Beyond the sandwich: 5 quick and easy school lunch box ideas

My kids and I have a deal: They can take hot lunch at school three days a week and must bring lunch from home on the other two days. Why, you ask? Well, the cost of hot lunch definitely adds up quickly, plus I like to have some control over what they eat. But, according to my kids, lunches from home do NOT have nearly the same draw as whatever is being served on the hot lunch line that day, especially if their cold lunch includes a sandwich of any sort. So I’ve learned to up my game a bit to show them that lunch from home can be fun and exciting - and it doesn’t even need to involve two slices of bread! Check out some of our quick and easy school lunch box ideas below. 

Strawberry Peanut Butter Roll Ups

Strawberry Peanut Butter Roll Ups

Turn the classic PB&J on its head with these simple Strawberry Peanut Butter Roll Ups. Ditch the bread for a whole grain tortilla, use freshly sliced strawberries in place of jelly and keep it consistent with creamy peanut butter. Send along a few toothpicks, and you have a lunch that’s not only tasty but fun to eat, too. 

Pizza Skewers with Pizza Dipping Sauce

Pizza Skewers with Chunky Tomato Dipping Sauce

Who can say no to pizza? Kid-favorite ingredients like mini pepperonis and mozzarella string cheese are playfully layered on toothpicks in these bite-sized pizza skewers. Pack a savory pizza dipping sauce, and, trust us, no one will miss the crust. 

Popcorn Trail Mix

Popcorn Trail Mix Bento Box

The beauty of trail mix is that you can customize it to whatever ingredients your kids enjoy. This Popcorn Trail Mix is packed with salty and sweet kettle corn, raisins, sunflower seeds, almonds and a few candy pieces. But, feel free to mix it up and make your trail mix just right for your kids. The options are abundant. 

Quick Chili Nachos

Quick Chili Nachos for Lunch

One of the things my kids miss when bringing lunch from home is a hot entree. These Quick Chili Nachos are just the ticket to warm their bellies and can be easily transported to school in a thermos. Plus canned chili, seasoned canned tomatoes and pre-shredded cheese make prep almost effortless. 

TIP: Keep that chili piping hot by lunchtime by preheating your thermos. Prior to packing your lunch, simply fill your thermos with boiling water, cover and let set for 5 minutes. Dump the water from the thermos, add the hot chili and seal the lid.

Peanut Butter Hummus

Peanut Butter Hummus School Lunch Idea

It has been my experience that veggies always go over much better when accompanied by a dip. This Peanut Butter Hummus is ingenious as peanut butter replaces traditional tahini for a smooth, nutty, kid-friendly flavor. Add some crunchy pita chips and a rainbow of colorful vegetables. Who knows? They might even discover a new favorite!

For more quick lunches for school, check out this list of school night meal planning tips and tricks. 

Lisa Riedl and Anna Schaber

Lisa Riedl and Anna Schaber are the duo behind the food website, Garnish with Lemon. Their love of cooking is second only to their love of eating. Years of answering SOS calls from friends and family about what to make for dinner spurred Lisa and Anna to launch Garnish with Lemon, a resource for approachable, seasonal recipes as well as tips that make everyday entertaining effortless. Their work has been featured in The Huffington Post, The Kitchn,, The Daily Meal and BuzzFeed. During Minnesota summers, you’ll find them on the back porch swatting mosquitoes, sampling new cocktails and solving the world’s problems, including how to get their kids to eat more veggies.


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