School Lunch Roundup IV (Also great for picnics, camps, road trips, and the pool!)
By Lisa, on May 29th, 2013
The school year is coming to a close, but I didn’t want it to end without sharing one more summary of the school lunches I’ve been packing and posting on my Facebook page this year (almost daily!). And as summer is upon us I want to make it clear that these lunch ideas could go far beyond just the school cafeteria. I find myself packing food for the kids all summer long for outdoor picnics, day camps, long road trips, zoo outings, museum visits, and afternoons at the pool. The plastic divided containers (pictured below) are perfect for all of these occasions and are an especially great way to keep road trip lunches mess-free (and waste-free) since the containers serve as your “plate” once you take off the lid. I hope your summer is full of fun activities and travel plans!
To learn more about the lunches we pack here are some links to get you started…
Curry chicken salad, whole wheat “ak-mak” brand crackers, cantaloupe, and a small spinach salad with cheese, toasted almonds and olive oil.
Leftover homemade whole-wheat waffles, oranges/carrots, honey dew melon with strawberries and blueberries, and (to dip the waffles into) plain yogurt mixed with a little maple syrup and vanilla extract.
Creamy whole-wheat mac and cheese mixed with frozen peas and carrots, cantaloupe, and store bought organic applesauce in a reusable Squooshi pouch.
Brown rice mixed with organic soy sauce and avocado (served cold), mandarin oranges, leftover baked sweet potato “fries,” and blueberries.
Whole-grain (Ezekial brand) pita “crusts,” tomato sauce, and cheese (so she can make her own pizza), orange slices, pistachios, and a salad with spinach/almonds/raisins.
Oranges, homemade whole-wheat chicken nuggets (defrosted from freezer and served cold), honey mustard dipping sauce (equal parts honey and mustard), whole-grain cornbread muffin (also made in advance and defrosted), and dried apple chips.
Homemade tomato bisque (defrosted from freezer and served warm in thermos), whole-wheat raspberry muffin, honey dew melon, local strawberries, and an organic cheese stick.
Hummus/cheese/lettuce sandwich, carrot & cucumber slices, cantaloupe, and a trail mix with whole-wheat pretzels, organic popcorn, and raisins.
For Valentine’s Day: Heart-shaped cream cheese and strawberry jam sandwich, heart-shaped apple slices, a little spinach salad topped with olive oil and her favorite cheese (Parmesan) in the shape of hearts of course, and a peanut/cashew/raisin trail mix.
Whole-grain zucchini muffin, frozen banana/berry/yogurt/spinach smoothie pop, whole-wheat pretzels (“Unique” brand sprouted grain variety), unsweetened organic applesauce, and a small salad topped with toasted almonds and carrot shreds plus homemade dressing on the side.
Whole-grain blueberry muffin, organic ham (a very rare purchase for us) rolled up with cheese on fun toothpicks, carrots/cucumbers, plain yogurt mixed with a little honey & vanilla extract, and homemade granola to mix into the yogurt.
Chili (previously made and frozen), a whole-grain cornbread muffin (also previously made and frozen), diced mango, a carrot, a dollop of sour cream (to go on top of the chili), and water to drink.
Cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, and toasted whole-wheat pita “chips” all to dip into the hummus as well as some melon that we picked up from the Asian market (called Hami I believe).
Homemade whole-wheat heart-shaped biscuit (leftover from dinner), frozen banana/berry/spinach/plain yogurt smoothie pop, apple slices, leftover salad from dinner (with pears and pecans), and a roasted peanut/raw pumpkin seed mix.
Homemade whole-wheat pop tart (defrosted from freezer), cucumbers, red bell peppers, hummus, cheese cubes, and apples.
Cream cheese and jam whole-wheat “Uncrustable” sandwich, carrot sticks, strawberry, and deviled eggs (made with sour cream instead of mayo).
Leftover homemade potato soup (warm in thermos) and an apple/sunflower seed butter sandwich.
Cream cheese and jam on whole-wheat (in a butterfly shape!), popcorn, carrot sticks, and a hard-boiled egg.
Whole-wheat waffle and cream cheese sandwich, diced apples and cheddar cheese, homemade trail mix (peanuts/cashews/raisins), and kiwi.
Warm refried beans topped with cheese and sour cream on the side, a banana with an almond butter packet, and frozen peas.
BLT sandwich (organic bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayo on an Ezekiel brand whole-grain bun), pineapple chunks, plain yogurt mixed with berry sauce, and homemade granola (to mix into yogurt).
