Easy Tips for Packing Healthy School Lunches without Stress

A line of red organic cherry tomatoesWe asked and you answered.

With school about to start, do you send lunch with your child or do you buy?

The majority: You would love to have your child buy lunches to save yourself time and energy, but you choose to pack because you are disappointed with the quality of nutrition the school lunch delivers.

Ah, that is a battle and one worth fighting. 

What are you to do in the meantime? Do you sacrifice nutrition for the convenience of one less thing to do on a school morning? Or, do you slave in the kitchen every morning packing lunches for your kiddos?


Here are strategies I have for you to easily pack lunches so that children always have a healthy and nutritious lunch, without you rushing around like a chicken with it’s head cut off.

Make sure you have good packing supplies

©Kristen Chidsey
©Kristen Chidsey

Water Bottles 

I invested in a good quality, stainless steel, BPA-free water bottle that does not leak. Save your money on juice boxes! Keep your children hydrated without the sugar! 

Ziploc® Divided Containers

 These are my favorite containers ever! They fit perfectly into my children’s lunch box with an ice pack and are divided into 3 compartments that are perfect for a sandwich, fruit, and yogurt. Plus they are dishwasher safe and freezable—so you potentially could make lunches on the weekend and freeze for the week

Ice Packs

They keep the food fresh and safe for hours!! I have found that by placing ice packs in a plastic zip baggie, it helps prevent condensation from leaking through the lunchbox. 

Insulated Containers

Perfect for a warm bowl of soup or leftovers! They do double duty and work for cold foods as well!

Think About Lunch at Dinner

Use leftovers

This may seem odd, but every night while I am cleaning up the dishes from dinner and putting leftovers away, I inventory my leftovers and see if I have enough of a hearty dinner left over.  If so, I set it aside to heat up in the morning while we are eating breakfast, and then throw it in an insulated container. LUNCH IS DONE!

Prepare extras

For example, if I am grilling chicken fro dinner, I would grill up a few extra pieces to be able to dice up for chicken salads for lunch or to slice into chunks for “nuggets” for school lunches. Making meatballs? Double the batch and freeze one batch to pull a few from the freezer those days you have limited options for lunches in the house.

Make Large Batches

I  have a couple favorite recipes that I make in bulk on the weekends to have on hand for lunches. And yes, while this method does take a bit of time—these are easy recipes that can provide a huge stress relief for you during the week. And honestly, these recipes are so easy that while I am boiling water for pasta to cook for dinner, I can whip up a quick batch of muffins and throw in the oven to have on hand for lunches, leaving my weekend time free!

  • Peanut Butter and Jelly Oatmeal Muffins: A wholesome oatmeal muffin sweetened with fruit and given a dose of protein through the peanut butter (feel free to use any nut butter you like.)
  • Corn Dog Muffins: A fun lunch option for both big kids and small kids. These muffins are delicious and healthy and are perfect for peanut free lunches! Gluten-free option available

Have an Arsenal of Go-To’s

Sometimes it’s just the act of thinking of ideas that is overwhelming. Having a list of go-to ideas can save you in those indecisive or overwhelmed moments.

Here are some of our favorites that you can use:

  • Sandwich on whole wheat bread. Be creative—PB & J is great, but you can do cream cheese and fruit, chicken salad, egg, salad, turkey and cheese, veggie sandwich, cheese, etc.
  • Pancake/Waffle sandwich is our family favorite! Use the waffle or pancake as the bread of a sandwich. We love to fill it with nut butter, fresh sliced fruit, and a sprinkle of granola.
  • Roll-ups- Start with a whole grain or gluten-free tortilla and the options are endless. You can fill with nut butter and a banana; sliced strawberries, all-fruit, and granola; meat and cheese; veggies galore with hummus; etc
  • Whole wheat muffin
  • Veggie slices, pita bread and hummus (or any favorite dipping sauce)
  • Whole grain crackers with a cheese stick
  • Pasta Salad made with whole wheat rotini and fresh diced vegetables and cheese
  • Homemade pizza lunchables- Pack a whole wheat English muffin with a container of pizza sauce (or leftover spaghetti sauce) and some shredded cheese and your child’s favorite toppings. Don’t forget the spoon to spread the sauce!
  • Quesadilla served with a side of salsa or guacamole
  • Salad topped with grilled meat or cheese or beans
  • Taco salad- keep chips on the side to dish up a salad of lettuce, salsa, cheese, meat/and beans
  • Lunch meat wrapped around cheese slices
  • Taco Dip- refried beans topped with lettuce, salsa and cheese served with a side of tortilla chips

Don’t forget the fillers:

  • Fresh vegetable slices
  • Fresh fruit
  • Greek yogurt with fruit/granola/nuts
  • Apple slices with nut butter
  • Homemade LaraBars or Granola Bars
  • Nuts
  • Steamed Edamame or Dry-roasted Edamame (my kids love this and they are super high in protein!)
  • Air-popped popcorn
  • Whole wheat graham crackers, or a homemade cookie

Don’t let lunch overwhelm you. Use this list to spark the ideas that can keep your child fueled for their school day!

Want to REALLY make their lunch EXTRA SPECIAL?? Try some Love Notes from Home, with FREE printables from our family to your family!

LOVE notes back to school