School Lunch Ideas That Are Above Your Typical PB & J

As a kid I loved having hot lunches from the school, but this just really wasn’t always an option financially. We had a lot of home lunches. And let’s be honest- sometimes a peanut butter sandwich is the easiest route- but it gets so boring! Sending a different school lunch doesn’t have to involve crazy cut-outs and intense detailed lunches (though it’s definitely fun to do that sometimes!). Sometimes it’s just having a variety!

So let’s talk about a few ways we can make our lunches a little more exciting than the average peanut butter sandwich.

I’ve put together a list of lunches that are not peanut butter sandwiches that you can pull from when your creativity is stuck.

  • Bagels with cream cheese
  • Turkey, cheese slices and crackers
  • BLT
  • Little make-your-own pizzas using flatbread squares, cheese, pepperoni, and all their favorite toppings
  • Chicken salad wrapped in pita bread or served on a croissant
  • Yogurt parfait (just pack the granola and fixings on the side)
  • Your family’s favorite cold pasta salad recipe
  • Green salad in a jar (just pack the dressing and croutons on the side)
  • Peanut butter tortillas (put peanut butter and honey on a tortilla, and top with your favorite fruit- sliced apples, bananas, raisins, strawberries, etc. Roll up for a unique spin on peanut butter sandwiches!
  • Hard-boiled eggs and little pancake bites (served with jam, honey, or peanut butter)

Obviously with any of these meals you want to make it balanced by including some fruits and veggies. If you have pickier eaters, you can always include hummus, ranch, peanut butter, etc as a dip! Here are some fruits and veggies that travel well:

  • carrot sticks
  • celery sticks
  • sugar snap peas
  • broccoli
  • red pepper slices
  • cherry tomatoes
  • cucumber slices
  • grapes
  • an apple
  • cubed cantaloupe
  • diced pineapple
  • blueberries
  • strawberries
  • cubed watermelon

If you do want to make home lunch a little more fun, you can do themed meals. Maybe your child has a favorite superhero or princess. Maybe your family recently watched a fun movie together. Maybe you’re planning a trip to a dinosaur museum or the beach, or have a camping trip coming up. With any of these things, you can pack a themed lunch to “reveal” a trip or just to add some fun! (Your daughter loves unicorns? Make a sandwich with a unicorn face, just adding some sliced veggies for ears and a horn. Include a rainbow of fruit and some rainbow marshmallows for an easy but fun unicorn-loving little girl lunch!)

Another way to make lunch a little more fun is using toothpicks or skewers. It’s amazing how much more fun it is to eat tomatoes and cheese when they are layered on a toothpick, compared to just sitting in a baggie.

You can also include fun little notes. Kids love some reassurances during the school day. Tell them something unique that you love about them, or thank them for something they helped you with. You can also include a funny picture or knock-knock joke to bring a laugh to their day.

And while we want to make sure our children have nutritious lunches, it might be fun to have a special Friday treat that they can look forward to! Have a little stash of their favorite treats that you can throw in their lunchbox on Fridays, days of big tests, or those days where you can sense they might need a little extra love.

Do you have any ideas to make lunch a little more exciting than PB&J? I’d love to hear in the comments below!


    Camille Hoffmann
    Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2014
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