Hipsters to the Rescue: How do YOU Prepare Healthy Lunch Box Foods & After School Snacks?!

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(Photo credits: Renovo & Dr. Perrone)

If your kids are just starting school today like mine, you may be looking for tips and tricks on preparing healthy lunch box foods and/or after-school snacks! How do you pack nutritious foods in your kids lunch box that won’t spoil and that you know they’ll enjoy? Or what simple but affordable snacks can you prepare ahead of time that will be ready for them when they get home from school?

(My daughter Piper headed to Kindergarten this morning! πŸ˜€ )

Whenever I’m looking for creative ideas, I love heading over to Pinterest and browsing around – there are SO many cute and fun ideas on that site for just about everything you can imagine! I just browsed around and spotted quite a few super cute lunch box and snack ideas…like these Butterfly Snack packs, Animal Cracker Celery Snacks, + much more!

Now it’s your turn… please share your HIP tips with us! πŸ˜€

Join The Discussion

Comments 133

  1. Missie B.

    She is so beyond adorable! (and definitely has her mom’s love for life personality!)

  2. Danielle

    how did the first day go?!
    are her brothers still at the same school as her??

  3. Kari

    For cold lunches, my kids like hard boiled eggs, cheese sticks, yogurt, pepperoni slices with pizza sauce for dunking, Cuties, cottage cheese, and of course, the basic sandwiches and crackers. These are my tricks, and I would LOVE to hear what other parents out there are doing for cold lunches.

  4. mary

    wishing you and your children i wonderful school year. Your lil princess is too cute!

  5. MalibuBeachBum

    Aw! Piper is adorable! πŸ™‚

  6. Shanna

    Lunch at my son’s school is 3.75 per day…..I know YIKES! He normally gets sandwiches but after the lunch meat and cheese deal at Target last week, I made him turkey, cheese roll ups and he has been in love ever since. Some times he gets leftovers and the lunch monitor is nice enough to warm them up for him. Gogurt can be frozen the night before and it will thaw by lunch time and I pack him fruit cups or applesauce.

    • Frugal Jen

      ours is like $6!!

      • Melissa

        wow ours is $1.50! Trying to convince my daughter to eat at school!

      • Nicole

        Ours is $1.30. Yikes!!!!!

    • K

      My son’s favorite is cream cheese and ham or turkey on a tortilla rolled up. He always thinks its a special treat! He also loves a squirt of honey mustard to his regular lunchmeat sandwiches.

    • Erin

      But are they good lunches? Ours are $1.80 and absolutely disgusting . . . and my son loves buying his lunch (something to do with burgers twice every week, pizza 1-2 times per week, and chicken nuggets/patties every week, perhaps?) Honestly, it looks like prison food. One day everything on his tray was gray–soggy French toast sticks, sad mystery meat sausage patties, and slimy “spiced apples” (AKA poor quality apple pie filling). I’d be happier paying more for something resembling real food, but I’m not going to force him to carry and make lunch an ordeal.

      • Karen H.

        I agree…I’m from Texas, and apparently here our kids health really doesn’t matter, because for as long as my kids have been in school, they get served fried, greasy, overly processed mystery food. If the food our kids get served every day WERE actually served in the prison, I think the prisoners would riot!! Unfortunately, there are thousands of impoverished kids who HAVE to eat this every day because they qualify for the free lunch program!!

        • Erin

          Actually, when I texted my husband a photo and commented on it like prison food, he sent me a link about that. Apparently, school systems and prisons are served by the same food service–prisoners just get more protein per meal.

    • Brandy

      That is crazy, ours are $1.75 and the school even provides breakfast. At $6 my kids would be taking their lunch every day.

  7. Elizabeth

    I usually sent things like lunch meats(turkey/ham/chicken) by themselves or in sandwiches(whole wheat bread with light mayo), cheese sticks/cheese wedges(off-brand of Laughing Cow), pretzels/Pretzel Crisps, light yogurt, light pudding, fruit that’s easy to eat and send in a lunch(apples, pineapple, grapes, oranges, peaches, pears, etc). Granola bars and fruit snacks work great, and I usually throw in a “non-healthy treat”(Rice Krispies, candy, chips). Water/juice is usually sent along. During the winter, I fill up a thermos with things like Chicken Noodle Soup, Spaghetti-O’s, and pasta we had the night before. Veggies like celery sticks and carrots are good to send too. Peanut butter sandwiches are a big hit also…usually use a cookie cutter to cut it into a fun shape πŸ™‚

    Congrats on going to kindergarten, Piper! (She is sooo adorable!!)

  8. Michelle

    Does anyone know where you can get an affordable apple device that cores (see top picture) like this? All i have is the one that cuts slices and I really want to do the above. Thanks! ;-D

    • Tammy

      You can find them on Amazon. Just type in Apple Corer…I’m sure you could find the same thing at Target or your local grocery/supermarket.

    • Makayla

      Little gimmicky items like this can be costly. I usually use my Kmart points to buy stuff like this. (Paid 9.99 for the Sandra Lee apple wedger but free after points.) However, if you are looking in person you will probably have to pay. I’ve seen the corer at Bed Bath and Beyond for 9.99 so 8.00 after 20% mobile or mailed coupon… HTH

    • Alxys

      I have actually found them at my local thrift store! Might be worth checking out.

