easy school lunch ideas

As fall approaches, so does the looming threat of making school lunches. This can be a daunting task, especially for picky eaters. For those of you whose little cherubs have no problem buying and eating the school lunch everyday, move on. You are in a little piece of heaven that I only experience when the school cafeteria serves chicken nuggets or cheese pizza. For everyone else, here are some fun, kid-friendly, and kind of easy lunch ideas for the new school year.


We opt for the bento-style lunch boxes with designated spaces for each food item. I have a variety of shapes and sizes, and I employ silicone muffin cups — these are awesome, reusable, and perfect for fitting something in that must not touch something else. 

Some of our lunchbox choices!

To keep things simple, and to fill all the holes in a bento-style box, I try to include the following in a school lunch: a main, a veggie, a fruit, a salty, and a sweet. Yes, a veggie can be the salty, and fruit can be the sweet, and if your kid is cool with that, then awesome! For my kids, chips and chocolates always seem to make their way into the lunch boxes. I always make sure whatever I send is allergy friendly and safe for my school — please check before sending in anything that may harm another child!

Main course

A sandwich is our typical choice. My girls love ham, cheese, and cream cheese on white bread. It’s a staple and a constant in our school lunch bag. I often utilize sandwich cutters. My girls, 4 and 7, are violently opposed to crusts, and they also enjoy sandwiches cut into fun shapes. These are perfect for eliminating the crusts and creating the fun — just beware, not all sandwich cutters will fit all bread sizes/shapes!

Fun sandwich shapes.

My kids also enjoy wraps (with the sandwich ingredients) cut into pinwheels or made into a DIY Lunchable. Ritz crackers, mini pitas, and lunch meat and cheese cut into little circles to fit the crackers or pitas are a fun and easy meal my girls love. This year, I’m hoping to introduce some pasta salads to mix it up. I leave the hot lunches to the days when my girls buy a lunch at school, but there are always thermoses available if your kiddo prefers soup, pasta, or something more exotic!

Fruits and veggies

I opt for ease and use the weekend to prep for the week. This means washing and slicing fruits and veggies so they are easy to throw into the lunchbox each night or morning. My girls love baby carrots, but I sneak in sliced cucumbers and broccoli too. Dips and dressings go well with these! Grapes and watermelon are their fruits of choice, but I also try to include cantaloupe, strawberries, and blueberries — one day, they will like these fruits too. A mom can dream, right?

Salty and sweet

For a salty, I let my kids have chips, pretzels, or Cheetos — their favorites! For a sweet, I like to include a mini milk chocolate bar, a couple of Hershey’s Kisses, or some M&Ms. I allow my girls to have the snacks they love — because all food is nourishing in some way. These salty and sweet parts of their lunches satisfy that hunger in them, and there is no good or bad food in my house. There is always an attempt at balance.

A drink

To round off lunch, my girls either have water, an apple juice box, or milk — their choice.

Some days, their lunchboxes come back with much of the food uneaten. Other days, the lunchboxes are completely empty. For the most part, it’s somewhere in between. I continue to offer a variety of choices, but I always send something I know they will eat and something a little adventurous. And preparing as much as I can on a Saturday or Sunday makes packing lunches each evening during the week a little easier!

Sarah Casimiro
Sarah grew up in Rhode Island and now lives in West Bridgewater, making brief stops in Quincy, Fall River, and East Bridgewater, along the way. She made the leap from Rhode Island to Massachusetts way back in 1999 when she decided to pursue a teaching degree at Boston University. She chose her career in 1987 and is currently teaching high school English to 10th and 12th graders, fulfilling a 6-year-old’s dream at the age of 22, a proclamation that often brings forth snickers from her students. She became a mother for the first time in 2016 to her daughter Cecilia, then doubled down in late 2018 with the birth of her second daughter, Adelaide. She currently lives with her husband, Jason, their dog, Nanook, their cat, Moxie, and five chickens. They share a home with her parents, who live above them and also provide the most amazing childcare for Ceci and Addie. Sarah couldn’t live without her family, her insulin pump (shout out to other T1D mamas), and Starbucks iced chai lattes. She could live without angry people, essay grading, and diaper changing.