Your Personal Meal Planning Assistant
August 20, 2018 / Emily Polson

Easy Lunchbox Ideas for Back-to-School

Breakfast bento with peanut butter rollups and grapes

Meal prepping your own lunch is hard enough. But with the school year swiftly approaching, what do you make for the even pickier eaters in the house? It’s time to start thinking about back-to-school meal prep!

During the busyness of the academic year, you want feeding your kiddo(s) to be as stress-free as possible. Here are some easy school lunchbox ideas that require little to no cooking and go beyond the traditional peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. This will help keep your little learners happy and healthy (and help you keep your sanity on school nights).

Homemade Lunchables

While you can’t count on kids to help with lunch prep, you can count on them to enjoy playing with their food. Recreate the fun of Lunchables in your own kitchen and save on the amount of prep work you have to do. Packing a mix of crackers, cheese slices, and pepperoni makes for a fun, stackable meal they’ll enjoy eating. Another idea is the build-your-own taco version--just pack mini tortillas, taco meat, cheese, and shredded lettuce. This is a really easy way to use up leftovers!

Personal Pizzas

Once again, let your kids do the preparation work for you by giving them another kind of DIY lunch. Simply pack mini pitas, shredded cheese, and a small container of pizza sauce, and they’ll be the envy of their friends as they make their own personal pizzas at lunch. The best part of creating your own DIY lunch instead of buying one packaged is that you can add in a fruit or vegetable side of your choice.

Dipping Dishes

Keep things simple by packing dippable lunches. For pickier kids, it’s hard to go wrong with peanut butter, and you can still cover all the main food groups if you give them carrots, apples, and crackers to eat it with. If they’re more adventurous, try giving them hummus or guacamole to dip with vegetables and pita.


No more soggy lunches: Deconstruct your child’s sandwich and put it on a skewer. Alternate sweet and savory by spearing cubes of cheese, meat, and veggies on one skewer and grapes, apple slices, and cantaloupe on another. Get the kids involved with making their own lunch kebabs by letting them choose which proteins and fruits or veggies they want and having them spear it all together themselves.

Breakfast for Lunch

It always feels like a special occasion when you get to enjoy breakfast foods at a non-breakfast meal. Mix up the typical breakfast starches with a protein: easy options that hold up well until lunchtime include waffles with a hard-boiled egg, bagels with cream cheese, and yogurt parfaits with berries and granola.


Pinwheels are fun, versatile, and easy lunchbox ideas for back-to-school. Top a tortilla with a spread of your choice, add a protein, and finish it off with fruits or veggies. Then roll it up, slice into pinwheels, and pack into a lunchbox. Pinwheels can be as basic as the classic peanut butter and jelly or as creative as turkey with apple chutney. Anything that can be rolled up in a tortilla can be a pinwheel, so be creative and see how many healthy goodies you can sneak into your kid’s lunch.

Pasta Salad

While this one may take a bit more preparation, it’s also likely to be something you’ll want to take for lunch too, and it will keep well for several days. Cook and cool pasta, then mix in a variety of cubed cheeses, black beans, corn, grape tomatoes, olives, and salami or shredded chicken, or whatever ingredients you have on hand. Toss the whole thing in a simple vinaigrette and pack into lunchboxes as needed throughout the week.

Mix-and-Match Bento Boxes

A bento box is a single-serving meal box with separate compartments for each ingredient (check out some options here). This format allows you to get creative when packing school lunches; everything mentioned above can be part of a bento box! You can still prepare traditional dishes like sandwiches, but you can also pack your child a mixture of snackable foods (proteins, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and grains) that altogether create a well-balanced meal. This can be a great option for a picky eater because it’s easily personalized but doesn’t create a lot of extra work for the family chef. (Check out more tips for feeding a picky eater!)

Emily Polson

Emily is a writer, reader, and traveler from Iowa who has visited twenty-one countries and lived in three. Her first publication was an article in Muse magazine about her summer job as a corn detasseler. She’s a Slytherin, an amateur ukulele player, and a Peter Pan enthusiast. You can follow Emily on Twitter @emilycpolson.

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