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How Do YOU Pack a "Hip" Lunch?!

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303 Comments
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With the beginning of school fast approaching, I am starting to dread packing my kids’ school lunches. Although my kiddos definitely have the option of choosing a hot lunch at school, I prefer to pack a lunch in order to save money AND to provide them with healthy food choices. With that being said, I really get tired of the same old peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, carrot sticks, apple slices, and some kind of homemade treat (that’s usually not very good because well, Collin the baker… enough said). I need some variety AND my kids need some variety too!

…So this is where you all come in. Please share your most creative ideas for packing a healthy lunch that kids hopefully will enjoy eating and that parents can feel good about packing. And if you have any fun ideas for adding in a little note or fun surprise (I love making my kiddos feel special 😀 ), please share those ideas too!


Collin founded Hip2Save in 2008 and has over 10 years experience as a deals and lifestyle editor, strategist, and creative copywriter. She is debt-free and has been featured in Parents Magazine, Today.com and MSNBC. Connect with Collin on LinkedIn


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Comments 303

  1. Stephanie

    Does anyone know where I can get a cute and reasonably priced quality thermos to pack soup in my daughter’s lunch? I don’t want any leakage issues, either. LOL.

    • Bonnie

      Dollar General has very cute crayola thermos containers for around $3. I’ve found that a stainless one will last longer though.

    • Janet

      I was look also. I read a review for different thermoses from a very popoular magazine. I found the Funtainers from Thermos kept the food the hotest for longest. I found them at Target for $12 last week. Fun pictures on the side. I have yet to try it out but will this weekend. I can be very conscience about where I spend my money and it is very worth the price for food safety. Hope this helps!

  2. Bonnie

    I like to vary the PB&J that my daughter wants EVERY DAY!!! with whole grain tortillas, english muffins, bagels and sandwich rounds. They’re all available in healthy whole grain, and PB&J isn’t so boring 😉

  3. Toni R.

    I pack my kids lunches “Bento” style. They sell “laptop” lunches, which are ridiculously overpriced, so I just neatly pack my kids lunchboxes using Rubbermaid. Here is what I put in them:
    -Sliced tomatoes and carrots with Ranch for dipping
    -I peel and julienne apples, (add a few drops of lemon juice to keep them from browning) to make Apple Fries
    -I’ll cut sandwiches with cute little cookie cutters
    -I buy a big tub of yogurt and fill the small Rubbermaid containers (so much cheaper than buying indiv. disposable sizes AND better for the environment)
    -You can also do a cold soup (like gazpacho)

  4. Missy

    In responds to all the parents who whine “My kid is such a picky eater! He won’t eat vegetable or bread or pasta or fruit!” (or whatever) Kids LEARN to be picky eaters from parents who pamper and spoil and cater to their every whim!!!!!!!!!!!! You need to tell the spoiled brat “This is what we are having for lunch.” End of story. My sons are allowed to make a list of 4 foods they don’t like and don’t have to eat. They can change the list periodically. Otherwise all foods are fair game. They eat healthy and are not picky and don’t skip meals. So many people are starving and struggling to feed their family and you allow you child to nit pick and demand certain meals???? So sad! And to feed your child chicken nuggets the entire school year is pitiful! What are you teaching your child about nutrition. No wonder our children’s health in the United States is in such a deplorable condition!

    • Renee

      I’m an adult and there are way more than 4 foods I don’t like-I’m not being picky-my taste buds decide what tastes pleasing to me and I often re-try foods I know I don’t care for to see if perchance my taste has changed- how rude and condesending to determine if someone’s child is being a spoiled brat because they don’t like certain foods. If I make dinner and if my children don’t like what I fixed, they are free to grab fruit, yogurt, make a pb&j, cheese or anything else- why make meals such a battle!

