Do you spend hours meal planning?
Do you ever sit down to meal plan and before you know it you have gone through 3 cookbooks and scrolled through Pinterest for an hour and planned 3 meals for the week?
Do you ever feel frustrated because you plan and make these awesome meals for your family and they don’t eat them? You know that meal planning saves money and is healthier, but you wish it wouldn’t take so long.
There is a better way, Momma. Let me help you plan meals your family will eat and save tons of time!
What People are Saying:
This meal planning system makes so much sense. I had forgotten about meals that I love to make, but taking a little time to think about them, write them down and keep them in one spot helped so much! I loved the dinner ideas that Becky gives also. So helpful!Kim
45 Healthy and Quick Lunch Ideas for Kids That They Will Actually Eat
Do you ever feel like you pack your kids the same thing over and over and over gain for lunch? You hate that they eat the same things but you don’t have any clue what to pack them for lunch. The whole thought of packed lunches stresses you out and you wish you had a complete list of lunch ideas for kids. Fear not, Momma. I got you covered.
Packing school lunches used to be my nemesis. I used to hate trying to think of ideas of what to pack my kiddos. It doesn’t help that their moods change when it comes to packed lunches either. I used to be able to pack Joey just about anything and he would eat it. Now, the kid decides he wants to be a little pickier when it comes to what I pack….thanks dude… your Mom has so much time for you to be picky in the morning. You are so lucky you’re cute!
But seriously, I know this is an issue for Mommas. I know that packing lunches for school can be a royal pain in the tush, so I wanted to give you some great healthy lunch ideas for kids so you don’t have to stress out any more.
About a year ago, I learned something that would be a game changer for packing lunches for my kids. I learned to group my lunch box ideas for school into 2 groups:
- Cold lunches
- Warm lunches
I struggled with what to pack because I really wanted my kiddos to have healthy food to eat while they were at school. Now, I don’t pack them kale or green smoothies… I’m not that kinda Mom (although I do look up to those Mommas). I want to pack things my kiddos will eat that is still good for them.
I ended up researching a bunch of different blogs and websites to figure out some healthy lunch box ideas for kids and I found a way to pack my kiddos leftovers from dinner the night before.
This helped me a ton because my little Logan has food allergies. I pack all of his lunches and snacks and I didn’t want to keep packing him peanut butter and jelly all the time (even though he would eat it if I let him!)
So I bought these thermos things to pack their lunches and I make enough for dinner that I have leftovers to pack in their little thermos for the next day.
Let’s get into this a little deeper.
When I plan my meals and make out my grocery list, I make sure to have few cold cold lunch ideas on hand for when Joey wants to pack his lunch (that way he has a few options since he has become picky all of the sudden). Literally, I come up with 3 lunch ideas that I have in the fridge that I consider to be the “Main Course” for the lunch. I buy fresh fruit and fruit cups in 100% fruit juice to pack also. I buy multicolored peppers every week and cucumbers so I know that I can pack those for Joey and Logan also.
Little Logan usually gets stuck with leftovers from the night before because he doesn’t complain (yet).
On rare occasions Joey will want a salad which I have on hand for my lunches so it works out.
The easiest thing you can do is take note of what your kids like and write it down. I have meal planning templates that I use and keep in a binder so when I am planning meals, I can refer to these and quickly create a grocery list based on the meals I choose. If packing lunches stresses you out, use these templates to quickly think of ideas to pack for school lunches.
For picky eaters, have them help you. Ask them what they like and bargain with them. Let them know that you will pack one treat in their lunch, but they have to eat the healthy food first. If they choose not to eat the healthy food, the treat has to go away. Or only pack healthy foods and give them a treat once a week.
If you have a hard time with meal planning, sign up for the waiting list for The Busy Mom’s Guide to Meal Planning. It will be available next week at an introductory price so don’t miss out!
I think the key to picky eaters is to continually present the food to them even if they have tried it and hated it in the past. There have been multiple studies that indicate you should present the same food to a child 10 or more times before they decide if they like it so don’t give up!
Remember how I said I break down lunches into cold and warm lunches? Well here is the exact system I use:
Cold Lunch Ideas for Kids
For cold lunch ideas, I break it down into food groups.
- Main course
I created a visual below that you can print out to keep at home for when you are packing lunches. What I do is choose one thing from each category and pack that in their lunch. For example, pack one thing from the fruit category, one thing from the veggie category and one main course. I think that having something from each category makes it a pretty balanced lunch. If you think of other fruits or veggies that your kiddos will eat, feel free to add it to the list when you print it out
Here is a detailed list of the 3 categories:
Bell Pepper Slices
- Ham and Cheese Slices with Wheat Crackers
- Taco Salad
- Side Salad with Favorite Dressing
- Turkey and Cheese Roll Up with Wheat Wrap
- Hard Boiled Eggs with Popcorn
- Cream Cheese and Cucumber Wrap
- Hummus and Peppers with Popcorn
- Turkey Bacon Ranch Roll Up
- Tortilla Chips and Cheddar Cheese with Salsa
- Pasta Salad
- Guacamole and Chips
- Sunbutter and Jelly
- Sunbutter and Celery with Raisins
- Tuna Wrap
- Fruit Salad with Yogurt and Granola
Other Helfpul Articles for Meal Planning:
Click on the Image to Download the List
There are a few popular lunch packing things to buy for cold lunches. For example, Bentgo boxes are very popular because they allow portion control and there is a separation between different food groups.