    • koko

      Can’t we just cut the apples horizontally then use a small knife to cut little circles in the middle for the cores?

      • Makayla

        Yes. We have gotten lazy. lol… It’s more for the convenience and for the “pretty” factor. I personally am very clumsy with knives so I opt to own many gadgets to avoid cuts. Come to think of it, I could probably slice across and then use a small cookie cutter for different shapes in the middle. Neat πŸ˜€

    • Johanna

      I found a Betty Crocker brand corer (and slicer) at Dollar Tree for $1! They have had them regularly. =)

    • Starbucks fan

      I very carefully used a knife to do the same thing. Then I cut them in slices to make dried apple chips. The circle may not look as pretty but worked for me!

    • Teri

      On ebay! I found one for like $2.99 with free shipping! Brand new, by the way! πŸ™‚

    • Rachel

      They sell them at Walmart for $3.00, they’re green

  9. Carole Baker

    She is TOO cute!! Just adorable. When my kiddos (who are now in college) were in school, I can’t say I ever created butterflies with baggies but that is a GREAT idea…one thing I did do is put notes of encouragement in their lunches… Carole from ShopAtHome.com

    • Laura

      My mom wrote special notes on my napkin sometimes. It always made me smile and it’s something I’ll do when my little ones are in school.

      • Marissa

        same here… I loved it and will pass it on to my kiddos one day.

  10. Debi

    We made a list ahead of time (we did this last year and it worked) the headers were “Protien, Carb, Fruit/Veg, snack” the we filled in the list with things my son would eat. (The protien carb usually go together as a sandwich, but sometimes bread, sometimes crackers). This makes it easy for shopping too because I can stock up on the sale items. Also, i figured out that unlike adults, kids really don’t mind the same thing repeatedly. Especially if lunch time is stressful or lonely (they miss you) for them.

  11. Brittany

    Wow, school lunch is expensive are getting expensive! Ours is around $2-something, but(no offense to anyone here) it’s not a very good lunch. It’s either pizza or something else with soggy french fries/tater tots/potato wedges, a mix of veggies(that almost always ends up in the trash) and very rarely, bananas/fruit cups. And that’s ALL they get!!!!!!!!! The school has decided to “switch to a healthier menu option”, but what’s the point of “healthier” if you can only eat 2 things because the others are undercooked/just plain gross? It’s really sad, especially for those who can’t bring in their lunch, or when it’s the only thing that people have to eat all day(nothing to eat at home).

    I usually try to send apple sauce, fruits, veggies, and meat with some kind of dairy.

  12. Samantha

    My best tip to save money on lunches is to stop buying individually packaged items and pack them yourself. For instance, instead of buying the small packs/containers of cookies, chips, applesauce, pudding, etc…buy a big bag or container and put it in a ziploc bag or reusable container. Why pay $4-$5 for 12 small packs of cookies when you can buy a big pack for $2 and put them in ziploc bags? It does take a couple of extra minutes in the morning, but it saves a lot of money! You are just paying for convenience when you buy everything individually packaged, just do it yourself! πŸ™‚

    • Makayla

      Strange you should say this. This only works if you coupon and have a stash of free, cheap Ziploc (I do :D) Otherwise, you are spending extra on the bag. And also we all have sweet tooths so would end up eating the cookies or someone leaves the package opened and then they all go bad. Just doesn’t work in my house.

      • Rebecca

        Many people re-use ziploc bags; you can also use reuseable individual size containers such as Glad containers, which come in a variety of sizes. This fits in line with Samantha’s suggestion. πŸ™‚ Plus, you can recycle them and not add to the landfills. πŸ™‚

        • Makayla

          My mother told me the same thing. She had a fit when she realized how many ziploc bags I use perday/week. I had a bigger fit when I saw her washing the bags to reuse them. I think it’s easy for bacteria to grow in the corners of the bag. Also, she’s wasting water, which is also precious. I recycle the sunday paper, diaper boxes, etc. I recycle the individual water bottles and sometimes reuse them once for juice I am also thinking about purchasing a water dispenser like they have at the dr’s office so I don’t buy as many water bottles and to save energy by not opening the fridge a much.

          • Rebecca

            If you wash & air dry the bags inside-out, there shouldn’t be a bacteria issue. I use cloth instead of disposable diapers. We’d like to get a home water filtration tank, too, and I’m loving my Brita filter water bottle until then.

      • Debi

        I used my “Disney rewards points” and got the reusable pouches. They’re cool looking and mostly the boys don’t even notice that they are mickey mouse. You can make your own. Remember, it is just to keep it in a lunch box for a few hours…it doesn’t have to be ultra air-tight to keep food for months! Find a friend or neighbor that sews.

      • basruttensrighthandSean B.

        We just purchased great bpa free small containers perfect for little snacks. I do this with everything. I pack the yogurt, crackers, cookies, all in these plastic containers and they come back home. Same with sandwiches. So I don’t dig into my stash of ziplocks unless I have to!

