Favorite Back To School Lunch Picks


So I normally stick to crafty things here on my blog. However, after sharing on Instagram how I pack healthy lunches for my kids on Sundays throughout the year, I got a lot of requests for more info. A lot! So I thought I would do a quick post. Things are usually crazy and hectic around here, so prepping lunches is essential for us.

(You can see the pics I have shared on Instagram of me packing lunches HERE, HERE and HERE.)

Here are some of my favorite things for packing lunches:

(1.) and (2.) Reusable Bags – I put dry foods (sandwiches, dry homemade granola, etc.) in reusable bags that I can wash and use over and over all year long. This is a great way to avoid generating too much trash and the kids like them. I have used both the Itzy Ritzy and Bumkins options. Many different fun patterns and sizes are available. Lila loves the Disney Princess bags!

(3.) Reusable Water Bottle – No Leak! – I searched for a small water bottle that wouldn’t leak for my son’s lunch box for a long time. Finally found one, so I bought a few. (I am not a fan of plastic for food and drink storage, but I think it is safest for lunches for kids. My personal opinion. At home we use a lot of glass.)

(4.) Sistema Food Containers – I have a lot of these. Maybe 30 or more? (I have three kids I pack lunches for, and each lunch has two of these.) This way I can fill them all on Sunday and have them ready in the fridge for the week. Yes, it is a big initial investment, but I use them for years and prefer containers over baggies. These little guys hold hummus, veggies, fruit, etc. They come in bigger sizes and can sometimes be found at TJ Maxx or Home Goods. I use these guys for crafting storage, too.

(5.) Freezable Lunch Bag – This lunch bag is the coolest! The whole thing folds up and goes into the freezer. The walls keep the lunch cold! Love this! Lots of cute patterns and sizes, too. My kids really like this lunch bag. We have used this for a couple years now and they hold up well.

(6.) Reusable Napkins – I bought several reusable napkins from Etsy years ago and still use them. Again, less trash and they are simply cute. If you are crafty, you could sew your own.

(7.) Large Water Bottle – My older kids also take a large water bottle to use through the day. This one is great because it doesn’t get condensation on the outside and seals well. We have a few and use for sports, too.

(8.) Lunch Box Notes – I like to make notes and cards to put in the lunches. However – let’s face it – I don’t have time to do this every day. So I love sticking in a joke. Colin enjoys this. I also put in fun newspaper articles, comics, etc.

There are likely other more inexpensive options out there for some of these things. However, I have found all of these hold up well, so worth the investment. I don’t have to get anything new this year!

Every Sunday, we put together the lunches. I get everything together and put it in the fridge for the week. This saves me *a lot* of time in the mornings. I open all the containers and line them up… filling them quickly. The kids even help when they aren’t doing their activities.

Many people are curious what foods I include in the lunches. We eat pretty healthy here. I use the Fooducate App to make sure I chose the best options. (This app gives grades on how healthy foods are and offers best options. A must-have in the grocery store.) Here are some of our favorites:

  • Carrots
  • Hummus – homemade when possible.
  • Naan
  • Frozen Peas – put a handful in each container and they will unfreeze in the fridge.
  • Fruit – Raspberries, cantaloupe, and grapes hold up well pre-prepped. However, some fruits don’t hold up well pre-cut. I instead just prep these each morning.
  • Banana
  • Salmon – Leftover from dinner or smoked (occasionally).
  • Cheese – Cut from a block of cheese.
  • Cheerios
  • Leftover Pork Chop – from the night before – just cook extra
  • Homemade Granola
  • Celery
  • Fritos – Believe it or not, there are only 3 ingredients in these and are minimally processed – not too bad. Just occasionally.
  • Carrots
  • Raw Green Beans
  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Greek Yogurt – Use the Fooducate App to make sure it is a good one.
  • Chicken – We will make a whole chicken for dinner and cook an extra to cut up for lunches.

If I think of more, I will add them. I would also LOVE to hear what you all have found works well for your kiddos. Please share in the comments below.

See you soon!



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21 thoughts on “Favorite Back To School Lunch Picks”

  1. we use reusable storage whenever possible. Our boys take a lot of sandwiches on home baked bread. They also like fried rice or rice with chicken or pork chops.
    We use glass containers at home and plastic on the go. I love cloth napkins from target.

