Back-to-School: 20 School Lunch Ideas

Back-to-school ideas for lunch from HousewifeHowTos.comLooking for easy school lunch ideas? Sure, paying for a cafeteria lunch is always an option and, on really busy days, it’s nice to know it’s there.

But school cafeteria menus vary throughout the country, with some providing exceptionally healthy meals and others not so much. If yours is on the horrifying side, don’t let the thought of packing a healthy lunch from home overwhelm you. With a little planning, and the right equipment, you can provide your child a nutritious lunch with enough variety that neither you nor your child get bored.

Article continues below

Note: invest in a good, insulated lunch box or bag to keep food at optimal temperature. I’ve planned these lunches to take advantage of that insulation by using frozen items (fruit or yogurt cups) on days when the sandwich needs to stay cold. A sturdy, cup-sized thermos is essential, too. To make sure it keeps food hot until lunch time, fill it with boiling water in the morning to heat the thermos container, then dump the water and fill with hot food. Your child’s meal will stay at the proper temperature, so you won’t need to worry about food safety.

20 School Lunch Ideas

  1. Ham and cheese roll-ups/sandwich, pretzel sticks, frozen yogurt cup
  2. Mini-meatballs, carrot sticks with Ranch dip, apple slices, whole wheat crackers
  3. Turkey sandwich, cheese squares, pickle slices, banana
  4. Baked chicken drumstick, carrot sticks with Ranch dip, grapes, cornbread
  5. Hard boiled eggs, green salad with dressing, Laughing Cow cheese wedge, whole wheat crackers
  6. Roast beef (or roast beef spread) and lettuce in whole wheat pita pocket, red grapes, carrot sticks
  7. PB&J (or almond butter if your school has a no peanut policy), carrots and celery with dip, pretzel sticks
  8. Turkey on whole wheat, cheese cubes and crackers, frozen fruit cup
  9. Spaghetti in a thermos, green salad with dressing, apple slices
  10. Bean and Spanish rice burrito, jicama slices sprinkled with lime juice and chili powder, sliced berries
  11. Chicken noodle soup in a thermos, carrots with dip, grapes
  12. Roast beef and cheese roll-ups, grape and berry skewers on a straw, celery sticks
  13. Turkey and lettuce in whole wheat pita pocket, cantaloupe chunks
  14. Chili in thermos, cornbread, apple slices
  15. “Lunchable” made from sliced roasted turkey, sliced cheese and whole wheat crackers, frozen fruit cup
  16. Macaroni and cheese in a thermos, apple slices and almond butter, carrot and celery sticks with dip
  17. Hamburger with lettuce on whole wheat bun, pickle spears, frozen yogurt cup
  18. Sliced chicken sausage in BBQ sauce kept in thermos, cornbread muffin, green salad with dressing, banana
  19. Bagel with cream cheese, green salad with dressing, cantaloupe chunks
  20. Turkey and lettuce wrap in whole wheat tortilla, string cheese, frozen fruit cup

What other school lunch ideas do you have?

Equipment I Use For These:


  1. Amanda says

    Great meal ideas! I’m printing this page and putting it on my fridge. I’m sure the boys will appreciate the variety, as they usually have 2 options: ham & cheese or spaghetti in the thermos.

  2. says

    Just be careful about letting your kids see this, ladies, or they may do as my son did and start putting in their “orders” at bedtime for the next day’s lunch!

  3. Yvearl says

    Great suggestions! I do have a question for you…which lunchbox do you prefer? In the process of getting new ones for the kiddos, and I was looking into Bento Ware because they are eco friendly and cute, but so expensive! Any suggestions there? Thanks for all the great usual!

    • says

      I have a couple of different lunch boxes we use, depending on what’s for lunch that day. If it doesn’t need to stay super cold, I use our Laptop Lunch Box bento-style box and tuck some of these reusable plastic ice cubes (that look like fruit slices) in it to keep things chilled. But if it needs to stay very cold, I use an Artic Zone insulated lunch box. When you use those, you need to open the box and put it in the fridge overnight — with or without the food in it — so the whole thing chills. Otherwise, just putting chilled food in a room-temperature insulated box doesn’t really keep it at a food-safe temperature all morning.

Leave a Reply

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