      • RD

        Etsy has some SUPER cute, fabric and PUL washable snack bags. Just toss them in the washing machine with your kitchen towels and reuse πŸ™‚ More cost effective and better for the environment than ziplocs or individual size bags

    • Crystal

      I do this too, but to save time, when you are putting groceries away you can package everything all at once into little baggies so that when you are packing lunches you an just grab n’ go.

    • Laura E

      In my son’s school they don’t allow you to bring in your own ziplock bags of chips, cookies etc that you would make from a a large container… They only allow you to bring in small pre made packages that are almost 3X the cost of doing it yourself. They say that it is for safety reasons!

      • Tastefully Simple lady

        What?? That is crazy. That is way too much policing, if you ask me.

      • Bobbi

        I could understand that rule if you are providing snacks for a whole class, but not for your own child’s lunch. That makes no sense.

        • jill

          The only thing I can think of is so they have the food labels handy? ie: Peanut allergies, etc…. But I agree, it’s a little much.

  13. Makayla

    Cookie cutters are my friend πŸ˜€ I love to cookie cut the slices of wheat bread to motivate my little one to eat it. ( My 5 year old doesn’t eat the edges anyhow). Lately I found baby carrots at Winn Dixie that bring 4 separate baggies for $1.25 so awesome deal compared to the individual ones they sell. I put the dressing in a baggie or cup for her. The individual Jif cups are a little high but if you get the 3 pk on sale for $1 at cvs or walgreens, it’s a time, mess and life saver and you can put different items to dip in the lunchbox.

  14. jenetta

    Protein Popsicle!! Make smoothies with protein mix for breakfast and then freeze the leftovers for Popsicles

    • Rebecca

      Great idea! Thanks for sharing it! πŸ˜€

  15. Rebecca

    Our oldest doesn’t start K until next year, but for road trips my main staples are grapes & cheese (cut up a block yourself), crackers like wheat thins (love Aldi’s brand), 100% fruit or fruit-veggie juice boxes, mozza cheese sticks, bananas (mini ones if avail.), homemade trail mix (cashews, craisins/raisins/dried berries, dried date chunks, choc. chips/m&m’s, sunflower seeds, etc.). Put things into reusable individual size containers with lids, which you can find anywhere including dollar stores.
    I’m surprised how many responded to Collin’s request for “tips and tricks on preparing healthy lunch box foods and/or after-school snacks! How do you pack nutritious foods in your kids lunch box that won’t spoil and that you know they’ll enjoy?” with lunch meats and things like spaghetti-o’s. :O There were a lot of other good options mentioned, though.
    Does anyone have any outside-the-box ideas? I love the unique, healthy ideas in the opening pics & in Debi’s shopping plan. πŸ™‚

    • Makayla

      Do it yourself for kids are always a fun way to get your child to eat their goodies. I saw something on a Disney magazine and went from there. I used pepperidge farm crackers instead of the rice cakes pictured, cream cheese (with a spec of food coloring or you could replace by smashing blueberries in it), goldfish, slice celery and brocoli. Anyhow, put everything in separate baggies and put the picture in the lunchbox and let my daughter build the underwater scenes herself.( You can do the picture/item on many food projects.)

  16. Maria

    Something I find that kids really enjoy is a Turkey BLT on Pepperidge Farm 15 grain bread. It’s the only bread I’ll use, it’s whole wheat, there’s no high fructose corn syrup at all, and it has seeds and other grains that you can really taste. I’ll pack that with a homemade trail mix of dried cranberries and almonds, cashews, and walnuts. Add an apple and water, and you have a filling, healthy lunch.

  17. hyedi

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE this post! I always struggle to come up with creative and yummy healthy school snacks and lunches. Its such a tremendous help to hear from other moms and see other recipies that they use through out the school year. Please keep them coming.
    Happy 1st school day to Piper!

  18. Delaina

    I have a stainless steel lunch box from Planet Box that we LOVE. It has many compartments and seals nicely and also has a space for an ice pack and a zippered cover that is washable. It keeps cold foods cold and separated. Inside of the lunch box I have raw fruits cut up like apples, grapes, etc. and then I may put in some cherry tomatoes cut up and then some all-natural lunch meat or organic hot dog in another compartment. I also have reusable bags for crunchy items like chips or gluten-free crackers, etc. I also do avocado with some lemon juice to keep it fresh and other yummy treats like raisins, etc. (My daughter is on a strict gluten-free, casein-free and low oxalate diet, so this is why her foods may seem kind of “boring”). πŸ™‚

    IF you have more options that my daughter does for your kid as far as what to eat is concerned, you can make yummy peanut butter and pear sandwiches like I saw in this month’s issue of All You! Then you can use a cookie cutter like something in the shape of a heart of dinosaur to make it more fun for your kids. πŸ™‚

  19. Delaina

    Oh and they have these mini humus packs you can get to dip your fresh veggies in now too! πŸ™‚

  20. Jen from Germany

    Our problem is with all the peanut/nut allergies that kids have these days is that my kids primarily like pb&j but they have to sit at a special table if they bring this in their lunch. This even includes almonds, some granola bars, etc. My kids don’t like their food mixed, don’t like cheese, and one won’t eat lunch meat. It has been hard but the thermos to carry hot food in has been a lifesaver! We do applesauce, fresh fruit, some veggies (w/o dip since they won’t eat it), goldfish, “safe” granola bars, fruit roll ups (the real fruit ones), etc.