    • susan t

      I have to agree. My kids would be picky eaters if I would let them – especially one of them. The rule at our house is that when mom fixes a meal, you sit down and eat it and don’t complain. If they throw a fit, they can go to bed early and without dinner. Kids learn to be picky from their parents. I let my kids help plan meals, so they get their favorites in as well. Not every meal will be everyone’s favorite, but it is always edible. I don’t always particularly like what the kids like and the other way around, but everyone eats what is served.

    • Heather

      I have to say this is a bit of an inappropriate comment. Not all kids are picky eaters because of their parents. We eat healthy meals, and I prepare a variety of homecooked foods 6 days/nights of the week. We have a “no-thank-you-rule.” You have to take at least one bite of everything on your plate. If you don’t want anymore, that’s up to you. There are no other options. My 4 year old IS a picky eater, and chooses NOT TO EAT. He has been to the doctor recently to explore his weight and “feeding difficulties.” Contrary to what you think–not all kids are spoiled brats. Some actually have nutritional/metabolic disorders that don’t allow them to digest & absorb foods properly, mechanical issues (ie. swallowing problems), or GI disturbances like GERD that make it painful to eat. I hope your ignorance doesn’t shine through like this in all aspects of your life. Blessings

      • Missy

        Heather, why would you even bring that up as debate. A child with a true digestive, metabolic, or physiological disorder would only make up for about 10 percent of “picky eaters.” You took the comment very personally. Well if the shoe fits…………..

    • Joyce Sugai

      Although I think your comment is a bit harsh, I do agree with you. Our oldest son…our first born is very picky and I believe it is because as a new mother I made him things to eat that I thought kids would like and allowed him to eat something else if he didn’t like what my husband I ate. Well, now older and wiser and having another son eight years after my first child and who is now 4yrs old I am happy to say is NOT picky whatsoever. I learned that kids tastebuds need to aquire the taste for food so the greater variety of food you expose them too as young as possible the more likely they will like them. I find this statement to be so true, I was skeptical about this statement, it seemed that it made sense but I was a bit unsure. So I thought I’d give it a try with my second son and whadda ya know, so true!! My son will eat things that most adults do not (including my older son & husband), like collard greens, spinach, brussel sprouts, etc. He eats them because these are foods I fed him early on when he first began to eat table food and continue to make for my family.

    • Cathy K

      I find the comment completely uncalled for. There is no excuse to call anyones child a spoiled brat. I am pretty sure Collin would not appreciate a comment like this. No one made any nasty comments other than this one. Collin, thanks for the post, and thank you everyone for your ideas!

    • Stephanie

      I can tell you as an adult there things I don’t like to eat, but wish I did because they are healthy for you. I just can’t handle the taste or texture of some foods and I certainly was not a spoiled brat considering whatever food made it to the table was a blessing. Further more you do not know nearly anyone on this blog to say their child is a spoiled brat. I work in a daycare that is used primarily by professors, doctors, lawyers etc and I can understand how you may feel children are spoiled today, I found this to be true(er) with children of older parents, but I do not believe being a picky eater is a result of that. There were many more tasteful ways you could have made your point. Maybe the reason you are so rude is because your parents never washed your mouth out with soap. I’m sorry, I know this a friendly blog and I am very thankful for Collin, but I just can’t see the reason for your comment. Think before you hit submit.

      Lunch Ideas: my children love wraps and to hold them together in their lunch box I use toothpicks. They like ranch, chicken and cheese wraps on whole grain tortillas. At home we use lettuce, but I am afraid it will get slimy and icky. Also, Alton brown on Good Eats had a whole show dedicated to making granola bars and other store bought snacks at home. He made a recipe for rice crispy treats without butter and used flaxseed oil instead, then add cranberries, nuts and anything else you would desire to them. Some children, such as my friends daughter, even like sushi which is perfect for packing! It can be fun and kind of messy to have the kids help make it the night before. Try the rice/cream cheese/asparagus rolls. This is probably really rare though..I think her kid is 10 going on 30. lol.