We don’t have Bentgo boxes for the kids. We have something similar to this instead because I use food storage containers in their lunches. I don’t like to have too many different lunch boxes so for us, so it makes sense to have one large lunch box and food storage containers. Do whatever makes sense for your family as far as the storage containers and lunch boxes. I tend to pack warm lunches for the kids more than I pack cold lunches so our lunch box works for us a bit better.
If you tend to pack more cold lunches, the Bentgo box may be the way to go.
Ok, now on to my favorite lunch ideas for kids. The warm lunch!
Check out the video for other helpful tips!
Warm Lunch Ideas for Kids
Like I mentioned above, I felt like I was packing the same things over and over again for the kids and then I ran into this method of packing lunches. I generally cook pretty healthy for dinner time and I was wishing for a way to pack a warm lunch for Joey because they don’t warm up his lunch at school. So I ran across a blog post about how you can use a thermos to pack lunch for your kiddo. I was thrilled!
I started to look at school lunches for kids in a whole different way!
Logan is still in preschool so thankfully they warm up his little lunch, but for Joey, he has a thermos he uses at school. I researched thermos’ on Amazon because not all thermos’ are the same and some had very bad reviews with keeping food warm. The Thermos brand is very popular and there are over 3,500 reviews on this brand with a lot of them being very good. Ours came with a spoon that Joey loves! We also have the Konserve brand thermos which works just as well.
If you decide to purchase a thermos, make sure that you test it on a weekend. Here is what you do:
Boil water either in the microwave or in a pan on the stove. Put it in the thermos and put the lid on it to warm the thermos. Let the water sit in the thermos for 10 minutes to completely warm it through. Then warm up your food that you want to place in the thermos. For example, if you are heating soup, heat it on the stove to boiling or in the microwave until hot. Dump water out of the thermos and replace with hot food.
The food will stay warm up to 6-7 hours in the thermos. I ask Joey all the time if his lunch is still warm and he tells me it is so I guess I gotta believe him. He never tells me not to use the thermos so I guess that is a plus.
When you can serve warm lunches to your kiddos for lunch, it is a game changer and opens lunch packing to a whole new world. I love packing warm lunches for my kiddos because I like to eat warm food for lunch (especially during the winter).
Here is a List of 30 Warm Lunch Ideas for Kids:
- Chicken Nuggets
- Turkey Sausage with peppers
- Taco Meat (to make tacos or put on tortilla chips)
- Oatmeal (send raisins and a little brown sugar
- Spaghetti and Meatballs
- Turkey Meatballs
- BBQ Chicken
- Fish Sticks
- Pizza Pasta
- Stuffed Peppers
- Shredded Beef (send with a bun for a sandwich)
- Coconut Oatmeal
- Sloppy Joe (send with a bun or bread)
- Meatball Sandwich (meatballs in thermos and bread in lunch box)
- Leftover Ham and Potato Soup
- Macaroni and Cheese with Broccoli
- Chicken Stir Fry Casserole
- Taco Soup
- Stuffed Shells
- Chicken Noodle Soup
- Broccoli Cheddar Soup
- Tuna Noodle Casserole
- Tomato Soup
- Cheese Quesadilla
- Kielbasa and Green Beans
- Baked Potato with Broccoli
- Pasta with Broccoli
Click here or click the picture to download both the cold and warm lunch lists and keep it in your meal planning binder.
For warm lunches, I usually send a piece of fruit or a veggie also to balance out the lunch. It is so much easier to pack lunches when you have leftovers from the night beofre. If you struggle with meal planning and you would love to use the warm lunch method for kid lunch ideas for school, I have a meal planning guide for busy moms that will be coming out next week.
Sign up here to grab the free meal planning templates and you will get an email next week when the meal planning guide is released. The meal planning guide has 70 lunch ideas for kids plus ways to save tons of time meal planning, how to please picky eaters, ways to save money on your grocery bill and more. EEEkkk! I am so excited for it to be released!
My recommendation would be to grab a cheap binder and label a section “School Lunches.” Keep these lunch idea sheets at the very front of that section with any recipes you might need behind these sheets. I love this blueberry muffin recipe and homemade banana muffin recipe and use them all of the time. The coconut oatmeal recipe is also a favorite in our house. Print these recipes if they interest you and keep them behind the lunch idea sheets so you can refer to them when you need them.
Planning healthy lunches for kids doesn’t have to be stressful. I hope you print these lists for the next time you have to pack lunches for your kiddo. They will help ease the stress of knowing what to pack and give you lots of options so your kids won’t eat the same things over and over!
What do you pack for your kids’ lunches?
Please feel free to share this list on Pinterest or Facebook!