    • Makayla

      Wow! Call me crazy, but I do not base my kid’s lunch on other children’s allergies. It’s bad enough we have to cut back and send snacks for the class that exclude these things. This is each parent’s, student’s, kid’s responsability. By the way, our cafeteria serves some items with pb as well.

      • Dee

        You have to be careful for some kids, Makayla. There is a child with a SEVERE peanut allergy in my daughter’s class and if someone brings in anything or even eats something with peanuts before they come to school, it can be life-threatening for this child. It is for this reason that there was a letter sent home with us asking for use to refrain from bringing in anything with peanuts. It all depends on how severe the allergy is. I am sure that you would want others to be just as cautious for your child if they had this bad of a reaction.

        • Samantha

          Love your comment, Dee! So true! My son has a severe nut allergy and when he is in school, this is something I am going to have to be very cautious about. I hope other parents are as understanding as you about it! πŸ™‚

          • Dee

            πŸ™‚ No problem. Everyone has something different they have to deal with and we just need to be understanding of others’ situation.

        • Bklynsoulmomma

          thank you Dee. My child does not have peanut allergies, but I can’t imagine having to explain what happened to his little friend who had a reaction from a severe allergy to nuts.

          We all have a responsibility in a school community. The comfort of your home is another story.

      • Laura

        I agree Makayla.

      • Brook

        I am a mother of young child with a peanut allergy. Other parents have to remember that these precautions are put in place to protect the health, safety and really the lives of children with food allergies. It is hard to put the responsibilty onto a young preschooler to protect themseves and we has parents can’t come to school with our children. In this instance we have to hope that our parents are willing to take some changes to protect the life of our children. Believe me, I wish everyday that we didn’t have to live with food allergies, but it was the cards that were dealt to us.

        • Summer

          I absolutely agree Brook- my daughter has massive food allergies (peanut, soy, dairy, gluten, egg, and on and on and on) and of course I would never wish this on anyone. But, I really hope people do what they would want done for their own child. My mother-in-law was on an airplane and they came over the intercom and asked people not to open anything at all with peanut in it while on the plane because it would become airborne and would kill this particular passenger. I , for one, would have listened….

      • jill

        Okay Makayla – then have your kid sit at the special table away from their friends who may have a nut allergy. I’m so happy to hear that it is done this way, instead of having the child with the allergy have to sit at the “special table”. Having the nut allergy is enough to deal with… no need to be secluded from everyday life – like choosing where to sit at lunch.

      • S

        Makayla, some people are so severely allergic that even the smell will cause an allergic reaction. I’m an adult who just found out I had severe food allergies (on accident, on vacation. Had a severe anaphylactic reaction and it was the scariest thing that has ever happened to me) a couple of years ago. I’m allergic to tree nuts (specifically, almonds, brazil nuts, hazel nuts, and cashews.). I don’t ask people to cater to me, BUT I can’t walk through the mall past the nut stand (where they are cooking various treats with nuts) without breaking out into hives.

      • Lisa

        I’m inclined to think that if the child has a special food need, shouldn’t THEY sit at the special table? If you stick all the kids without issues at the “special” table, will the child with the problem not end up all by themselves at an unappointed/unlabeled table? When you go this far to avoid isolating a child, you inevitably end up making a bigger scene than necessary. I’m so sorry for those kids with special food needs, but they will have to learn to operate in life without expecting everyone to change around them. By the way, homeschooling is an excellent option for all! πŸ™‚

    • ali

      Our local schools have gone “nut free” for everyone, no exceptions. Not just peanut butter, but ALL nut butter varieties and anything containing nuts.I can’t even believe it. Peanut butter is a fantastic source of protein that doesn’t spoil, and instead of isolating the kids with allergies, they have banned it altogether for every child. With the lack of nutrition in the school lunch program, we have been strapped for ideas of what to substitute in his lunches. PLEASE HELP with additional ideas if you can! πŸ™‚ Thanks!

      • Em

        I have seen a precious, young child die in the ER from a nut exposure at school. This particular child had an unknown allergy to the peanut butter in the child’s next to him/her sandwich. I’m in full support of not allowing nuts, to which many many people have known and unknown allergies to, out of elementary cafeterias. It is always an inconvinence until its a child you know. Snowflakes can eat sun butter (and other seeds), beans, etc, they are all good sources of protein as well, and just as yummy.

        Schools simply aren’t trained to handle allergic reactions to this magnitude. Even the children with known allergies tend to be not as safe, as they usually aren’t allowed, without a big fight from doctors and lawyers, to keep their Epi-pen with them…it’s a medication and schools believe these children shouldn’t have medication with them.

        • Em

          Typos. Typos. Typos!

      • Stacey

        Ali–Have you heard of Sunbutter? It is made from Sunflower seeds–and tastes just like pb. It has the same protein as peanut butter. It is yummy! There are also soy butters.

