School Lunch Ideas! (You NEED these in your life.)

Kids school lunch ideas!

Anyone else hate school lunch?? This is our first year dealing with packing a school lunch every. single. day. *hits head with hammer*. It was a constant struggle. He didn't want what I packed, I was mad that he would waste food or throw it away, there was always a last-minute scramble to throw things haphazardly into his bag as he races out the door. SIGH. Have no fear, Mama J came up with a system that is working nicely for us! I've got some school lunch ideas, tips, and tricks for you in this week's Millennial Moms video.

(Psst – be sure to check out my own FunCheapOrFree YouTube Channel while you're at it!)


(And some added bonus tips at the bottom of the post that aren't mentioned in the video!)

Watch the video online or click and watch below:

Let's recap, shall we??

1 – Have your kids do it!

Take the stress off yourself, and get your kids in on the action! It creates autonomy, sets good habits, and puts the pressure on them (because goodness knows mama really needs one less thing on her plate, #AmiRight??).


2 – Keep things at eye level!

(picture of hutch getting a lunch sack out)

I keep bins in my pantry that are just the right height for little hands to pick and choose from. It keeps me from running in and out of the pantry all morning while he's packing so I can get the other kiddos (okay, and myself!) ready for the day, too. (Check out this post to see more about how I organize my pantry!)

Packing school lunch for kids can be a pain! Get a few hacks to make getting lunch put together a breeze!

Packing school lunch for kids can be a pain! Get a few hacks to make getting lunch put together a breeze!

3 – Let THEM choose their own food

Packing school lunch for kids can be a pain! Get a few hacks to make getting lunch put together a breeze!

We sat down and made a list of things he'd like to eat in his lunch, categorized by:

  • Main food (sandwich, cheese/meat/crackers, meat and cheese roll-ups, leftovers – see bonus tip below – etc. )
  • Fresh fruits/veggies
  • Healthy snacks
  • Snacks
  • Treats

We then loaded up on those things and put them in their own bins. Main food, snacks, and treats are all “TAKE 1”. Fresh fruits/veggies and healthy snacks are “TAKE 2”. Allows him to choose his own lunch, using parameters that I'm fine with.

4 –  Freeze sandwiches!

Make a whole stack of PB&Js and FREEZE THEM! Perfect for school lunches.

Remember that you can FREEZE PB&J's?? If you aren't doing this, you are doing yourself a disservice! We try to sit down on Sunday night and bust out an entire stack of sandwiches for the week. They not only come in handy for school lunches but also for snacks on-the-go. Also works great with meat and cheese sandwiches, just leave off any veggies or condiments.

5 – Leave them love notes!

Packing school lunch for kids can be a pain! Get a few hacks to make getting lunch put together a breeze!

This is more of a reminder than a tip… but try to stick a love note in their lunchbox every once in awhile. Words of affirmation mean the world to kids, and your little act of love will mean more than you know!


  • Pack leftovers in a thermos! We had homemade Mac N Cheese for dinner, and Hutch wanted it in his lunch the next day. We loaded up a kid-friendly thermos from Costco and it kept it warm all day!
  • Freeze sponges to use as ice packs! As I showed on Instagram, this is an inexpensive way to keep food cold, and not worry about losing fancy ice packs.

Packing school lunch for kids can be a pain! Get a few hacks to make getting lunch put together a breeze!

There you have it! I'm still a bit of a novice, but those tips have really helped.

What do you pack for school lunches? Do you have any tips?Share in the comments below!

Check out

Have you checked out yet? Our brand new site is dedicated to helping you cook delicious, nutritious and budget-friendly meals for your family without slaving away in the kitchen! Basically every parent's dream, right? Join our Shelf Cooking Community today!




  1. Avataranjuli says

    Lunch ideas, always a stressor for us moms. My twins started KG in 2016, and I was so stressed about lunches/snacks – what to give them and having to make it etc.. Then, I decided to get them involved by asking them what they would like for lunches – I gave them choices & they picked out out of those choices. Of course, we went through a learning curve (all of us). So, every Saturday I sit with them working on their weekly breakfast & lunch menu including picking 2 kinds fruits for the week to alternate (hubby and I don’t eat fruit so we wanted to minimize fruit wastes). First few months went like blah. Earlier this year we noticed (this is after 6 months of doing it) my kids now go to the fridge and check their weekly menu (I have a white board on fridge) looking at what they are having on a given day, lol. Now they are 6, ready for 1st grade in fall. I’m a little less stressed (except for needing little more ideas). The weekly menu plan works a lot better with them & for us cuz some foods I prepare in advance and freeze. I am so happy I stuck with it despite everything. This way they get to choose what they want and more success of them eating it. Of course, this method is not foolproof….but, a lot less stressful for us.

  2. AvatarCherise says

    My daughter who doesn’t eat sandwiches is entering grade 1 this year. I plan to have her pack her meat, cheese, and cracker baggies one day for the full week. Then her lunch is just grab and go.
    I also use one drawer just in my fridge for all the lunch things and have the pantry containers.
    I’ll also be getting my preschooler to make a lunch most mornings so that I don’t have to ‘open’ the kitchen again halfway through the day. He loves having a lunchbox like the older kids and it saves messing up the kitchen at lunch time.

  3. AvatarKatrina says

    Hard Boiled eggs are another great option. One of my kids likes just the eggs and the other likes egg salad sandwiches. Win-Win! Also Salads. My kids love salad so I try to incorporate at least one a week with their favorite veggies/protein/beans etc.

  4. AvatarAriel says

    I watched your video on YouTube about organizing your pantry and kitchen so kids can easily pack lunches themselves. My kids are quite a bit older than yours, but we struggle with portion control with my 11 and 14 year olds (they just want to eat all the Ritz crackers or 1/2 lb. of bacon) and my oldest gets too overwhelmed to pack a lunch for himself. I used your tips on the bin system and labeling, set the boundaries and the consequences, and I am no longer feeling overwhelmed by stocking my house with food and equipping my kids to make wise choices (even my 14 year old son). Thank you for sharing your hacks and helping me to feel empowered to live a better life!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *