Monday, April 1, 2013

School lunch ideas

With 3 boys in school lunches get a bit tricky. Thankfully my boys are not picky eaters but I am always looking for ways to improve their lunches without breaking the bank. Our elementary school has great lunches but the cost still adds up. The Jr. High simply doesn't serve enough food for my long and lean 13 yr old. He always comes home saying he didn't get enough. He opts instead to always take home lunch.Now, I don't mean to brag but he does spoil me...he makes his own lunch each morning. I will even offer but he says "No, I can do it". Of course he likes to cook but I still count it as spoiling. I do feel bad however when his lunch becomes monotonous. He enjoys meat and cheese sandwiches but day after day....yeah, let's mix that up a bit. 

There are lots of ideas out there. I have tried a few but this has become the biggest hit among the men in my house. We need 4 lunches each day counting dads. Buying that many fruit and pudding cups did not help my grocery budget at all. Not to mention all my bottles of home canned produce that continue to sit on the shelves. No more of that. Here is the system we are using to provide a variety of lunches, using my own stores.

These ziplock divided containers are fantastic. I just fill them up and the boys slip them in their lunch boxes and they are done. Walmart and such stores use to have these all over but I couldn't find any this time. Once again, thank you Amazon. I love how easy you can find anything you want online.
I ordered enough to fill all the lunches on the weekend for the coming week. I try to have 4 items: a fruit, a vegi, a treat and the entree.
Before my containers came had to use bags so I just prepped 4 of each item for the boys lunches. Carrots, grapes, pretzels, string cheese...whatever was on the menu. I prepped it all at once then placed them in the fridge together. All the boys had to do was grab 4 items. It worked well but the boys didn't keep their meals balanced at all and little man thought they were his personal treats to snack on throughout the day.
Once my containers came I was able to really get to work. It didn't take long at all. The best part is I was able to rotate through the food I had purchased for lunches (before little boys good devour it all) as well as rotate through our homemade goodies. Applesauce, fruit, pudding, jello, cookies...all from home.
4 lunches prepped for each day.

Carrots, Yogurt covered raisins, granola bar.
Yogurt, orange jello or grapes, pretzels.

Cherry tomatoes, applesauce, pita chips, rice crispie treat.
Cucumber strips, orange jello, mixed nuts, rice crispie.
I used fruit from my pantry. Then made my own jello and pudding and poured it directly in the container to set up. By putting the pretzels or chips or cookies in a ziplock bag I could put it in the container in the fridge (all ready to go) without them going soft.

The sandwiches get made the night before. Meat and cheese, BLT's, egg salad, chicken salad, PB&J...whatever it is. The salad mixes I prepped early too. Toasting the bread helped it not get soggy. Once the sandwiches are made the boys are ready to load up and go.
Believe it or not, very little, if any of these lunches return home. Just the container ready to refill when the weekend comes again.

Here is a list of items I put in their lunches. Hope it helps you too.
meat and cheese sandwiches
meat and cheese kabobs
egg salad
chicken salad
Tunafish sandwhiches
pizza (we all eat the leftovers cold anyway)
salad in a bag

celery sticks
cherry tomatoes
fruit cocktail

jello (make your own cups)
pita chips
mixed nuts
yogurt covered raisins
string cheese
rice crispies
pudding (make your own cups)

Take a moment and plan it out, save money, and smile that your kiddos have one of the best lunches at school. Even dear dad is loving this system.

Try it and let me know how it works for you.


  1. I LOVE these cntainers...bought a couple at the start of the school year...only to discover that I couldn't find a lunch box they would fit into!!! Any chance you can share where yours came from?

    1. Finding lunch boxes was a bit tricky. We searched and found 2 at Target. They are simple square Angry Bird insulated lunch boxes and the other was a zip top plain square insulated lunch box from Walmart. We had previously found a nice expandable lunch box from Costco for my oldest. I wish I would have bought more than one of it.

    2. Lands' End sells a lunchbox big enough to hold these. I bought mine at Sears.

    3. The easy lunch box fits these containers. We carry them everyday!

    4. They fit in the LL Bean insulated boxes perfectly. And I highly recommend any bag from LL Bean. They last forever.

    5. They fit in the LL Bean insulated boxes perfectly. And I highly recommend any bag from LL Bean. They last forever.

    6. I second LeAnn's comment! LL Bean lunch sack + + ziploc divided container + ice pack = a safe, cold lunch. Note: You can fit a pouch drink too, tight but it fits. We opt for kid Thermoses with milk. :)

  2. I love your lunch ideas! I am always looking for new ones! I would love for you to share in on ThriftyThursday this week! I hope to see you there! Bonnie

  3. Great idea. How do you get all these lunches AND your regular food for breakfasts/dinners into your fridge? I don't think it would fit in mine. Thanks for the great ideas.

    1. Rhonda, you might be surprised! Believe it or not they all fit on one shelf of my fridge. Plus they are only a tight fit for a day. With 3 (soon to be 4) of them going out each day room isn't an issue for long. Still if you can't fit them all, just make up what you can fit. Even doing it the night before is a breeze and helps the morning rush as well as the pocket book. Keep watching as I update things later this month. We start school the 20th!

  4. Have you had issues with the applesauce leaking out? When I used these containers in the past, the applesauce would ooze into other compartments/lunch box, if the box wasn't kept completely flat (which is never is! lol)


    1. MLE: I didn't have problems with the applesauce however I can my own so it might be thicker than store bought. You can get leak proof containers. They are more money but it might be worth it for you. If I did leak proof I might just do a couple days at a time.

    2. We simply use press and seal type wrap over the part with things that might leak and haven't had any problems of things mixing.

    3. Ohh, I like this idea! Thanks for sharing!

    4. I use this technique, too, to prevent leakage when I pack more liquid items (applesauce, yogurt, canned fruits). I've even used regular cling wrap which also works.

  5. Target sells these Ziploc containers, and the Thermos brand soft lunchboxes with the separate zipper/cooler section at the bottom of the lunchbox can be cut/ripped out for these to fit. Works great!

  6. I can't seem to find the ziploc containers on amazon. Could you please post a link? Thanks for the tips!!

  7. Brilliant, I love this. Realistic and doable. Thanks!
    Here is the amazon link, as I write this they are out of stock.

    I use these lunchboxes (no affiliation!) as they are very similar.

  8. These are great ideas, and I am always looking for new ideas for my daughter's school lunches. Thanks for sharing your experience and solutions. Have a great day!

  9. Yep, Lands End lunch box fits them perfectly with a little room to spare for a frozen gogurt, silverware, juicebox, etc. And a mesh pouch inside lid fits a flat ice pack. I, too LOVE these containers which i also purchased on Amazon. I just hated all the waste I was creating with those single serve packages and zip baggies. And having multiple little plastic containers in my cupboards was a hassle (imagine enough for 3 kids). OMG, genius idea about preparing the jello right in the small compartment of these containers! So gonna be doing that. Thank you for the lunch suggestions - I got some great ideas.

  10. How do you find these containers work with yogurt and other semi liquidy stuff (like salsa, pudding, etc.)? Does it ever leek out or seep into the other sections?

  11. These contsiners are inexpensive and work great too!

  12. These containers seems to be perfect for taking lunch to work, portion controlled and small enough to fit in a decent luchbox. My kids appetite seems to grow by the week, so i use a bigger size from Do you offer any bigger sizes? The 3 compartment container sizes i use now are 8oz 80z and 16oz?

  13. I agree with the previous commentator, these containers seems to be perfect for taking lunch to work. However, let's get back to what is inside of our school lunch boxes:


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