        My son (4) has life threatening food allergies to egg, soy, dairy, peanuts and tree nuts. He has had multiple reactions since he was 10 weeks old and several ambulance rides/ER visits. This is a life I would never wish on anyone. It breaks my heart when people are so nonchalant about it. Giving my son a food that he is allergic to is no different than a child having a loaded weapon around him. He might not die–but he might. Sadly, that is our reality. I am terrified of him going to K next year. πŸ™

    • Mia

      Jen, I so wish I had your “problem”. Instead I have a daughter that has a severe allergy. Believe me there is nothing scarier than having to see your daughter covered in hives, gasping for air to the point of losing consciousness after eating a bite of pb&j. Can you imagine always worrying about not only what your daughter’s eating but children around her? Can you imagine worrying about your daughter’s life every time you go out to eat in a restaurant? It’s almost like a game of Russian roulette with an Epi pen ready to go at any sign of distress? Can you imagine being mocked by other parents because really when you were a child no one had a peanut allergy?
      Maybe you can thank God tonight for not having a child with a life threatening condition. Maybe you can teach your child to be compassionate and say “some foods make our friends sick, we can eat peanut butter at home, but at school we can have jelly & cream cheese.” But we both know you won’t…

      • Nicole

        That was kind of harsh. Instead of being so bitter at someone who does not understand food allergies maybe you should educate them in a positive manner. I didn’t realize food allergies could be this bad until I read from the other moms above. Their comments were eye opening. I’m sorry your child has allergies. I couldn’t imagine the fear of going to a restaurant.

        • Makayla

          Nicole. It gets to be tedious and you begin to understand why people end up doing home schooling. My second child is only 3 and she has allergies to perfumes, detergents, makeup. Someone gave her a kiss on the cheek with lipstick when he was one and the lipstick came of and so did some of her skin… πŸ™ Seriously I kept rubbing thinking it was red lipstick but apparently it was that bad. I dread family reunions and I am dreading the first day of school, which is about a year away.

    • Makayla

      It’s very interesting to see how different the opinion of a parent versus a non-parent is. To my defense, the school cafeteria serves peanut butter. It’s the parents’ choice to allow their children through the line for other items or pack lunch. Last year my daughter was limited to snacks we could buy or bring. She had a classmate with peanut allergy, one allergic to latex, one that couldn’t eat cupcakes, one that couldn’t have candy because it had gelatin (I guess due to religion) and a few with overbearing mommies. Needless to say, snack day was not fun. She started kindergarten this year and I voted in our favor. She can eat what she likes. It’s not fair to limit her due to other children’s illness. I feel it is like taking the playground away just because one child can’t be out in the sun. We will see what I will have to deal with my second child who has skin allergies. I highly doubt everyone at the school will stop wearing perfume or lotions to approach her.

      • Dee

        Makayla and Laura: keep in mind, not all kids are aware of their conditions, especially in K. My daughter is intellectually impaired and would eat anything anyone gave her (she does not, however, have a severe allergy but has other food intake issues). We still need to remember that these are children and they don’t always know what is best for them, so protections need to be in place. Again, if we are talking about a life-threatening reaction, we are talking life and death. It may be incovienent for the families of healthy children, but if you were the child’s parent, I am sure you would want the same care for your kid. As for kids who may have other issues, accommodations can be made, like a kid who can’t go outside because of a “sun allergy” simply does an alternate activity while the other kids are at recess. SERIOUS food allergies, however, are a different matter and many times there are no exceptions. Again, unless you have a child that has special needs such as this, it may be hard for you to understand, but please have compassion and respect for those that have to live with these fears of their child potentially dying everyday all because of something as simple as a peanut dust, etc.

        • Dee

          P.S. And I knew of an ADULT who had such severe allergies to fragrances that the entire FLOOR she worked on had to be free of ANY fragrance for anyone who walked into that office or she would end up in the ER. And again, we are talking an ADULT. So there are people everywhere, not just kids, that are ill and we need to respect that and allow them to live as normal of lives as they can and continue to be productive members of society, whether that be in the workplace or at school. That is simply a human right.

        • Makayla

          I am not being disrespectful whatsoever. As a matter of fact, my 3 year old was born with a cleft palate and before her surgery, she needed a special feeder to be able to eat. On top of that, she has severe allergies to latex, detergents, makeup, perfumes, etc. It was my responsability as a parent to leave my job at that time and take care of her rather than expect the same daycare that cared for my oldest to take 45 minutes every other hour to wash, warm her bottle, wash, feed her… for the same amou nt of money other parents paid. It was taking time away from other children and hence favoring her. In these cases, a letter to the school/teacher and teaching your child should work, or you have your child enrolled in the wrong school. Some parents with extreme cases of disabilities receive money form the government to help in taking care of their ill children or to pay for services to help. Parents also have the option of home schooling. I do not however agree with taking a right from my child to give freedom to someone else. It’s not on my policy book.

          • Lisa

            I think you are on the right track here, Makayla. When we are talking about life threatening issues, I cannot believe a person would send off their kids to strangers and trust things will revolve around their needs. Keep you child home and take care of them yourself. It’s YOUR child, and no one will love them nearly so much as you do, right? So why expect others to figure out all the ways to deal with each and every condition. It doesn’t seem right to me. I do not put my children into potentially dangerous situations. I do not expect dangerous situations to conform to my children.

