Ten Real, Simple On the Go Lunches That Real Life Kids Will Eat

Homeschooling all these years has saved me from a tedious chore that's one of my least favorite- packing lunches. For the most part, I've avoided this, although we've had a few co-op experiences that have required bringing a lunch.

Lunch ideas for kids
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This year, however, I have one child who needs to pack a lunch 2-3 times a week. Because she's my high school senior, I'm spared the actual packing of the lunch. But I have been trying to help her find some ideas and stock the lunch foods she needs to pack what she wants.

I've been trying to get a little creative with lunch ideas. After all, this is her first experience in carrying lunches to "school" regularly. For one of the lunches- the co-op we have every other Friday- we can't take any kind of nuts because of allergies. Since this particular child could live on peanut butter- which is a staple in our house and eaten frequently by almost all of us- this eliminates many of our go to lunch ideas.

So I turned to Pinterest. And some of the cutesy little lunches with food turned into shapes or characters or themed arrangements almost made me wish I did pack lunches every day. Almost.  But some of these "great lunch ideas for kids"? Well, friends, some of these have got to be a joke. Really.

1. Do kids really eat some of these things? I know I'm rather picky myself and limited in the types of food I serve my family. I know some of you do a much better job in introducing your kids to a wider variety of fruits and vegetables. But do your kids really eat sushi? Really? And, I know some adults who like caprese salad. (I don't happen to because I don't like tomatoes.) But do your kids eat it?

My daughter said she could just imagine the kids at lunch: 
"Look at this stuff my mom gave me to eat. Could I please trade you for your plain pb and j sandwich? Please?"
Kids' lunches


2. Who has time to make these things? I have four children. On co-op mornings, it is all I can do to get us all out the door, fully clothed, with the backpacks required and lunchboxes- often filled with potato chips and an apple sauce squeeze thingy. Pack the night before you say? The night before is spent finding said backpacks that have somehow disappeared since we used them two weeks ago and finding some clothes to wear that (a) aren't pjs and (b) are actually clean.

In some of these carefully constructed lunches, I've seen recreated scenes from Frozen, Nemo and friends swimming in the water, an emoji themed lunch, and the Minions. Who has time for that? Do these people have a life?

So folks, here it is. I've come up with my own list of ten suggestions for real lunches that can realistically be packed by normal, ordinary moms and that consist of food that real kids will actually eat. I don't promise that this is all clean, organic, and non-GMO food. I do try to make healthyish choices, but I know some of these things have ingredient lists that contain items I can't even pronounce. I do promise, however, that putting together these lunches will not consume hours of your life and will result in kids who come home less than starving because they've actually eaten the food you packed.

If you have older kids who can pack their own lunches, I suggest having ingredients for these items on hand and letting the kids mix and match them to come up with their own lunches that they pack the night before they need them. If you have younger kids, pick one item, pair it with some grapes or apple slices, or strawberries and call it lunch. We've gotten a set of the Lunch Blox from Rubbermaid because they seemed like a versatile and easy way to pack a good many different lunch items and because they have an ice pack that fits in as part of the kit, making it easy to slide the whole thing in a lunch bag. 

Simple lunch ideas

SunButter sandwiches- SunButter is similar to nut butters but is made from sunflower seeds so it isn't an allergen concern.

Homemade lunchables- Do you know what you're paying for when you buy a lunchable? The name. Because the price certainly is too high for some crackers and cheese and meat cut into circles. Make your own by cutting your own cheese and meat into circles, throw in some crackers, a small candy bar, and a tumbler of juice, and Voila!, you have a lunchable. If you want to get really creative get some mason jars and make these cute Masonables.

Cut up broccoli and carrots and ranch dip- Even my kids- who don't love vegetables- will eat them cut up and dipped in ranch

Meat and cheese roll ups- Spread out a tortilla and lay meat and cheese on it. Roll it up and cut into pieces.

Hotdogs- If kids will have access to a microwave at lunch time, they can take a hotdog that has been precooked and heat up. I use the all beef, no nitrate hotdogs from Oscar Meyer. Cook the hotdogs the night before. To take as lunch, wrap a hotdog inside a bun in plastic wrap or put it in a small lunchbox. At lunch time, it will only take about 15-20 seconds in the microwave to heat it up.

Soup- Again, if you have access to a microwave, put soup- either homemade from the night before or canned- in a container that can easily be reheated.

Trail mix- If your co-op or class isn't nut free, you can make trail mix by throwing in multiple kinds of nuts and dried fruit. This makes an easy, light lunch if you have kids that will probably be playing or talking during lunchtime and starving later because they didn't want to take time to eat a big meal.

Salad in a jar- Several of my kids will eat salad if it's simple with not lots of strange vegetables. Put your salad in a jar. You can buy a salad mix or make your own with lettuce and whatever else you like. You can even throw in some pieces of cooked chicken to make it a little more substantial lunch. Take your dressing in a container on the side and mix it when you're actually eating lunch. That way it doesn't sit on your salad and make it soggy all morning.

Pasta salad- Because it's served cold, pasta salad is an easy thing to put together the night before and dish out into containers in the morning to carry with an ice pack in a lunch box. Throw some kind of fruit in the lunch box to go along with it, and call it a meal. This recipe is the one I usually use, and you can add or keep out anything the kids like or don't like.

Bagels- For some reason, the idea of a bagel is more appealing to my kids than a sandwich on regular bread. I have made homemade bagels, but we usually just buy Thomas's bagels. You can put meat and cheese on it for a deli sandwich or carry some cream cheese on the side and put it on when you're ready to eat lunch.


There you go, friends. There are ten real lunches that won't take you hours to make and that your children will really eat. My kids- especially the one taking lunch multiple times a week- are actually looking forward to packing lunches because it's a new thing for us to do on a regular basis. We''ll see how long her fascination lasts.



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