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Back To School: Lunchbox Inspiration

By Melissa Summers

Today was the first day of school and I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for my kid. By the end of the year I will have made about 200-some odd peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
I know, it’s crazy our school still lets us eat peanut butter and don’t remind me of the possibility they’ll ban peanut products eventually. Because at that point I’ll be picking up my kid at school and bringing her home for lunch. Every Single Day.
My hope had always been that making interesting lunches for my picky eater would encourage her to eat a wider variety of things. What appears to happen is a lot of food ends up in the garbage. Still, our options have slowly grown over the years.
lunchbox ideasMy favorite lunch to send with the kids are these (extremely) simplified bento box lunches. Just some fruit, cheese, crackers and peanut butter. Add a cookie for dessert and you’re done.
lunchbox ideasI wish I loved my kids enough to make these amazing lunches. But apparently I don’t love them like that. Okay, maybe I’ll take enough inspiration and enough love that I’ll try packing pancakes into their lunches once in a while. Biggie’s Flickr stream is a great place for lunch packing inspiration.
lunchbox ideasThe Kid Eats Flickr group is another excellent source for school lunch inspiration. Some of the lunches are a little too involved for me to pull off so early in the morning (or ever) but a lot of the ideas these parents come up with would be great fun to surprise your kid with. Like this hilarious apple.
lunchbox ideasOne suggestion I’ve read over and over while researching school lunch ideas is to get the kids involved. Now, this sounds lovely in practice and if I were a better mother I’d have the kids making their own lunches and I’d never yell in the morning or race them out the door with two minutes to spare. I made a magnetic lunch chart last year so the kids could pick and choose what things they’d like packed in their lunch…without letting the choices devolve into a bag full of pudding, cookies and a side of potato chips.
lunchbox is a new website devoted to your kid’s lunchbox. With articles like “50 Things To Do With Leftover Chicken” and an incredible index of lunchbox recipes I may be able to make lunches without falling asleep for half the year out of sheer boredom.
lunchbox ideasFinally, as always, Family Fun has some great school lunch ideas, especially those they’ve collected from readers. My favorite tips: these peanut butter (again with Peanut Butter!) protein balls. They’re simple to make and quick to eat (this is important at school when the kids have about 20 minutes to eat and lots of chatting to do). I’m also loving these mini pizza ideas. I’ve hesitated to send anything like this because keeping it warm enough seems next to impossible. But then I remembered half our dinner is spent waiting for the food to “cool off”….by the time the kids open a pita pizza at school it should be just right for eating.
Do you have any fabulous lunch ideas that work for your kids? Do your kids get bored if they’ve got the same thing in their lunchbox week after week?


Melissa Summers
About the Author

Melissa Summers

Melissa Summers was a regular contributor writing Melissa’s Buzz Off.


Melissa Summers was a regular contributor writing Melissa’s Buzz Off.

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  • I’d say 75% of the lunches I pack use dinner leftovers. A thermos with pasta, beans or casserole is easy to do, then throw in a piece of fruit and he’s good to go. Hummus and pita chips are also a big winner with my 3rd grader (iiieeeeee, my baby is in 3rd grade!!!), so I try to keep some in the house for emergency lunches. He also loves anything in a tortilla, so instead of using bread for sandwiches, I’ll do PB&H wraps and ham & cheese wraps.
    PB is still allowed in our school cafeteria (but not the classroom) and we have designated Nut-Free tables for sensitive kids. Those kids can invite their friends to sit with them at the Nut-Free tables if the friend’s lunch has been guaranteed to be Nut-Free.

  • Great post! I really really need some more lunch ideas. We are making a go of sending lunch from home in a Laptop Lunchbox. (I love it–here’s a pic from my blog):
    We are going for sending lunch three days a week, up from zero last year. So far, leftovers work fine. They seem more appetizing when repackaged bento style. I would love to work up to doing cute rice balls and really working on my presentation!

  • Jeanette

    Where can we purchase those AWESOME bento boxes at? Any ideas? Not that my lunches will look as awesome as her’s but at least the containers will be cool (and environmentally friendly)!

  • Kim

    I purchased the Laptop Lunchbox for my 9yo daughter this year and it is the best! She has made her lunch everyday since school started. She made a grilled cheese and cut it up into bite size pieces, has taken leftover pesto pasta and today packed leftover shrimp. My favorite part is that it is easily cleanable. I could barely stand the girls’ lunchboxes at the end of the year..nasty!
    I know that Whole Foods is still carrying them here in Seattle.