  2. Thanks for this list, Jennifer. I don’t have kids, but I’ve been wanting to get into a better habit of taking lunch to work, rather than going out. I don’t have access to a fridge (I’m a adjunct professor with no office — unless you count my car lol) so the freezer bag sounds perfect. And while I haven’t used the systema products for storage, I LOVE my microwave systema containers. They are amazing.

    I have a question about the large water bottle. Looking at Amazon, the primary concern people seem to have is that it’s hard to clean the nozzle, thus has a tendency to grow mildew/mold. Do you have a trick to cleaning it out? Someone said soaking in vinegar for a few days seems to help, but that just seems extreme.

    Thanks in advance!

    1. I’ve used those camelback bottles for YEARS. Use a bottle brush, like for baby bottles, I assume. I don’t have children either. And also, you can squeeze the spout open with your hands when washing. I’ve never had mold or anything remotely gross. And I’m PICKY. I do live in the desert though, in case that matters.

  3. Thanks for sharing!!! I love using Camelbak products! I also use the sistema for storage both in the kitchen and craft room!

  4. Perfect topic as my oldest is entering kindergarten next month. Been searching for good leak proof kids water bottle. But #7 -the Camelbak- I’m not the biggest fan of because of the plastic nozzle part. Found it hard to clean. I will also look into those reuseable baggies. Thanks for the tips here!!

  5. I have older kids I pack for to go to work and I love the container idea. I have the freezer lunch pails. I find they smell a bit mildewy. Do you have this problem or do you do something special to them to keep them from smelling?

  6. We used many containers for my boys’ lunches, as well as a thermos and water bottle. Now my little girl is starting school in a couple of weeks and looking for new ideas. love those reusable snack bags! Also looking for a bento type box. one of the comments said the yumbox. checking that out! thanks!

  7. Thanks for the list. But I suggest you reconsider the raw green beans, as they contain a stuff called “Phasin” (at least that’s what I found in German Wikipedia), which might cause harm to your digestion. Interestingly, though, I found no reference of this in English Wikipedia… Just thougt you may wish to do further investigations on this, as this is what I was taught by my mum also, when I was a kid, never to eat raw beans…
    Regards, Britta

  8. My grandson and his parents have always packed these kinds of foods in his lunches. He had never liked buying lunch at school starting early on so has always taken his own. He will be entering high school this year. He also takes cherries, strawberries, melons, pickles, celery and peanut butter. They also make his lunches up a week in advance. Great job you are doing in feeding you family healthy.

  9. My boys are both in college now, but I still pack for me. I’m fortunate that I have access to a refrigerator at my school- but that frozen lunch bag is very cool! On Sunday I make a salad of brown rice, corn, black beans and herbs. I occasionally add salsa to it. Shelled edamame, and mini triscuits (another 3 ingredient snack) are the only additions to your fabulous list. I am just tortured by the things I see kids eating when I have lunch duty!

  10. Applaud your good habits with healthy food! Wish I was smart enough to pack healthy lunches way back when…….. but alas, never even considered it and my parents didn’t either. Doesn’t help the next generation, that’s for sure. My children wouldn’t ever eat peas if their life depended on it. .I would love to have your recipes for dinner chicken and your homemade granola.

  11. thanks for sharing these ideas… May be when my daughter goes to school I can start giving her food like this. Right now, my husband takes packed lunch and he prefers Indian.. our food is a little complex.. It consists of rice, 1 curry, 1 veg side dish and 1 non-veg side dish everyday.. and mostly prepared in the morning..

  12. SUPER FUN Post!! I LOVE hearing what you have found and what works well for you!! I LOVE the Backpacks/Lunch Bags Mini Hot/Cold Thermoses and the QUALITY of them from Pottery Barn!! When they have FREE Shipping and Sales (20% off) I like them EVEN more!! Beckett had his First Backpack for 5 Years!! I got it for him when he was 3 and started Preschool!! I LOVE that they can Personalize them with their Names, Initials whatever and its usually just an extra $8.00 and you can see and match the colors of the Stitching right on their web site!! =) There Lunch stuff if AMAZING!! They handle the EVERYDAY USE with Kiddos (especially Boys (LOL)!! =) They designs they have are AMAZING and if you haven’t ever looked at them I think it WORTH a LOOK and the Price!! THANKS FOR SHARING and have a FABULOUS Bach To School Time!! HUGS!! =)

  13. LOVE your videos! You say this is “your job”. Do you make cards to sell? Do you design rubber stamps to sell? Your organizational videos are priceless — thanks especially for the label-saving tip! Who knew!!

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