Big List of Fun Packed Lunch Ideas for Kids!

BIG List of Fun Packed Lunch Ideas for Kids from TheFrugalGirls.com

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It’s back-to-school time, and that means it’s time to get back to packing those lunches!



I received the following question from frugal friend Desi…

“With the school year approaching, and school lunch prices rising, I was wondering what ideas everyone would have for lunchbox meals?  It seems like it’s almost cheaper, and definitely healthier, to pack lunches for kids… I’d love to hear everyone’s ideas ~ thanks!”

I shared this question on The Frugal Girls Facebook Page, and here are just a few of the great ideas that were shared…

Snacks for Kids - Simple Trick to Save Money at TheFrugalGirls.com

Terri said: “Make their sandwich fun, cut in fun shapes or use cookie cutters. For the veggies make them fun & include peanut butter or individual dips. Once in a while pack a surprise!”

Mickey Mouse Cookie Cutter

Kellie said: “Being a teacher I have seen tons of lunches go in the trash uneaten (aka money)… so I always had my daughters leave whatever they didn’t eat in their lunchbox. That way I could see what was getting eaten and what not to waste money on.”

Apple Bread Recipe

Tabatha said: “Instead of sandwiches all the time we make cold salads and wraps!”

How to Keep Strawberries Fresh at TheFrugalGirls.com

Mary said: “One thing I’m going to try this year is turkey roll ups cut up and secured with a toothpick.  My kids love finger food!”

PlanetBoxKimberly said: “My “tricks” aren’t all that original, but I feel the need to share.  We all, kids included, eat with our eyes first.  With presentation being key, I invested in a Planetbox for each of my kids. They are expensive until you realize you won’t be buying all of the paper bags, plastic bags, plastic bowls, etc. The kids love that their food doesn’t touch and I love that I can portion control the less health parts. Bonus is that you wash it and reuse it!”

Healthy Banana Chips

Amanda said: “The Gogurts you can freeze and put in lunch box as the ice pack and its thawed by they time your child is ready to eat lunch!  Sometimes its also fun to send your version of the lunch menu for that day…just with a lil’ homemade flare and a lot of extra love going into it.”

Homemade Cracker Jack Popcorn

Suzie said: “Don’t buy the individual wrapped veggies.  Instead, buy the big bags, and cut them up to save on price!  The same can be said with yogurt, applesauce, and so on.  Plus… they can individualize and decorate their own containers to keep them in for lunch.”

ThermosJulie said: “My girls love soup in a thermos….weird…but they love it.  Also and fun thing every once in a while is milk in a thermos and cereal in a tupperware ~ just add milk at lunch!”

Fruit Salsa and Cinnamon Chips Recipe

Lorie said: “My mom bought me a sandwich cutter from Pampered Chef–it crimps the edges and cuts into neat little circles that look like the expensive frozen Uncrustables. I make a whole loaf of bread into sandwiches (PB&J usually) and freeze them individually bagged/wrapped.  Easy to grab to pack in lunches and stays frozen just long enough to stay cold and be ready to eat at lunchtime.”

Homemade Cheez-It Recipe

Tianna said: “Meat, cheese, crackers, yogurts, fresh fruit and veggies, cheese crisp, wraps, sandwiches, nuts. Also, if you buy a thermos, you can warm up food beforehand and it will be warm at lunch!  Toss into the thermos things like chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, soups, pastas, hotdogs, leftovers from dinner, etc… let your kids help pack lunch too, they will be more apt to eat it if they get to pick it out.”

How to Keep Bananas Fresh Tip at TheFrugalGirls.com

Melissa said: “My kids love grape tomatoes. Those are a staple in my son’s lunch box as well as dino shaped sandwiches, ham/cheese/ranch wraps, string cheese, Gogurt.  I always try to have a protein, carb, fruit/veg, and a dairy packed.  I love putting surprises in there too!”