Frozen berry/spinach/banana/plain yogurt smoothie pop, nut-free trail mix (pumpkin seeds/sunflower seeds/raisins), whole-grain pumpkin muffin (defrosted from freezer), canned mandarin oranges (canned in OJ instead of syrup), and cucumber and radish slices.
Sunflower seed butter and homemade jam on Ezekiel whole-wheat bread, Babybel cheese, a small salad with carrots/Parmesan/raisins/pumpkin seeds/olive oil, a rare purchase of store bought 100% whole-wheat graham crackers (Mi-Del brand), and sliced blood red oranges.
Leftover homemade whole-wheat (cold) pizza, diced pineapple, red and green bell pepper slices, and hummus for dipping.
Homemade tomato bisque (served warm with whole-wheat noodles in it), apple/sunflower seed butter sandwich, leftover (cold) broccoli topped with parmesan cheese, and water.
Whole-wheat woven crackers (Trader Joe’s brand), cheddar cheese slices, watermelon, sugar snap peas (from the farmers’ market), and carrots.
Leftover chicken taquito from dinner (chopped up), a mixture of sour cream and green tomato relish for dipping (the relish is kind of like salsa), apple slices, Lara Bar, and canned organic mandarin oranges (that are BPA-free / packed in OJ).
Whole-grain raisin bread (Ezekiel brand) and organic cream cheese sandwiches, frozen smoothie pop (plain yogurt/bananas/berries/Swiss chard leaves), honey dew melon, strawberries, and a homemade trail mix (raw pumpkin seeds, dried apple rings, & whole-grain organic corn puffs).
Three pieces of whole-wheat “pizza toast” (served cold), sliced oranges, “ants on a log” (celery/sunflower seed butter/raisins), and frozen peas.
Homemade pimento cheese, whole-grain (Ak-mak brand) crackers, frozen peas (in the monster bag), apple slices, and trail mix (cashews/almonds/peanuts/dried fruit).
Whole-wheat pita (from Trader Joe’s) stuffed with homemade hummus, white cheddar & lettuce, a rare treat of Kettle brand potato chips, carrots/celery/cucumber mix and a little homemade sour cream-based onion dip for both her chips and veggies.
Whole-wheat noodles and homemade meatballs in the thermos and an apple/peanut butter sandwich.
Homemade chicken noodle soup (defrosted from freezer and served warm in thermos), whole-grain pumpkin muffin, and caprese salad (tomatoes/mozzarella/basil pesto).
When we recently went camping I used our divided lunch tray as a way to pack appetizers for all the campers! It worked out perfectly.
Carrots, hummus, roasted almonds, pistachios, and olives.
What are your favorite packed lunch combinations? Please share in the comments.
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I worked full time as a nurse for most of my children’s lives. I found taking an evening to make sandwiches with them and freezing them individually wrapped back in the bread bag made life easier. I discovered PB and J on raisin, Ham and cheese, tuna/ salmon salad made with cream cheese, onion and a bit of mayo,on whole wheat, pastrami on rye, chicken salad with cream cheese on a Kaiser..etc all froze well. I kept sliced Roma tomatoes and lettuce in the fridge to be added in a container in the morning for dressing up the sandwiches worked well. I froze leftover home made soups and spaghetti, in plastic containers and then popped them out to throw into a ziplock bag in the freezer for storage…same with stew. In the morning just heat and put in a thermos. Made many logs of slice and bake cookies and muffins to throw in the oven when ever it was on. I could put together 4 kids lunches and my own in less than 5 mins in the morning. Our schools did not allow disposable containers of any kind so I also would freeze fruit in plastic containers and pop them out for bulk freezing, sticking them back in containers for lunches.
Breakfasts were made easy by making my own egg Mcmuffins, pancakes, waffles, instant oatmeal in baggies, French toast. My kids could have a good hot breakfast even when I wasn’t there.
When kids were very little and pickey I cut sandwiches in quarters. They would get 4 different breads and fillings. They tended to eat more and throw away less.
