How to pack a healthier school lunch while maintaining your sanity

By Jessica Tomes, The Joy of Kids Social Media Manager

Every new school year presents an opportunity to start fresh.  It’s a chance to hit the reset button; to get organized, to learn, and to grow.  Each new year brings new intentions.  And mamas are not immune to this sensation…

We make our own new school year resolutions.  You know the ones.  We pledge to leave the house 15 minutes earlier every morning, to change out of our baby barf covered pajamas before hitting the carpool line, to feed our kiddos something besides Pop Tarts for breakfast, and to pack healthier, more satisfying school lunches.

And in the beginning, we do a really good job.  But a couple of weeks in, we start to lose steam.  We get into a rut.  All creativity goes out the window, and before long we’re handing our children a fistful of cash for the lunchroom vending machines as we’re dashing out the door. But the good news is it doesn’t have to be this way.  There are numerous tools and resources online to help make this task more manageable.

Here are some ideas to help you pack a healthier school lunch daily for your kiddos, without completely losing your mind in the process.

Helpful Tips and Tricks for Smoother School Lunch Preparation

  • Do what you can the day (or night) before. This means slicing veggies, packing up desserts and other snacks.  However, you will want to save sandwich making for the morning of – otherwise your little one might complain about a soggy sandwich.  And no one wants that.
  • Rebecca (from recommends keeping all of your lunch packing preparation tools in one designated area of your kitchen (if you have the space). This makes things more efficient for you, plus she’s trained her kiddos to come home from school, rinse out their lunch box paraphernalia, and even return it to the lunch prep station!  Wow!  I wonder how she managed to do that…
  • Got little ones at home? You can always make an extra lunch for yourself and your stay-at-home littles.  This will save you time, energy, and a splitting headache at feeding time.  Why make extra work for yourself?
  • Buy Organic when you can, especially when it comes to buying the “Dirty Dozen” (produce). Avoid processed foods whenever possible – there are many quick, healthy, and homemade snacks you can pack with love for your littles instead. Think cheese, yogurt, fresh fruits and veggies, and nuts.  Homemade trail mix and mini muffins make delicious treats.
  • Leftovers from family dinner make fantastic lunch faire when in a pinch. You don’t have to kill yourself.  Your child doesn’t have to have spaghetti made from squash in the shape of freshly fallen leaves.  You are more than welcome to do so if you have the time, but don’t beat yourself up.
  • Just make school lunch planning a part of your normal meal planning routine. You can plan month-to-month or even week-to-week. Here’s a link to a free, downloadable meal planner I use for my own family:   This meal planner is very detailed.  Pinterest has many options to choose from – select the meal planner template that is right for you own family and get to planning!
  • Include these food groups in your lunch: healthy carbohydrates, protein, vegetables, and fruit. Again, avoid sugary snacks and processed foods whenever possible.  Real food is always the best food.

Feeling stuck? Search the web.


Healthy school lunch ideas from 

You can find lots of good ideas online.  Mommy bloggers notoriously love to share recipes and school lunch ideas.  Mommy blogger Rebecca from, shares a week’s worth of school lunch ideas here.  Recipes include items like sandwich kabobs, pizza buns, and something called a butterfly sandwich.  You can find about a dozen school lunch ideas and a FREE printable at  She’s got recipes for Macaroni Smiles, Pita Pizza, Caprese Bagels, and BBQ Chicken on a Bun.  And if you’re really struggling, you should definitely check out MOMables, a school lunch meal planning service that helps parents feed their kids a variety of lunches both moms and kiddos are sure to love! You can read more about MOMables here.

Hopefully these tips, tricks, and ideas will help to get you out of your lunchtime rut.  We’d love to hear about your lunchtime successes! Feel free to share some of your favorite recipes on our Facebook page. You may even see your recipes on our Pinterest page

Born and raised in Southeast Texas, Jessica currently lives in Billings, Montana with her husband Tyler, her one year old Savannah, and their newest addition Emma Kate (six months). Jessica is a freelance writer, photographer, and blogger, and works as a licensed Realtor for Berkshire Hathaway Home-Services Floberg Real Estate. In her spare time she enjoys watching the Food Network and hanging out with her family.


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