Homemade Ritz Crackers Recipe

Kimberly said: “I plan out my meals each weekend at least 2 1/2 weeks in advance based on grocery store advertisements, to make sure I have 5 different meal/lunch ideas for work and school, and rotate them.  This way I don’t get bored and always have a new look to my lunch bag :)Staples in my lunch box include:
- Sandwich & Wraps (Chicken or Turkey with Mayo and Honey Mustard)
- Fruit cups (from home/not store bought) with seasonal fruit cut in bite sized pieces.
- Soups or Stews home made, sometimes store bought & put in Thermos
- Left overs like Mac & Cheese, Lasagna, Pizza, Spaghetti.
- Yogurt, Cottage Cheese with additional Fruit or Oatmeal

Homemade Graham Cracker Recipe

Beverly said: “We try different things…but only things I can do the night before (sandwiches not allowed) as I have a 7 yr old and a 3 month old to get up and get going before work:
~ Pasta salad
~ Boiled Eggs (I cook about 5 at a time for b’fast and lunches)
~ Bean and Cheese Burritos (the night after mexi dip) add chips & salsa with corn for a fiesta
~ Sliced ham with cheese cube and cherry tomato head (makes cute ham/cheese people)
~ Salad
~ Polish Sausage w/ sliced bell pepper
~ Peanut butter, honey & granola rolls (take a slice of bread, remove crust, flatten, spread pb/honey/granola mix over bread, roll up and slice in pin wheels cover with a little granola)
~ Peanut butter & honey with dried banana slices to dip
~ Drink (frozen juice boxes are great as the keep the other food cold and are slushy like sometimes at lunch which my daughter loves)
~ Veggies (carrott sticks, bell pepper, tomatos, corn)
~ Snack (Usually on the weekend I’ll make homemade cookies or brownies and that’s a snack for the week)
I love these creative and healthy ideas I found and I can make them the night before with a lot less pressure!”

Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs

Netashia said: “Never forget the love letter!”

BIG List of Cake Mix Cookie Recipes from TheFrugalGirls.comFun Packed Lunch Ideas for Kids ~ from TheFrugalGirls.com

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What do YOU pack when making lunches??  Leave a comment & share!

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4 Responses to Big List of Fun Packed Lunch Ideas for Kids!

  1. Kimberly says:

    I plan out my meals each weekend at least 2 1/2 weeks in advance based on grocery store advertisements to make sure I have 5 different meal/lunch ideas for work and school and rotate them. This way I don’t get bored and always have a new look to my lunch bag :)

    Staples in my lunch box include:

    Sandwich & Wraps(Chicken or Turkey with Mayo and Honey Mustard)

    Fruit cups (from home/not store bought) with seasonal fruit cut in bite sized pieces.

    Soups or Stews home made,sometimes store bought & put in Thermos

    left overs like Mac & Cheese, Lasagna, Pizza, Spaghetti.

    Yogurt, Cottage Cheese with additional Fruit or Oatmeal

  2. Mary says:

    One thing I’m going to try this year is turkey roll ups cut up and secured with a toothpick. My kids love finger food!

  3. Kimberly says:

    My “tricks” aren’t all that original, but I feel the need to share.
    1. We all, kids included, eat with our eyes first. With presentation being key, I invested in a Planetbox for each of my kids (http://www.planetbox.com/). They are expensive until you realize you won’t be buying all of the paper bags, plastic bags, plastic bowls, etc. The kids love that their food doesn’t touch and I love that I can portion control the less health parts. Bonus is that you wash it and reuse it… great for Mother Earth!
    2. Kids eat what they make. I have included my kids in the planning of meals since they could speak. We make a two week menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We include healthy portions of fruit, vegetables, whole grain, and protein based on the whole day’s menu. This allows the kids to perhaps eat simpler finger type foods for lunch (so they can rush out to the playground sooner). Since the menu is for the day I don’t stress over how little they may have eaten while at school.
    3. Include a “treat”. I include some small (see the teeny square in the middle of the Planetbox?) treat everyday in their lunch. It might be a mini candy bar, their favorite dried fruit (which they call fruit candy), or perhaps a mini piece of homemade brownies, etc. Since I started doing this the kids ask for fewer treats in general because they know they aren’t being deprived. (This same trick works for me as I try to lose weight).
    4. Don’t stress. Believe it or not, most kids don’t mind eating the exact same lunch everyday. It only matters that they like what is in the lunch. So find one or two well-rounded lunches that your kids enjoy and keep feeding it to them. We might get bored, but they typically don’t.

  4. Christy Dodd says:

    I do a mix of items for my son and one of the great bonuses we have is access to a microwave at school so he can heat up his food. To make sure he eats the items I put all his favorite “main dishes” such as nuggets, mac n cheese etc on 3×5 cards and then put veggies, fruits, , cheese, yougurt etc on different colored 3×5 cards. Before I go shopping each week, l have him pick out a 3×5 card from the main dishes and then 1-3 cards depending from the other side dishes for each day of the week. This lets him decide what he wants each day and simplifies the planning for the week and shopping for me. He likes looking at the cards and deciding what to pick and then we can add or remove things as he finds new ideas.

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