Planning Ahead for a Healthy School Lunch

Raise your hand if you haven’t started school yet.  That’d be us!  It’s right around the corner, though, which means I need to wrap my brain around lunch-time strategies for a smoother school year.


I’ve got two children and a husband at school all day.  While they will likely eat the school lunch most of the time, it’s definitely not a given.  I adore our Tiny Town school, but let’s be perfectly honest about some things.  1) Schools are on very tight budgets, which I’m convinced factors into the cafeteria offerings, and 2) School lunch programs are regulated by people who don’t necessarily share our nutrition philosophy.  Sometimes it’s important to me that I send a healthy meal, and sometimes the kids insist. Nicely. 😉

Serving up a healthy school lunch isn’t difficult when planning ahead.

Prepare convenience foods ahead of time.

I like to keep our freezer stocked with homemade grab-n-go eats.  This serves us well not only at lunch time, but also when we need to hit the road for a ballgame or even on the weekend when we’d (I’d) rather be playing than cooking.  Here are our favorites:

These are all items that can be warmed up at a moment’s notice.  Pair them with an apple and call it lunch!  It may not work well to send all that with the kids, but when my husband surprises us on his lunch quarter-hour, I’m covered!

For the kids, I try to have hard boiled eggs at the ready along with prepared fruits and vegetables, and sliced cheese.

Stock up on staples.

There are some pantry items I try to never be without.  Tortillas, peanut butter, honey, raisins, etc.  Think about the foods you would want to pack in a lunch box right now (because sometimes right now is the only notice you’re given!) and make sure they’re available for a quick fix.

Keep it simple.

Often, the simpler we eat, the healthier we eat.  Carrot sticks, apple, banana, crackers and cheese.  That fare wouldn’t trick my husband’s stomach into satisfaction, but it would be just fine for the kids!  Fancy is fun, but sometimes basic is best.  Don’t be afraid to make a quick pb&j (that’s my kids favorite anyway!), toss in some fruit and cheese, and call it good.

Make a lunch list.

Last year my daughter had a bad habit of asking me to make her a lunch 10 minutes before she had to be out the door.  We quickly developed the “ask the night before or deal with the school lunch” rule to avoid last minute chaos and tears.  To avoid the what should I pack brain freeze, it’s helpful to have a master list of lunch options posted near the refrigerator.


The last thing we need during the wild and crazy school year is lunch time stress!  By planning ahead a bit I can be sure my family eats a healthy lunch.  Hold the chaos.

Lunchtime strategies are a hot topic today!  Be sure to visit the following moms and see how they do lunch. 

Amy from Mom’s Toolbox

Linda from The Gluten Free Homemaker

Liz from Hoosier Homemade

Lynn from Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures

Shannon from For The Mommas

Toni from The Happy Housewife

Tell me about lunch in your household.  Do you pack it?  What are your favorite on the go lunch items? 


  1. Hi Amy! Wonderful tips here – thank you so much for showcasing my EasyLunchbox containers in your post 🙂 And yes, planning ahead is the key. That’s why we love to make lunches the night before. I find that if I have the main course ready to go, filling in the sides is pretty easy with some cut up fruits and veggies usually. Once or twice a month I like to make little mini quiches or turkey/veggie “muffins” in mini muffin pans and freeze 24 of them. They are easy to use as needed and make packing so much faster. – Kelly Lester, mom and ceo,

  2. Those lunches are soooook cute)

  3. For the my husband, I usually pack leftovers. Also, I send him a little stock pile for his desk of canned soups and snacks in case he forgets his lunch.

    I like to keep some bread in the freezer for a fall back in case we need it. But we love hummus & veggies, pb & j, bean and cheese roll ups, etc

  4. We are not fortunate to live in a school district in which I allow my kids to eat at school except as a treat. So to help my kids pack healthier lunches that I control but they feel they have a voice I fill up those reusable snack containers every Sunday with pantry types of snacks (peanuts, goldfish, etc.) and fridge snacks like grapes, carrots, cheese, etc. The kids then get to choose what they put in their lunchboxes but they know they have to choose at least one item from the fridge every day to go with their sandwich. Saves me from running around every morning and it saves us money because we aren’t buying prepacked items.

  5. I loved this post! And not just because I found a recipe to try yesterday for breakfast. Your post and the others that were linked gave me a lot to think about for packing lunches. I’m going to be more intentional and try to make my kids lunches less boring. Thanks!

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