        • Makayla

          Love your videos! You made my day! lol
          My children are my hobby πŸ˜€

    • Makayla

      Jen, I understand and I am with you. If they sit the kids with allergies in another table, then it would be discrimination. ;D
      Take also note that in this world giving “justice”, “fairness, and “freedom” to a few means taking it away from everyone else… and that’s in more topics/scenarios than lunchtime at school.

      • Mia

        My daughter does sit at a peanut free table. I have never heard of any school that does this on reverse. Last year my daughter could have 1 friend sit with her at this table. I found a little “cell phone” she had made in her lunchbox. She told me that she would talk to other girls at neighboring tables on her pretend phone. Having a food allergy is very isolating. The bottom line is that I have yet to find a child that minds keeping their friends safe by altering their food choices a bit, it’s the adults that do…

    • Sarah

      I am an adult with food and latex allergies (two of the food allergies and the latex allergy could become life threatening if I am exposed to them) and I can tell you that while I understand how frustrating it is on both sides of the issue, food allergies are something that can’t be taken lightly. I (miserably) lived with my food allergies for 14 years before I figured it out. I am mildly allergic to peanuts and a HUGE list of other foods, and it is a constant struggle to make sure that my kids food doesn’t contaminate my food accidentally. Unfortunately I can’t remove all the foods I am allergic to from our home because then there would be very little that my family could eat and I hate to do that to them so I only torture myself with the limited diet and try very hard to watch what my food touches. School age kids likely wouldn’t have the self-control to do that for themselves.

      • mira

        I think kids would not have so much of a problem with this…as adults DO !!!! if you just spoke to your child and tell them , XYZ has allergy and lets not take this to school it could make him sick…trust me your child will be like ok mommy..no problem..i wouldnt want someone else getting sick…or a like…
        I think it teaches kids to be tolerant and think of others ppls needs from a very young age.
        In any situation when i know a kid can not eat a certain thing, i tell my son , lets keep it away…and not make this child feel bad…or left out that he can not eat it..and 100% of the time my child has understood and co operated and has even suggested lets take out a differetn snack and share …

        problem is with the ADULTS…not the kids !!!!

        • Brook

          I so agree with you Mira!!!

          • Sharon

            My daugher is 12 and has almost died 10 times because of her nut allergy. At this age she knows what she can and cant eat. When she was at the public school they didnt serve it in the hot lunch menu but in her case she had to sit at the peanut free table. They couldnt control what was brought in cold lunches so she knew she was safe at the table. She was isolated from alot of students and every year they has to do a special speech in front of the whole class about her allergy. So from self-estem she really struggled with this and still does now. Its undereducated people that dont know alot about it because they’ve never had to deal with it before, which from our family we understand. One of the instances that she almost died is one someone gave her a high five on her hand. They had peanut butter but never washed their hands. So in the ER she was forever. I know its a pain to pack something else but as a mother of a child that has almost died as a mother I asked you to protect those kids who cant control their allergys. Sometimes as a parent you worry is your kids going to be ok today at school today. U just never know. If you are one of those parents that go out of your way for treats to make sure their peanut free that means alot to those kids, because most of the time my daughter never gets the birthday treat or whatever treat most of the year. U taking the extra minutes to make sure she also can have the treat makes her day. To sit their as a child for years and to watch everyone else have one and you cant affects their day. So I send treats to keep in the classroom just in cause if this does happen now.

  21. Summer

    try Sunbutter (sunflower butter)– it is really good….

    • Rebecca

      I agree! It’s awesome & we even don’t have a specific “need” for it, it just tastes great!

  22. Amber

    I really like this post. I love getting new ideas for lunches. I was so excited when my favorite meal planning site just started a new lunch plan. Emeals are awesome!! I have tried several different meal plans on their site and have not had a bad meal! The lunch plans have been very fun and healthy. They even include a healthy treat to make. Check out their new lunch plan here: https://emeals.com/amember/go.php?Ir=229248&i=l0

  23. Ann

    Just two words… BENTO BOXES!!! You can’t believe how creative BENTO lunches can be! Goggle it.

    • Stephanie

      I concur! I do Bento Boxes for my son and he loves them! I do anywhere from Star Wars theme (with cookies cutters – I use them to cut the bread into shapes), Angry birds, pigs, trains, cars, etc. And I use the Easy Lunchbox system – affordable and it’s no waste! I don’t use ziplocs in his lunches. He gets fresh fruit, veggies, double fiber bread, lots of healthy stuff. But because it’s so fun he eats it all up! Not to mention they are just fun to create for him.

  24. Laura

    PB&J on whole wheat bread, low fat cheddar cheese and whole wheat crackers, apples/peanut butter or celery/peanut butter, baby carrots, whole fruits like: bananas, pears, peaches, strawberries, grapes, cherries, low fat yogurt, apple sauce, low fat pudding cups, low fat cottage cheese, homemade popcorn

  25. Taren

    I prepare lunch and snack items ahead of time and fereze. Food items will thaw by lunchtime! I have posted kids breakfast, lunch and snack ideas on http://www.BareWoodenSpoon.com. Go to KIDS! and click on Menus.

  26. jennifer

    Can anyone give me some suggestions on how to pack alunch for a picky eater. My son does not eat any type of sandwiches. He likes ham and cheese but not on a sandwich which makes it very difficult to make him lunch

    • Jeanette R

      does he like crackers? or put it in a flour tortilla? or just do a roll up.
      Also, for those that use ziploc bags, as soon as you open a bag of chips or cookies you can just divide them up into serving size bags. That way it saves time later.

