Buying school lunches can be so expensive, especially if your child's school offers an a la carte option like ours does! My kiddos were not on board to taking a packed lunch from home, but after we worked together and made their lunches fun and what they wanted to eat, they were on board! And it saved me a TON of money! I've got 3 healthy, fun and delish DIY School Lunches that your kiddos are guaranteed to love!
We' been back to school for 5 weeks and my wallet feels like it took a huge hit! I kept getting that dreaded email from the kids school saying, "Your child's lunch account balance is below the threshold." I'm like...what? How can that be?!? I just funded their account last week!
Thank God the school lunch system shows me an itemized list of what the kids buy each day. When I looked, I was so shocked! My son was buying 2 FULL size lunches! I immediately asked him if he was buying a lunch each day for a friend who maybe didn't have a lunch and he was like, nope...I'm just really hungry and I need 2 lunches.
And that's when I realized we've got to stop buying lunch everyday. This is breaking me and those lunches he's eating are not all that healthy anyway. We tried making lunches in the past but I was never consistent. And the kids got so bored with my typical "turkey and cheese" sandwich. So...fine. I'll do better.
And I DID do better! I got into a consistent pattern and we got creative with putting some different lunch ideas together! There are so many options for making kid lunches!
I've broken it down into 4 sections to make this easier for us. Here's what a lunch needs:
- Protein (pick 1-2)
- Fruit & Vegetables (pick 1)
- Snacks & Treats (pick 1)
- Drinks (pick 1)
Here are some ideas/options for each category.
- Turkey & Cheese - goes great on crackers, bread or a Low Carb Soft Tortilla
- Peanut Butter & Jelly - goes great on crackers, bread or a Low Carb Soft Tortilla. Skip the added sugar and go with the natural brand.
- Mini Bagel Pizza (cheese, pepperoni, bagel and marinara sauce). Make your own! It's fun!
- Hard Boiled Eggs
- Soup - we bought this Thermos to keep their soups hot until lunch. My kids love to take Southwest Stew and Leftover Turkey and Rice Soup to lunch. I heat up their soups in the morning in a bowl, pour it into the Thermos and it stays hot until lunch time! I LOVE this product!
- Chicken Nuggets - my Turkey Tots are so good for lunches! The kids ask for these to be in their lunches all the time!
- Chicken Strips
- Hot Dog
- Jerky - Beef or turkey jerky is a great source of protein and does really well in school lunches. It's really easy to make your own, too! Check out my beef jerky recipe for step-by-step instructions.
- Cheese and Meat Soft Taco - use the Thermos for your taco meat! Grab a Low Carb Soft Tortilla and put it in a baggie. Toss some shredded cheese on top of the hot taco meat in the thermos and your kiddo will love making and eating their tacos/burritos at lunchtime! Need some good taco recipes? My Slow-Cooker Salsa Chicken Tacos and my Baja-Style Soft Chicken Tacos are fabulous!
- Greek Yogurt & Granola - I love a good greek yogurt, like Chobani and so do my kiddos. It's high in protein and keeps your kiddos full!
Fruits & Vegetables
- Cucumbers, Broccoli, Carrots, Cauliflower - cut these up to bite size pieces and add a container of hummus in a small tupperware.
- Salad - My kids love salads and guess what? I've got 22 different salads for you to choose from on my website!
- Edamame - super high in protein!
- Cherry Tomatoes - my son eats these like candy!
- Fresh Fruit: Strawberries, Grapes, Blueberries, Raspberries and Apples are fabulous in school lunches!
- Cherries - excellent source of potassium and helps rid the body of sodium.
- Pineapple - helps boost immunity and you know schools are the "germ hangout spot".
- Cutie Oranges - great source of Vitamin C.
- Raisins - super rich in iron and provide a natural energy boost for your kids recess or PE time.
- Applesauce - excellent source of fiber. Skip the added sugar and go for the unsweetened kind. My kids like this type better anyway.
Snacks & Treats
- Cheese Sticks/Cheese Shapes - great source of calcium and mozzarella cheese sticks are low in fat!
- Dry Cereal - Cheerios and Rice Chex are low in sugar and gluten free!
- Mixed Nuts - High in protein and in good fat!
- Dried Fruit - High in fiber and provides energy!
- Fruit Roll Up - skip the traditional sugar filled fruit roll ups and get the organic strips! Kids love these so much better because they taste like real fruit!
- Rice Cakes - I love Popped Rice Crisps! These are delish and low in fat!
- Popcorn - Go with Skinny Pop! Individual bags are 100 calories, low in fat and low in calories! This is a healthy carb!
- Goldfish - It's just a classic snack and my son loves them!
- Marshmallows - Sometimes your kids need a little sweet treat!
- Granola Bars - There are SO many to choose from! We love LARA Bars (100% natural ingredients and no additives) and Kind Bars (they have high protein and low sugar option) the best!
- Beef Jerky - High in protein!
- Milk - High in Calcium and Vitamin D!
- La Croix Sparkling Water - My daughter is in love with this sparkling water! No calories, no artificial sweeteners and sodium free!
- Juice Boxes - Read your labels here. My kids love the Honest Kids brand. This brand has half the sugar of the leading kids' drinks and it's only sweetened with organic fruit juice (30-42%). It has no high fructose corn syrup and it's low calorie, gluten free. Only 40 calories!
- Water - We all need more water in our lives!
Did I inspire you with some of these options? Good! Now let's put it together!
Lunch Packing Ideas - Let's Put it Together!
Idea 1 - Homemade Lunchables
There are so many cute little containers out there to help organize your lunch boxes, like these Bento containers! Cupcake holders, as well as decorated cardboard boxes give your kid's lunches a pop of color and it helps brighten up their day! My daughter came home and told me, "Mom, my lunch was so cute today! I loved the little polka dot containers!" It's the small things in life, right?!?! Oh, and don't forget about your cute little cookie cutters!
Do your kids like lunchables? My kids love them but they are pricey and they don't provide a lot of nutritional value. I like to make my own version of lunchables. I didn't have a small and cute cookie cutter, so I pulled out a shot glass and cut the turkey and cheese in to small circles and attached them with toothpicks. Or you can buy some super cute cookie cutters like I mentioned above! Because my daughter is Gluten Free, I pulled out my box of Van's "The Perfect 10" baked crackers. It makes the PERFECT homemade lunchable and it's healthy!
Idea 2 - Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich
Another really great option is a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But, it becomes fun when you cut the sandwich in fun shapes! I did a circle here, but there are fun ones you can buy like this heart shaped sandwich cutter. Grab your star or triangle cookie cutters and have fun with this lunch! Add a couple of fun sides and you are good to go! And be careful...they will sneak in and take a bite before it's even time to go to school! Yeah, this happened in my house!
Idea 3 - Peanut Butter and Banana Roll Up
My son loves peanut butter and bananas, so I decided to wrap it a tortilla to make it fun! We paired this with a fun little salad and some fresh fruit. He could not wait for lunchtime!
Ya'll, our kiddos are only young for so long, so I like to have fun with their lunches while I can. Slip a little note in their lunch box or a small little treat, and it will really help make their day extra special!
I hope I've inspired you to make some fun lunches your kids will enjoy! And I promise, your wallet will thank you!! Happy Lunch Eats!
Don't forget to pin these DIY School Lunches to your favorite DIY, School Lunches and Lunch Boards on PINTEREST!
NOTE: You will find affiliate links on this page.