Hi Lisa and staff! I seem to find myself coming to your blog every other day or so. It’s such a great resource. I’m asking a question that I remember seeing an answer to, but I can’t find it. Apologies!! In some of these pics, you have an adorable hot pink silicone flower-shaped cup. I have quite a collection of different types of silicone baking liners, and see the links to other silicone baking cups, but I was wondering where that particular one came from? I’ve been on the hunt for that shape (hopefully in mulitple colors!) for several years with no real luck, except a black and brick red combo I found on Amazon. Someone could make a lot of money if they’d sell that shape on Amazon. I love the black/brick red ones, but am looking for some other colors. They’re much stiffer than the other silicone cupcake liners.
I love love love your site! I just have a question maybe someone could answer. Do you have a way of keeping your apple sandwiches from browning by lunch? Would lemon juice work?
Hello Juanima. Lemon juice will work fine. It does make the apples a little more sour. A reader suggested using pineapple juice but I’ve not tried it. ~Amy
Quick dip in salt water also works – fill a cup,/bowl w/water, sprinkle salt, dip fruits
I have a 2.5 yr old who isn’t fond of veggies and only some fruits. I’d like to start offering better food choices (she would happily eat noodles for every meal if I allowed it). Where would I start? I am a single parent who doesn’t care to cook much so we do a lot of microwave, frozen, processed meals. I stay home so have the time to make things, etc. but need a little nudge in the right direction. Thanks!
[...] cubes or sliced apples! Lots of blog readers tell me that they sit down with their kids and look at my school lunch pictures together so their child can easily point out what real food items they’d like to have in [...]
[...] There are many creative ideas to get you out of the sandwich rut; for some inspiration check out 100 Days of Real Food, who posts pictures of her daughters lunches daily on Facebook, or my friend at Tribeca [...]
[...] lunches: For loads of ideas check out our most recent “School Lunch Roundup” [...]
I love your little dressing container pictured in the “Whole-grain zucchini muffin, frozen banana/berry/yogurt/spinach smoothie pop, whole-wheat pretzels (“Unique” brand sprouted grain variety), unsweetened organic applesauce, and a small salad topped with toasted almonds and carrot shreds plus homemade dressing on the side.” lunch. Can you tell me who makes it? Or are there other condiment containers you recommend? Thank you!
It’s a cute one, isn’t it? That is from Laptop Lunches!
Hi, I know you review products often so maybe you have already done a review/recommendation of the Sqooshie pouch. We now live in a country where I can’t buy the baby food/applesauce in pouches. I just found out now that there are a bunch of refillable/reusable pouches out there that I can order, thanks to your blog. Is Sqooshie brand the brand you would most recommend, have you tried others? I bought the norpro posicle holders on your reommendation and love them. Thanks a lot.
[...] lunches: For loads of ideas check out our most recent “School Lunch Roundup” [...]
These lunches all look amazing, and being an adult, I would love them all! The problem that I see is that I know that I would’ve traded these lunches away when I was in school. Spinach salad? Rice and avocados? As delicious as I would find that now, I wouldn’t have wanted any of this for lunch at school. I think the lunches have to be a little more kid friendly, or you’ll find your child eating four traded puddings for lunch like me and my friends did.
My daughter goes into kindergarten next year and I just keep stockpiling all of your awesome lunch ideas and pictures for when I send her lunches to school with you. I am so inspired by all that you do to keep your family healthy…and eating real food.
Love your ideas! Question – where is your large stainless steel container with separate compartments from? (With this this lunch in it: Whole-grain (Ezekial brand) pita “crusts,” tomato sauce, and cheese (so she can make her own pizza), orange slices, pistachios, and a salad with spinach/almonds/raisins. – I want it! I’m not a fan of using plastic containers thanks!
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Hi! I love your site! We’re slowly trying to move to an unprocessed life. It’s a daily challenge with our incredibly picky 3 yr old. I notice that you often have yogurt in your girls lunches and was wondering if there were ratios of how much maple syrup and vanilla extract you add to plain yogurt. My moms group is having a yogurt station for our meeting this week and wanted to offer a better yogurt option for them. thank you so much!
Hello Jeanette. Getting back to this after your meeting. Sorry about that. Did you try it out? For a single serving of yogurt, I use just a drop or two of vanilla and about a tsp of honey or maple. It may take a little trial and error to get it to the flavor you like. ~Amy
I saw Babybel cheese on here. Is this a staple for you guys? I just wanted to know b/c I’ve been buying it lately at Costco and didn’t know if it was a “sometimes” food?
Hi there. The Baby Bell cheese is great for its short ingredient list but it is not organic. For me it would be a sometimes food because avoiding non-organic dairy or non-grass-fed/pasture raised dairy is important to me. ~Amy