      • Rebecca

        Oh yeah! Tortillas or wraps are a great alternative!

    • Rebecca

      You can buy ham heels intead of pre-sliced & cut it into cubes, then add crackers instead of bread, & cheese you cut into chunks from a block. This saves on money versus buying pre-cut, too. πŸ™‚
      We can help more if you share what else he does/doesn’t eat.:)

    • amy

      Oh me too Jennifer – my son is starting kindergarten this year and he WONT eat sandwiches. He likes peanut butter on crackers, so I guess that’s not too bad – I don’t know why he won’t just eat it on bread! Argh! He would live on hot dogs and chicken nuggets. He does like cheese sticks and grapes and other fruit too – but won’t touch lunch meat. My prob. is I need a good thermos to keep foods hot I guess. What brands does everyone else use? Is the thermos brand good?

      • Susan

        Yes, the Thermos Brand is great. My daughter has a home packed lunch everyday due to a strict diet for severe acid reflux. We have 2 Thermos containers and have been using them for 4 years now. She uses them at least once a week, sometimes 3 or 4. Just remember to activate them with hot water before putting in your hot/warm food.

    • Candi

      My son also doesn’t like sandwiches so I really have to get creative. I will send pepperoni, mini pepperoni, cheese sticks, yogurt instead of sandwiches.

    • Erin D.

      When I was a kid I liked ham, spread with cream cheese and a dill pickle inside, all rolled up. It was a sweet/sour thing. Try thinking of rolls like this with different combos. Like turkey w/ string cheese roll or, ham w/ cheddar cheese roll. See if he will put in a little lettuce leaf or a slice of red pepper, too. Or, make your own pizza with a whole wheat English muffin, a small container of spaghetti sauce (you can pre-package and keep in the fridge or freezer until needed – start collecting small containers from drive thrus used for salad dressings) and shredded cheese and pepperoni sliced in quarters. He will be the envy of the table! Also, you can find packaged condiments at restuarant supply stores or big box stores that you can drop into his lunch to add to the lunch rollups, but I think he will eat the rollups without the condiments. The other day for my lunch I used a wheat tortilla, lettuce leaf, red pepper strips and string cheese and ham. It was delicious. You could also have him use hummus as a condiment on the tortilla roll up.

      Wallmart has shaped cutters to cut the sandwiches – dinosaurs, cars, hearts (find them hanging off the shelves in the bread and PB&J aisles. Make a special day to go shopping for school food supplies. Have him bring an energetic friend. Try purchasing one or two and making a big deal about cutting the bread (even if it is just plain bread without it being a sandwich yet). If the friend likes it, your child will, too. He will think he is being left out of something super cool.

      Good luck!

  27. Sarah

    My daughter also goes to a peanut free school, we do almond butter (but I second the sunflower butter suggestion!). She loves fruit, so I usually cut some up for her, veggies and home made hummus, brown rice cakes, applesauce, clif Z bars, trail mix (sunflower seeds are a good add-in), home made breads/muffins/healthy “cookies”…There was a website that suggested these tubes that you can make your own frozen “gogurt”, applesauce or smoothies in. It also has great lunch ideas (nut free ideas too) with REAL foods: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2010/09/23/homemade-school-lunches/.

  28. Kari

    Someone above posted about protein shakes. I have made tofu smoothies, and the kids love them. A hunk of silken tofu, some favorite fruits, some juice, and some yogurt all blended together. You can add vanilla extract, honey, or your favorite sweetener, too.

  29. erin

    HUMMUS!!! Along with veggies, nuts, and fruits. keep it simple!

  30. Emily

    My son is in preschool, so I am not sending a full lunch, yet. However for snacks, he LOVES muffins. I make my own at home with whole wheat, oats, fruits or veggies (e.g., banana blueberry or carrot apple raisin). There are lots of different healthy recipes online. I also freeze about half the batch so, I waste as little as possible.

  31. Summer

    cubes of lunch meat/cheese/bread/veggies/whatever on bamboo sticks– fun for the kids– as long as they don’t use them as weapons

  32. Jen B

    Love the ideas! Struggle with lunches as my daughters do not like sandwiches.
    My niece was so allergic to peanuts my sister decided to buy baby wipes for the class for the year as that way kids could wipe their hands after lunch. It was decided other children had the right to bring pbj. Funny the school discovered these kids in this class were not as sick that year. After that the school decided to purchase wipes for all the kids classes.

    • Makayla


  33. Renee Mack

    I make 5 lunches and 5 snack packs every sunday. Lunches are in divided plasticwear. Every morning grab and go. Works great. Have been using this method over a year now and love it.

    • Adrienne

      What types of meals do you pack that stay fresh all week long? Sounds like a smart plan!

