer with lunchmeat and cheese slices and they’ll be good to go.
19. Guacamole Chicken Wraps
Yet another use for rotisserie chicken leftovers, this spicy take on traditional chicken salad gives last night’s dinner a boost. You might want to buy a second chicken just for their school lunches.
20. Build-Your-Own Chicken Tacos
Kids can make their tacos just the way they like them when you pack all of the toppings separately. Along with shredded chicken and soft tortillas, include cheese, lettuce, salsa, olives or anything else your child prefers.
21. Ham and Cheese Muffins
Some children would live on snacks if you let them. For these kiddos, make a meal that only looks like a snack. Savory muffins with meat and cheese baked in are like incognito sandwiches.
22. Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos
Canned beans and microwavable rice make this aromatic, flavorful filling come together quickly. The next time you serve sweet potatoes, roast a few extras for an even quicker school lunch idea.
23. Pizza Panini
Everything kids love about pizza pressed into a crisp, grilled sandwich. Make it as simple or elaborate as you like, tailoring the panini to the child’s preferences.
24. PB&J Banana “Dogs”
Surprise your child with a sweet, fruity take on a hot dog. Spread peanut butter on a bun, tuck a banana inside and top with jelly “ketchup.”
25. Easy Mac and Cheese
26. Corn Dog Muffins
Turn a family favorite into a bite-size lunchbox filler. Simply bake mini corn muffins with hot dog slices inside.
27. Meatball Sub Skewers
Leftover meatballs from spaghetti night transform into delicious and fun to eat “kebabs.” Using refrigerated breadstick dough makes this recipe totally simple.
28. Baked Ravioli Dippers
Dishes that pull double duty are definitely winners. Serve these breaded raviolis for dinner or as an appetizer, making extra to pack in kids’ lunches the next day.
29. Chicken Burrito Bowls
Lay out burrito ingredients buffet style and give each child a lunch container. Let them fill their bowls with all of the good stuff they love and then pack them up for lunchtime.
30. Ham and Cream Cheese Pinwheels
Top off the month of creative school lunches with an upgrade on the standard ham sandwich. Spread a tortilla with cream cheese, sprinkle on some chives and layer on fresh deli ham. A quick roll up and a few slices turns ham and cheese into tasty pinwheels.