Lunch Box Ideas for Back to School
The same scene plays out every weekday morning in kitchens across the country: a tired parent leans forward with one arm holding the refrigerator door open, eyes scanning the shelves for something to pack into a lunch box. What do we have in the house? What do we have that's healthy? What do we have that he will eat?
I'm faced with the same daily questions, and after months of starting from scratch -- and getting into ruts -- I finally decided to write down all the foods my sons like that can be eaten cold or at room temperature. I asked friends and blog readers to send me their suggestions as well and came up with a fairly comprehensive list.
Not all kids will eat everything on here of course -- my son wouldn't touch carrot sticks if his life depended on it -- but even the pickiest eaters will find some things on this list that they'll enjoy.
- whole grain crackers
- pretzel sticks
- goldfish crackers, cheddar bunnies or other snack crackers
- pretzel thins
- bagel chips
- mini-rice cakes or rice crackers
- cooked ball of rice
- leftover pasta -- toss with some chopped veggies and vinaigrette or a little olive oil, garlic salt and Parmesan.
- granola bars
- banana bread, zucchini bread, or other quick breads
- cereal bars
- dry cereal
- hot dog buns, hamburger buns or dinner rolls
- garlic toast
- pita bread -- I usually toast these so they don't get soggy. Mini pitas are fun or you can cut a big one into wedges.
- leftover pancakes or toaster waffles -- mini-waffles go over especially well.
- apples slices or chunks (dip in pineapple juice to prevent browning)
- berries -- strawberries, blueberries, raspberries
- melon chunks -- watermelon, honeydew or cantaloupe
- dried fruit -- raisins, dried cranberries, dried apples, banana chips, etc.
- canned peaches or pears -- drain and rinse with water to remove excess sugar.
- pineapple chunks
- orange or clementine wedges
- carrot sticks
- sugar snap peas
- red bell pepper strips
- cucumber slices
- grape tomatoes
- steamed green beans
- steamed broccoli spears
- frozen peas -- run them quickly under warm water to start them thawing
- frozen corn
- leftover meat from dinner cut into chunks -- you can send almost anything: roast chicken, pork roast, chicken legs and carne asada leftover from tacos are all things my kids have enjoyed.
- chicken or turkey sausage with BBQ sauce or catsup for dipping
- deli meats -- turkey, ham, salami
- peanut butter "sandwiches" made with crackers or graham crackers
- taquitos with salsa for dipping
- baked tofu
- mini-pizzas -- top mini-pitas with sauce, cheese and pepperoni
- hard boiled eggs
- cheese cubes
- cheese slices
- cottage cheese
- string cheese, Laughing Cow, Babybel or other small single-serving cheeses
And then there are sandwiches, of course! But you probably don't need my help with those.
What do you send in your kid's lunch?
Wendy Copley writes about food, crafts, parenting and her obsession with lunch boxes at Wendolonia.