When we switched from homeschool to a traditional school several years ago, I had NO IDEA how tricky and troublesome packing a school lunch could be.
Sure I heard of some lunch packing hacks for parents to make it easier, and those were great… but it didn’t solve the issue of WHAT to pack for lunch!
There are millions of kids in the world and those kids have parents. Surely I’m not the only one who struggles with this?! Hopefully though, these TWO WEEKS worth of school lunch menu ideas can help!
- 100% real food school lunch recipes that are simple, straight-forward and kid friendly.
- TWO WEEKS worth of ideas. We both know that cooking once to eat twice (or more) is a huge time saver in the kitchen. Well it’s even more so for school lunches!
- All of the recipes are easy to make and can easily be made in under an hour (some you only cook once and save the extras for another lunch!)
- All meal components are made from scratch to help cut down on costs. If you aren’t prepared to make bread, crackers, or pizza sauce from scratch, feel free to substitute store-bought. (Just know, your total price will go up and be sure to check ingredients to avoid these 5 things.)
What’s Not Included:
- This plan is not tied to a specific grocery store or price point. Not everyone has access to the discount grocery stores like ALDI or Grocery Outlet. Even though it’s not tied to a price point (like my $50 ALDI meal plan), it is still frugal and budget-friendly. Without a discount grocery store, this plan rings in about $30. Compare that to the cost of hot lunch for my kids – $3.25 PER KID, per meal!!
- If you can do your grocery shopping somewhere such as ALDI or Walmart (here’s a side-by-side comparison between those two stores), you can easily shave $10 (or more) off of your grocery bill. Of course, check your weekly circulars for sales and substitute whenever you can to cut costs.
- Spices, oils, mustards and vinegar. We aren’t using an enormous amount of these in this plan and you probably already have them in the pantry.
- Precautions for food allergies. My family is blessed to not have food allergies, so I don’t plan for them in my meal plans. With a few tweaks, I think this school lunch meal plan would work in most food allergy families too. If you’re diary-free, you’re used to subbing anyway.
No Breakfasts or Dinners?
This meal plan doesn’t include any breakfast or dinner recipes because obviously, this is a school LUNCH meal plan!
As a bonus, the ingredients you buy for this meal plan will provide extras you can use to help with breakfasts and dinners. Use the “Bonus Meal Ideas” section at the bottom to create your own breakfasts and add to your dinner menu. Those are just some ideas to get your started, but they’re there to help you use the ingredients you’re already buying!
Two Week School Lunch Menu Ideas: What to Buy
The goal with any meal plan is to buy as little food as possible, use everything you buy, and to do both without sacrificing taste or quality.
Here’s what you’re buying for this meal plan:
Apples, Bananas, Carrots, Celery, Oranges. I’m lumping these all together because none of them are used for a specific recipe, yet you will need two of each for each day’s lunch.
Speedy lunch tip #1: When you cut up fruits or veggies for dinner or snacks, cut some extra and portion out for lunches. Then you can simply grab and pack in the mornings!
Butter. This is used in the homemade cheez-it crackers. That’s how you get the perfect crunch! If you already have this in your pantry, then your out of pocket costs just went down!
Greek Yogurt. Adding a delicious dip to lunch makes the fruits and veggies just a bit tastier. And what kid doesn’t want a sweet treat?
Heavy Cream. Heavy cream is used in homemade pudding cups. Even in a real food lunch, kids can enjoy foods that look like their friend’s lunch.
Milk. I use this for homemade sandwich bread. It’s what helps make it deliciously soft on the inside and crusty on the outside.
Mozzarella. Cheese is key in Homemade Hot Pockets. They can be healthy!
Cocoa powder. This also goes into the homemade pudding cups. I find my kids are more receptive to homemade versions of food when they are chocolate! (Like my chocolate hummus!)
Flour. Making your own sandwich bread and homemade pizza dough (for the hot pockets) can help the budget significantly. Plus my kids love it better than store-bought!
Gelatin. This isn’t something everyone has in their pantry, but if you are going to make homemade pudding you will want some. (I use this brand.) Plus you can use any extra for homemade gummies. (And activated charcoal gummies in case a stomach bug is going around!)
Honey. Instead of using sugar to sweeten, honey is a frequent choice. I use it in my homemade sandwich bread too.
Jelly. This meal plan includes Homemade Uncrustables. Which is basically PB&J but way cooler. (Here’s how to save some extra dollars and make strawberry freezer jam.)
Speedy Lunch Tip #2: If the kids are big enough, put them on some of the lunch prep tasks. My kids can spread PB&J on sandwiches, while I chop up the veggies.
Pasta. You can make Homemade Spaghetti-o’s using whatever small pasta you want, but if you want the similar look to the canned option, go with anelletti pasta. (If you can’t find that in store, ditalini is similar.)
Peanut Butter. For the Homemade Uncrustables, of course. (Look for the kind that’s just peanuts and salt.)
Tomato paste, sauce, and whole peeled. The canned tomatoes are for the Spaghetti-o sauce and hot pocket sauce.
Turkey Breast. One of the best real food lunch hacks I’ve found is making my own deli meat. It took some trial and error, but I can get several weeks’ worth of lunch meat in one batch. Then freeze for future use.
Speedy Lunch Tip #3: Plan lunches that can easily be made ahead and then saved in the freezer. This cuts down time spent making lunch when the school days get busier.
Two Week School Lunch Plan
DAY 1 – Classic Homemade Spaghetti – O’s // Homemade Pudding Cups // Banana // Carrot Sticks
DAY 2 – Homemade Healthy Lunchable // Apple Slices // Celery Sticks // Yogurt Peanut Butter Dip
DAY 4 – Classic Homemade Spaghetti – O’s // Apple Slices // Celery Sticks // Homemade Pudding Cups
DAY 5 – Homemade Uncrustables // Yogurt Peanut Butter Dip // Banana // Celery Sticks
DAY 6 – Healthy Homemade Hot Pockets // Banana // Carrot Sticks // Homemade Pudding Cups
DAY 7 – Homemade Lunch Meat Sandwich // Apple Slices // Carrot Sticks // Homemade Cheez-it Crackers
DAY 8 – Homemade Healthy Lunchable // Orange Slices // Celery Sticks // Yogurt Peanut Butter Dip
DAY 9 – Homemade Uncrustables // Orange Slices // Carrot Sticks // Homemade Pudding Cups
DAY 10- Homemade Lunch Meat Sandwich // Yogurt Peanut Butter Dip // Banana // Celery Sticks
Bonus Meal Ideas
- Use extra of any of the fruits to add to oatmeal in the mornings for breakfast. Or add to extra Greek Yogurt for parfaits.
- Extra heavy cream and milk can be used for Alfredo Sauce for an easy dinner.
- Double the Spaghetti-o’s and have some for dinner. Or make extra pizza dough and sauce and have pizza for dinner when you make homemade hot pockets.
- Use extra bread slices for French toast in the morning or pair with a dinner salad and call it a meal.