Don't let your kids get bored with the same old lunches

Unique School Lunch Ideas

by Dollar Stretcher Contributors

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Unique School Lunch Ideas

By this time in the school year, my kids are bored with the same old lunches. I'd like to do something creative for them, but I can't spend a lot of time or money. Can anyone suggest some unique school lunch ideas?

Search for School Lunch Ideas Online

A lot of food blogs offer ideas for interesting school lunches. One in particular that I know of is Family Fresh Meals, which has a whole section on them. Try searching "lunch box ideas" and you can probably find tons more.

Make Homemade "Lunchables"

My children enjoy homemade "lunchables" when I'm able to get Ritz or Townhouse crackers on sale. I just make a container of sliced cheese, sliced turkey and crackers. It's a fraction of the cost of the commercial version.

My children also enjoy cereal in their school lunches. I put it in plastic bowls with lids. All they have to do is remove the lids, add milk, and enjoy. Just don't forget to include extra milk in their thermoses and spoons.
Brenda N.

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Keep It Fun and Keep It Healthy

I like sliced banana and peanut butter sandwiches. When I was in the grocery store last week, I had some bananas in my basket. Walking down the bread aisle, I happened to see the whole wheat hot dog rolls, and it occurred to me that a banana would fit nicely in the roll and would be a fun and healthy lunch for a child.

Creative School Lunch Ideas Kids Will Love

My daughter has never liked the typical packed lunch, so we've had to learn to be creative. At the times when we are down to sandwiches for an option, we use tortillas (for wraps), pitas, or croissants instead of regular bread and use a mix of different meats at one time and different toppings. Usually I use leftover meats from dinners to help cut the costs. These can be sliced thin or chopped up and mixed with mayo or other condiments like you would tuna or egg salad.

One of her favorite lunches though is cold ravioli bake. I simply take one large or two small packages of fresh ravioli and layer in a greased 9x13 pan starting with sauce, ravioli, cheese, and repeat. You can also use a bit of cooked ground beef or sausage meat if your child doesn't mind a tiny bit of crumbled cold meat during the day. Bake for about 30 minutes and then once cooled package in individual lunch containers. You could freeze a few and save for a later date if you want. I find this is a great way to use up whatever kind of cheese I have and I can use whatever meat I have on hand when we are using it and whichever flavor of ravioli happens to be on sale. It's way easier than making lasagna, and she doesn't mind cold pasta.

I've also been known to pack her bean salad either as a side or main dish, hummus and pita chips with fruit, cold breaded chicken (she prefers boneless skinless pieces for lunch as they are easier to eat), and homemade sushi rolls. Bento box ideas have been a big hit and there are lots of resources online for ideas. It's also a great way to use leftovers in a new way, so they don't look the same. Don't feel you need to buy a special bento box if you cannot afford them. Instead, just use a variety of small containers that you already have.

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Get the Kids Involved

First, please consider whether your children can and will eat the school-provided lunches. A recent study found that they provide more nutrition than homemade lunches generally do. If cost is an issue, you may qualify for reduced-fee or free lunch.

But if you need or want to continue sending lunch from home, how about getting the children involved in making lunches? Studies also show that when children are involved in choosing and preparing food, they are more likely to eat it.

Also, you can send soup and leftover casseroles in small wide-mouth thermoses or dips like salsa and guacamole with healthy homemade chips made from pita bread or tortillas. Label your thermoses with a name and phone number in case they are misplaced.

Related: Get Your Kids Involved With Their School Lunches

Can't Go Wrong with Burritos

We do burritos. Beans and rice are very cheap for the "base" and you can add leftover meat, veggies, and cheeses to it with taco sauce and salsa.

Send "Dip" Lunches

Here's my idea for healthy, easy, and thrifty school lunches. Kids love to "dip" things. Just put some peanut butter in a small plastic container and send with apple slices, crackers, celery sticks, pretzel sticks, etc. You can do the same thing with a container of yogurt or hummus. My kids love their "dip" lunches!

Keep Them Satisfied By Giving Them Choices

To prevent boredom, I let my kids pick one day per week where they get to have a "hot lunch" from the school cafeteria. For the other four days, I get the kids involved with choosing their own meals. I make out a list of the food groups and different types of foods that will fall into each category. Then I let them choose what they want. Tuna with whole wheat Ritz crackers with a Cutie and string cheese is a favorite. Based on my child's likes, I'm able to make my own "lunchables" at home. A couple slices of turkey, cut into smaller pieces, paired with cheddar (or provolone) and some pita chips is a good option. Toss in an apple sauce and a small dessert and call it lunch. My kids are 11 and 7, and this option works well for us. The more I allow them to be involved in choosing the menu (for dinner, too!), the more likely they are to be satisfied with the meal.

Don't Forget the Veggies!

Here's a salad idea for your school lunch. I re-use my Chinese take-out containers. In the plastic bowl that the soup comes in, I layer chef salad makings and I use the sweet and sour sauce cup (smaller than soup) for the salad dressing. Add a plastic fork and you don't have to worry about you kids bringing any containers back home from school. We don't have Chinese food very often, so the kids don't get salad very often, but it is a nice change from sandwiches all the time. And my kids love vegetables!

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Unique School Lunch Ideas Are Endless

How about filling tortillas? Fill with peanut butter and jelly or cream cheese and shredded carrots and raisins. My son likes strawberry cream cheese instead of the plain cream cheese. The possibilities are endless!

Serve a Different Kind of Sandwich

On mini bagels, I put onion and chive cream cheese and add sliced ham and cheddar cheese for a different kind of sandwich. Then I add baby carrots or sliced bell peppers with a tiny container of ranch dressing, slices of apple or oranges, and one chocolate kiss or a homemade cookie to the lunch. My sons really enjoy this lunch. I have used wraps as well.

Reviewed March 2018

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