These healthy school lunch ideas work for kindergarten, high school, and everyone in between! Feed your kids real food that doesn’t break the budget, with these yummy kid-friendly recipes they’ll love to take to school. Enjoy Homemade Spaghetti-os, Homemade Cheez-its, and more!
When we switched from homeschooling 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, these TWO WEEKS of school lunch ideas can help!
WHAT’S INCLUDED IN THESE SCHOOL LUNCH IDEAS FOR KIDS:
- 100% real food school lunch ideas for kids that are simple, straightforward, and kid-friendly.
- TWO WEEKS worth of healthy lunch 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 for these ingredients to avoid.)
- The kids actually like these school lunch ideas! Sending food the kids don’t like is throwing your grocery money into the trash can – literally! Not so with these recipes – they’re all kid-tested and requested.
WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED IN THESE EASY KIDS LUNCH RECIPES:
- 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 a hot lunch for my kids – $3.25 PER KID, per meal (that’s $65 for two kids for two weeks)!
- 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 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 staples in these easy kids’ lunch recipes, 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 specifically plan for them in these lunch recipes for kids. With a few tweaks, I think this school lunch meal plan would work in most food-allergy families too.
WHAT ABOUT BREAKFASTS OR DINNERS?
This plan for kids’ school lunches doesn’t include any breakfast or dinner recipes because obviously, this is a school LUNCH meal plan! Here’s my list of easy breakfast ideas including cinnamon waffles and instant oatmeal packs!
Meal planning for dinner is a different process – I can help you with that too!
As a bonus, the ingredients you buy for this school lunch meal plan will provide extras you can use to help with breakfasts and dinners. Use the “Bonus Meal Ideas” section in this post to create your own breakfasts and add to your dinner menu. Those are just some ideas to get you started, but they’re there to help you use the ingredients you’re already buying.
TWO-WEEK SCHOOL LUNCH IDEAS: WHAT TO BUY
The goal with any meal plan is to buy as little food as possible, use everything you buy, and do both without sacrificing taste or quality.
Here’s what you’re buying for two weeks of kids school lunches:
- 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.
Substitute ideas: Feel free to substitute any other easy-to-go fruits or veggies when they are in season. We love cucumber, bell peppers, sugar snap peas, grapes, blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries!
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 refrigerator, then your out-of-pocket costs just went down!
- Cheddar Cheese. Because Homemade Cheez-Its need cheese. And it adds a bit of tastiness to the Homemade Spaghetti-o’s. I personally like sharp cheddar but use whatever is on sale.
- Greek Yogurt. (Here’s how to make your own.) 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.
- 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 or Activated Charcoal Gummies.
- Honey. Instead of using sugar to sweeten, honey is one of my go-to sweeteners. 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.)
- Pasta. You can make Homemade Spaghetti-o’s using whatever small pasta you want, but if you want a 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.
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.
- 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 I freeze it for future use. (Not only does homemade lunch meat save money but it is much healthier.)
Speedy Lunch Tip #3: Plan healthy school 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 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
- Chop any extra 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 it with a Dinner Salad for a quick and easy meal.
ADDITIONAL LUNCH IDEAS
If you’re packing for high schoolers or adults, you may need to beef up the options on this meal plan. Here are some great healthy additions that are filling and inexpensive to add to any lunchbox:
- Black beans
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Salsa and tortilla chips
- Rice crackers
- Nut butter
- Homemade granola bars
- Pita bread with cream cheese
- Cheese cubes
- Pasta salads
- Cheese sandwiches
HOW TO PACK HEALTHY SCHOOL LUNCHES
Packing healthy school lunches is easy with these supplies!
- My kids have used PlanetBox LAUNCH boxes for several years now and love them! (Here are all the best lunch boxes we’ve used.)
- I added thermoses this year, too. Here’s what I bought for the Girl and for the Boy. Perfect for Homemade Spaghetti-o’s and soups!
- Although we don’t currently use them, I’m still a big fan of these reusable bags, and these silicone molds for yogurt (which double as popsicle molds in the summer!).
MORE KIDS LUNCH IDEAS
These kids lunch ideas are a great starting point for packing a healthy lunch. Here are some of our other easy kids lunch recipes:
- Five School Lunches in Less Than an Hour (perfect for a week of meals for elementary-aged kids!)
- Corn Dog Muffins
- Homemade Pizza Bagel Bites
- 15-Minute Italian Meatballs
- Carrot Zucchini Muffins with Apples
- Oatmeal Peanut Butter Energy Bites
- Easy Homemade Crackers
- Healthy Homemade Gummy Bears
- Chickpea Cookie Dough Hummus
- Homemade Fruit Leather and Fruit Roll Ups