      • Amy

        Stephanie: “Maybe the reason you are so rude is because your parents never washed your mouth out with soap.” LOL! Had to agree with this one! 🙂
        While there is some truth to the OP statement…it was however totally rude and uncalled for in many aspects.
        Just want to say that I did have a picky eater…my little guy who is now almost 2 has gone though a stage where if he didn’t like it he wouldn’t eat period (he has lived on carbs and mandarin oranges for a few months now) and it made me realize how hard it can be for the parent of a picky eater. I am thankful though that he is slowly coming out of this stage by watching his big bro (who hasn’t met a veggie he doesn’t like – he eats brussel sprouts even!) and now he is willing to at least try things and has taken to more variety in his diet.
        I think the most important thing is to give your child variety, put it on their plate even if you think they won’t eat it because sometimes they will surprise you!! 🙂 Praise them when they do!! 🙂

    • bwebster04

      If you saw my third child you would think that I cater to his every whim when it comes to food. But what you don’t see is that I have spent the last three years trying to get him to eat at all. I am lucky if he eats once a day, Not because he isn’t offered healthy options but because he has MAJOR food aversions and has since he was introduced to solids. It is really easy to say that picky eating is because of parents but that is a generalized statement. When you make statements like that you put people on the defense. My child is now 4 and in the last three years we have seen a food specialist once a month. Until you have actually dealt with a child like this maybe you should keep your comments to yourself.

  5. Elaine

    What is the food safety issues with hot food in a thermos? Is it safe for kids to eat fried rice, mac n cheese, meat, etc after 3-4 hours? I was always told that after food is eaten, leftovers need to be refrigerated within 1 hour. Also, how long do you put the hot water in the thermos to keep it warm before you put the lunch in it? Thanks.

  6. Jen Harkins

    Make pb&j sushi!
    cut the crust off your bread and roll it flat with a rolling pin or soup can, then spread on the pb&j, roll it up and slice it into little sushi looking tidbits it’s lots of fun to eat!

    • rena

      What a fun idea!

    • Shawna

      What an adorable Idea!! Easy and fun…Love it!

  7. Audrey

    I used a Thermos often with my oldest daughter last year. For main dishes, I gave her Mac&Cheese, spaghetti, chicken and dumplings (her fav), cut-up steak, beef arm roast with carrots and potatoes (most of which was left overs) all in her Thermos. For the occasional cold meal, I would make my make-shift Lunchable – rolled up ham (from the deli) and crackers. For sides, I gave her crackers, mandarin oranges (“baby oranges”), broccoli, carrot sticks, apple/pear slices, fruit snacks, low-fat cookies, and chips. I didn’t deprive her of “fun” things even though I am big on nutrition.

    During school, we have a rule – no sweets during the week (unless it is low-fat or “for special” aka birthdays). Weekends and holidays are free game, but only after lunch. We also allow our girls to have only one fruit snack per day (you know, fruit rollups, Kellog’s fruit snacks). This ensures that they get a well-rounded meal at least once a day!

    My daughter does eat lunch at school on occasion…it is funny because she loves their green beans and she plans her school meals around that! Anyway, I hope I have given some good ideas. My other daughter is entering Kindergarten and I am afraid I will need to purchase another high-dollar Thermos for her too!!

    I read on a previous posting of someone who asked how long to let your thermos to heat up with hot water – what I did was use boiling water (right out of the microwave) and let it set in the sealed Thermos for 10 minutes. THEN, I would boil more water and let it set for 3-4 minutes. I don’t know if that made any difference, but my daughter never got sick and always said that the food was warm at lunch time. I’m a Registered Nurse & in school to become an NP, and I believe thoroughly that our stomachs (with the hydrochloric acid) can kill much of the germs we put in it. I worried about it at first, and when she had no issues, I quickly put it to rest!! Hope this helps!!

  8. Janey

    I would love to have the granola bar recipe that Collin posted months ago. My sister has spoken about how good they were, but can’t find the recipe. Could you please post it again..not sure how to retrieve it from old posts…thanks!!!

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