Suggestions For School Lunches

An empty lunch box can be an intimidating thing at 6 am when you are wiping the sleep from you eyes and wishing you had taken the time to prepare and program the coffee maker the night before. To help you out of this predicament, I offer the following suggestions. You can mix and match them as you see fit, creating a good combination for your crew. All the suggestions are cheap and nutritious. Some require work the day before, but many can be made quickly, even in a bleary morning fog. Some women will print this page out and keep it on their refrigerator for ideas. Other women will have their kids look it over and check or circle all of the ideas they like. Be sure to add your own ideas too.

Ideas for packed school lunches

Sandwiches are the backbone of box lunches. They are easy and quick to prepare in the morning, or can be prepared and packaged the night before. Variety abounds, making monotony something only to be endured by choice. Tommy is going through a stage where he only wants grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. I fry them in the morning, wrap them in foil, and pack them in one of the side pockets of his insulated lunch bag. They seem to be a little warm at lunch, and he is satisfied with them. Sometimes there are so many variables in a child’s day that it is nice to know that lunch is predictable. I allow my children to indulge in monotony until they tire of it. Then I encourage them to explore the complex joys of variety. The following sandwich fillings include proven favorites and new adventures.

  • Tuna Salad with Celery
  • Egg Salad with Pickles
  • Chicken Salad with Raisins
  • Turkey Salad with Curry Powder
  • Baloney & Cheese & Mustard & Mayo
  • Turkey and Cranberry sauce
  • Fried Spam & Cheese
  • Fried Canned Corned Beef & Sauerkraut
  • Meatballs in a hotdog bun with tomato sauce
  • Meat Loaf with Tomato Slices
  • Bacon, Lettuce & Tomato
  • Bacon and Fried Eggs
  • Fried Baloney or Spam & Fried Eggs
  • Sloppy Joes
  • Turkey & Bacon and bean sprouts
  • Sliced Cucumbers & Butter
  • Sliced Cucumbers & Cream Cheese
  • Cream Cheese & Jelly
  • Peanut Butter & Jelly
  • Peanut Butter and Marshmallow Fluff
  • Peanut Butter & Raisins
  • Sausage & Egg Biscuit
  • Egg & Cheese Sandwich
  • Pork Roast & BBQ Sauce & coleslaw
  • Sliced Beef Roast & horseradish
  • Sliced Beef and Swiss Cheese
  • Sliced Beef & Cream Cheese
  • Sliced Beef & fried onions or mushrooms
  • Loose fried hamburger & onions & cheese
  • Burritos with beef or beans & cheese
  • Tacos
  • Quesadilla (fried cheese tortillas)
  • Baloney, mayonnaise & Pineapple Rings
  • Cream Cheese & minced peppers
  • Baked beans with pickle relish
  • Hamburgers with fixings
  • Corn Dogs
  • Hot Dogs with Chili
  • Hot Dogs with Cheese
  • Hot Dogs with Coleslaw
  • Chopped Chicken & BBQ Sauce
  • Ham Salad with Pickles
  • Fajitas with Beef or Chicken
  • Baloney, Mustard & Sprouts, wrapped in a tortilla

Sandwiches may be the mainstay of packed lunches, but other main dishes lend variety and interest to the same old thing. The following main dishes are packed cold in the lunch box. They taste good, and are usually favorites among the lunch box crowd. Some of these items will fit in flip top sandwich bags, others will need to be packed into plasitc resealable container. Remember to send a spoon or fork if the dish requires it.

  • Fried Chicken
  • Leftover Pizza
  • Chef Salad
  • Pasta & Meat Salad
  • Individual Meat Loaves
  • BBQ Chicken or Ribs
  • Chicken Teriyaki
  • Boiled Eggs

If you have a thermos at your disposal, there is no end to the variety you can send along. Many casseroles, soups and skillet meals pack nicely, making a very interesting lunch for the lucky eater. Give a few of the following a whirl when sandwiches seem boring or old. Remember to pre-heat the thermos with hot tap water. Also make certain the food is well heated before spooning it into the thermos. I heat up soupy things on the stove, and more solid things I heat in the microwave. Be sure to get everything very hot before packing it.

