Author Topic: I need some badass school lunch ideas  (Read 5254 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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I need some badass school lunch ideas
« on: September 09, 2014, 08:31:54 AM »
What are some cheap but still nutritionally solid school lunch ideas and after school snacks? We are getting hardcore about our grocery budget for a while and we eat meat free here at home anyway, which saves lots of money on groceries, but I have a harder time with what to pack the kids at school. I have a 2nd grade girl and a 5th grade boy (who of course, eats like a horse). They do have a microwave available at school. They have no food allergies. I guess I could do PBJ every day but I bore even myself packing that for too many days in a row (but I will if I must).

Also after school snack ideas that are filling and cheap would help too. When they come home from school they are starving like they walked home up a hill while towing a truck - especially said 5th grader. They do like air popped popcorn and my son will even go for a (plain!) baked potato. But a little variety never hurts.


  • Pencil Stache
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Re: I need some badass school lunch ideas
« Reply #1 on: September 09, 2014, 08:40:25 AM »
If you put together a "fiesta" lunch it could be filling and nutritious. Something like some beans, rice, a little cheese, a spice for flavor and some veggies would cover a lot of bases at once (carrots, peppers, spinach, etc.).

Or what about PB & J variations? PB and banana? Throw in some wheat germ? Different kinds of  bread?

I've found low-sodium chips and salsa to pretty awesome at lunch. Homemade pizza is up there. Pasta with some good sauce and something to cover protein is easy to do. Maybe try some inexpensive but interesting fruits? Pears, melon, etc.

After school snacks? I always did granola. Granola is amazing. Your kids should eat granola. Granola granola.

Penny Lane

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Re: I need some badass school lunch ideas
« Reply #2 on: September 09, 2014, 08:55:07 AM »
My kids always liked ants on a log after school-- celery stuffed with peanut butter studded with raisins.  If they took PB to school, I sometimes put fruit in between the slices ( sliced strawberries, blueberries), but you must put the PB on both slices to avoid the dreaded sogginess.  I found bagged fruit to be cheaper--and smaller for littler kids-- so I'd slice up an orange in a container.  Homemade trail mix with nuts, pumpkin seeds, chocolate chips, dried fruits can go to school easily.  Muffins-- homemade blueberry or the like were favorites.  I did send cheese sticks sometimes although not a fan of the packaging.

What a good Mom/Dad you are to plan this for your kiddos!


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: I need some badass school lunch ideas
« Reply #3 on: September 09, 2014, 10:12:19 AM »
If they have a microwave avaliable, you've got it made!
- soup- even my kindergartener loves soup in his lunch box and there are tons of meatless soup ideas out there
-casseroles- we like chicken broc rice, but we're not totally meatless, you can also do tortilla bake, beans and rice etc
All of the above could be made in large batches and frozen individually. Take out a couple per week for variety. Then add in some cold lunches in between like-
-Egg salad
-Hummus and veggies with or without pita
-Tuna salad
-large tossed salads


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: I need some badass school lunch ideas
« Reply #4 on: September 09, 2014, 10:18:03 AM »
I'm not really sure how well this would go over for a kid's palate, but my husband and I usually make a big pot of this on Sunday and eat it for lunches through the week:

We usually leave out the chicken, but some weeks we add corn, sometimes a yam, sometimes tomato... basically whatever we have around to keep it a bit different week to week.

That website also has a whole pile of really incredible, fast, delicious, and inexpensive meal ideas.


  • Bristles
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Re: I need some badass school lunch ideas
« Reply #5 on: September 09, 2014, 10:32:40 AM »
To keep our grocery budget in check, I plan weekly dinner menus. This school year, I've also planned a loose lunch menu. We fill it in each morning with what sounds appealing, with a refillable bottle of water.

Mo: Homemade "lunchables" (crackers, toppings, fruit, etc.) -- Yesterday was sliced cheese, turkey, Triscuits, carrots, for one child; feta cheese crumbles, Triscuits, sliced apples, and plain yogurt for the other.

Tu: Breakfast for Lunch (cereal and milk, oatmeal and fruit, yogurt and fruit, hardboiled eggs) -- today was 1) plain yogurt with a teaspoon of strawberry preserves and Grape Nuts to put on top, Wasa crackers, and sliced apples coated with lemon juice; and 2) a bagel with cream cheese, and grapes.

We: Sandwich and fruit/veg

Th: Dippables (apples, pears, crackers, carrots, celery; PB, cream cheese, hummus, etc.) with a side of protein or veg, depending on what's missing.

Fr: If they've succeeded in bringing and eating the week's lunches without complaint, they can buy the basic school lunch.


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: I need some badass school lunch ideas
« Reply #6 on: September 09, 2014, 10:33:21 AM »
Drat, I was going to suggest popcorn!

We are vegetarian. To change up the pbj, I do tortillas with pb or cream cheese, noodles with parmesan or tomatoes, nuts and a carb (popcorn, a roll, whatever we have in the house). Then a veggie and a fruit.

After school I do pretty much the same thing again. A protein (cheese or nuts) a carb (popcorn, crackers, bread, rice w/soy sauce) and a fruit or vegetable.

I will pack dinner leftovers if they aren't too messy. Sometimes I do hummus for the protein, with veggies to dip. I find beans hard for lunches, they are too messy. But refried beans and some cheese on a tortilla works.


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: I need some badass school lunch ideas
« Reply #7 on: September 09, 2014, 10:58:15 AM »
Growing up, our eating schedule was: breakfast upon waking up (7ish), sometimes a small snack at school around 9 or 10, light lunch at school at 12-1, a meal when we kids got home (3-4pm), and then a meal when dad came home at 7-8. The afterschool meal would often be soup for cultural reasons. But when it wasn't, it might be leftovers from the previous night's dinner. Or pasta and hot dogs. Or stir-fry. So, that's a different perspective on how to handle your hungry kids problem.

Also, I know all kids are different, but I remember packing my own lunch by 5th grade. Typically, cheese sandwiches and bell pepper or cucumber slices and water. Eventually i progressed to lunchmeats.


  • Stubble
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Re: I need some badass school lunch ideas
« Reply #8 on: September 09, 2014, 11:00:44 AM »
Second the recommendation for trail mix, it is very dense in calories, easy to store, easy to transport. As long as your elementary school is not one that has a school-wide ban on all kinds of nuts like ours is.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: I need some badass school lunch ideas
« Reply #9 on: September 09, 2014, 03:29:17 PM »
Thanks, everyone.  These are great suggestions!!

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

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Re: I need some badass school lunch ideas
« Reply #10 on: September 09, 2014, 08:04:41 PM »
You might also check out the School Lunch Roundups on 100 Days of Real Food. They are not budget-focused, but you can get some clever ideas like using leftover pancakes to make sandwiches.