    • kikayaquino

      I would love to be able to do this, too, but can’t come up with ideas that would stay fresh for that long. I am trying to stay away from process box food…

  34. Melony

    My personal preferences for lunch:
    1. Lettuce roll ups (Romaine lettuce, lunch meat and cheese)
    2. Greek yogurt
    3. Apple sticks (38 of them = one serving!) πŸ™‚
    4. String cheese
    5. Water
    6. Mott’s no sugar added apple sauce
    7. Sea Veggies (not recommended for young kids because of the gel pack inside)
    8. Homemade chipotle (canned and drained chicken, black beans, cheese, and tomatoes)
    9. Homemade Tuscan Hummus
    10. Triscuits or Wheat Thins
    11. Hummus
    12. mac n cheese w/ tuna and peas (or another favorite veggie…more tuna and veggies than mac n cheese though)
    13. Thin slices of Kohlrabi
    14. mini cucumbers (sliced)
    15. Homemade trail mix (similar to the Enjoy Life trail mix)
    16. Homemade granola
    17. 3/4 cup Honey Nut Cheerios cereal (no milk)

  35. Adrienne

    My child’s lunch runs $4/day! No thanks! I only pack cold lunches and include a side of fruit, a milk box, and Yo-Baby yogurt every day.

    Main dishes include:
    -turkey/cheese roll-ups or turkey-cheese sandwiches with hummus
    -tuna sandwiches
    -peanut butter or almond butter and jelly sandwiches
    -homemade pasta salad
    -salmon burgers with veggies
    -whole grain crackers with cheese and turkey
    -hard-boiled eggs
    -hummus, cucumbers, and carrots
    -natural sausage with broccoli
    -mac and cheese with spinach and mixed veggies

    • kikayaquino

      Adrienne, how do you keep the milk cold and what type of lunch box does he have?

      • Adrienne

        I pack his lunch the night before and keep it in the fridge over night. In the morning, I put in the ice pack just before heading out to school. I use the Horizon organic milk box, which does not actually need to be refrigerated, but it stays cool in our lightly insulated lunch bag (from Land’s End). They eat at 11:30, so it only needs to keep cold for about 4 hours.

  36. chris

    Pizza pinwheels are a favorite in our house–pizza crust, spinach, tomato sauce, cheese and maybe some turkey pepperoni rolled up and sliced. Makes plenty, so I always have a bag in the freezer that I can pull a couple out the night before and they’re defrosted by lunch the next day.

    Some other favorites:
    -Pasta Salad (easy to add extra veggies)
    -Baked corn chips with fresh salsa
    -Apples and strawberries with yogurt for dipping
    -Cereal (with milk from the cafeteria–my daughter loves this!)
    -fruit and cheese ka-bobs (use toothpicks)
    -Honey wheat pretzel sticks or sliced apples with sunflower butter (or pb if school allows).

    And my kids love these–there’s tons of versions of this recipe and I’ve substituted sunflower butter with no problem. I’ve added dried fruit and some recipes call for wheat germ as well.


  37. Amanda

    I just wanted to say that this reminded me of when I was young and my sister and I would stay with our grandparents for a week every fall. Gramps would make our lunches and aside from being THE BEST lunches EVER (meatloaf sandwich and fresh baked cookies) there would always be something strange or funny… a raw potato, a peach pit carved in the shape of a monkey, a napkin with a pouty face drawing that said “Have a Bummer” (I still have that).
    Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

    • Erin D.

      Love that!!!

  38. Jennifer

    When making my son’s lunch the other day, I had the idea of making a nutella & peanut butter sandwich instead of just plain PB or plain Nutella. They are a tasty combo! We use the pepperidge farm fish-shaped bread for fun πŸ™‚

    • Rebecca

      Just remember that nutella is the equivalent of frosting with barely a hint of nutrition. πŸ˜‰

  39. Wanda

    I work in a school in PA. From what I understand state (and possibly national) regulations are forcing school to change their philosophy on lunch. Each year changes are made by food services to comply with these standards. Current changes include reducing amount of carbs (9 per week- cannot possibly serve sandwiches everyday that would be 10), increasing (fruit/veg) child must take with their meal, reducing sugar, and incorporating whole grain. Each year they are getting progressively stricter about requirements of a healthy lunch.

  40. Amyt

    I have my kids convinced that multi-grain bread from a local bakery is the best bread ever. My kindergartner was telling me tonight at dinner that the other kids didn’t like the seeds in her bread and couldn’t believe she would eat such a thing! Sometimes we skip the bread and do crackers. Also make pizza and calzones. My kids love leftovers in the thermos. Sliced kiwi fruits travel well. I buy fun beverage napkins on clearance (Party City with free shipping) and put those in the lunchbox to make my girls smile.

    • Erin D.

      Super cute idea! There are always a few napkins left after each party, too!!!

  41. Jessie

    My son started K this year and has been taking his lunch for almost 3 weeks. We have found that yogurt makes a mess! We bought a $14 thermos-not thermos brand that came with foldable spoon that he just loves. The thermos keeps everything warm and he took left over spaghetti today. Anther great way to save $ and reduce waste is to purchase cloth napkins. I got 8 for $2.00 at the thrift store. He has been very responsible to bring them back each day. My son does not eat bread eitgher so I just put deli slices in a baggy.

  42. Erin D.

    Corn muffins made with a turkey hot dog in the middle are super-yummy! Freeze a batch for quick lunch packing during the week.

    • Rebecca

      That’s a great idea! Corn dog muffins! πŸ˜›

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