  • Baked Beans & Sliced Hotdogs
  • 1/2 cup Hot Rice with 1/2 cup Beef & Broccoli overtop
  • Mashed potatoes with creamed chicken or turkey & gravy
  • Tuna Casserole
  • Chicken & Rice Casserole
  • Beef & Tomato Casserole
  • Canned Soups
  • Chowders
  • Creamed Soups
  • Hot Pinto Beans & Salt Pork or Bacon
  • Chili with beans
  • Spaghetti and Sauce
  • Chopped up Lasagna
  • Scalloped Potatoes or Potatoes Au Gratin
  • Macaroni & Cheese
  • Lentils & Rice
  • Beef Stew
  • Hamburger Gravy to spoon over bread
  • Sausage Gravy to spoon over biscuits
  • Creamed Ham to spoon over biscuits
  • Mashed Potatoes with Cheese
  • Ramen Noodles & Veggies

If you have a cold-pack thermos that holds 1/2-cup or 4 ounces or so, then even more options open up for you. If you don’t have a cold-pack thermos, then you can pack a blue freezer-pack along with the lunch, and rest assured that everything will remain cold until lunch time. This is the method I prefer. I use small 4oz and 8oz resealable containers put out by Glad and Zip-Lock. Rubbermaid also makes some nice ones. They are just the right size to hold a serving of pudding or yogurt or fruit. They come home every day to be washed. Try filling them with the following:

  • Deviled Eggs
  • Custard style Yogurt
  • Vanilla Yogurt
  • Yogurt with fruit
  • Yogurt with Jam
  • Cottage Cheese & cut up or Canned Fruit
  • Cottage Cheese & minced veggies
  • Plain Cottage Cheese
  • Instant Pudding
  • Homemade Pudding
  • Rice Pudding
  • Bread Pudding
  • Fruit Flavored Gelatin
  • Gelatin with Fruit
  • Gelatin with Veggies
  • Carrot Raisin Salad
  • Macaroni Salad
  • Coleslaw
  • Potato Salad
  • Waldorf Salad
  • Dip or Dressing for
    Vegetable Sticks
  • Fruit Cobbler or Crisps
  • Fruit or Cream Pies
  • Pea & Cheese Salad
  • Canned Pineapple
  • Canned Peaches
  • Canned Pears
  • Canned Fruit Cocktail
  • Applesauce
  • Prunes cooked in Orange Juice
  • Green Salad, with dressing in a separate small container
  • Frozen Strawberries

Other items can be packaged in flip top baggies and sent along for crunching. Children usually like a variety of extra nibbles throughout the week. If you send fresh fruit, it will more likely be eaten if it is cut into easy to eat wedges, than if it is left whole. Also, small fruit like bananas or apples will result in fewer leftovers than large fruit. If I only have large fruit, I will give each child half of it, which is more in keeping with their appetite.

  • Apple Wedges
  • Orange Smiles
  • Cluster of Grapes
  • Small Banana
  • Carrot Sticks
  • Celery Sticks
  • Broccoli Trees
  • Turnip Sticks
  • Radishes
  • Boiled Eggs
  • Green Pepper Strips
  • Cucumber Slices
  • Cheese Cubes
  • Peanut Butter Crackers
  • Crackers & Baloney Triangles
  • Crackers & Cheese Slices
  • Crackers & Cream Cheese
  • Pretzels
  • Popcorn
  • Caramel Corn
  • Raisins
  • Dry Apricots
  • Prunes
  • Banana Chips
  • Peanuts
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Cheese Crackers
  • Celery stuffed with Peanut Butter
  • Celery stuffed with Cream Cheese
  • Granola
  • Gorp
  • Homemade Cereal Snack Mix (like chex mix)

Next in line is something sweet to nibble on when the rest of the food is eaten. At my house this usually means a baked good. All of the following items can be made at home the day before, or on Baking Day. They pack easily in flip-top baggies and provide the extra nourishment that makes sure everyone gets enough to eat.

  • Oatmeal Cookies
  • Peanut Butter Cookies
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Snickerdoodles
  • Brownies
  • Chocolate Cake
  • Vanilla Cake
  • Spice Cake
  • Gingerbread
  • Banana Cake
  • Oatmeal Cake
  • Blondies
  • Granola Bars
  • Blueberry Muffins
  • Banana Muffins
  • Oatmeal Muffins
  • Cheese Muffins
  • Corn Muffins
  • Whole Wheat Muffins
  • Bran Muffins
  • Zucchini Bread
  • Banana Bread
  • Peanut Butter Bread
  • Raisin Bread
  • Orange Juice Muffins
  • Coffee Cake
  • Cinnamon Raisin Biscuit
  • Cinnamon Toast

We end this litany of choices with beverages. A thermos will make toting these items easy and healthful. If you don’t have a thermos, then be sure to pack a blue freezer-pack along with the lunch, to keep everything cold and bacteria-free. If this isn’t an option then choose Kool-Aid, Tea, Water or Lemonade, because these items can withstand temperature change the easiest. My kids prefer pint (16oz) containers of beverage, so they can rehydrate easily during lunch.

  • Reconstituted Milk
  • Chocolate Milk
  • Hot Chocolate
  • Hot Coffee or Tea
  • Kool-Aid
  • Iced Tea
  • Ice Water
  • Fruit Smoothies
  • Orange Juice
  • Apple Juice
  • Grape Juice
  • Lemonade

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