Quick and Easy School Lunchbox Ideas

A child eating a brown bag lunch.
Packing lunch for your children can be a great way to both insure your child is getting a nutritious meal and to save money. It can be difficult to come up with food that is healthy, cheap and that your kids will love. This page contains quick and easy school lunchbox ideas.


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Gold Post Medal for All Time! 677 Posts
September 11, 2018

I needed a new lunchbox. My store had a clearance on coolers for cans of soda or beer. The one pictured here looks exactly like the lunchboxes two aisles over, and was half the price!

A small drink cooler that can double as a padded lunchbox.

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4 Questions

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August 19, 2006

We live close to the High school in our town. Since some of my daughter's friends have the same lunch period, they want to come to our house and have lunch. I work, so am not at home. I need ideas for "quick" lunches for them.

Kathyg from Oskaloosa, IA


August 19, 20060 found this helpful

I would get some cold cuts, chips & dip.
This would pro ably be the fastest and less clean up.

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August 19, 20060 found this helpful

Make a big pot of vegetable soup over the weekend. Freeze it in pint containers and then leave it out in the morning. They can warm it up in the microwave. Make chicken salad, tuna or egg salad, slice some tomatoes ,keep in fridge and they can make their own sandwiches to go with it for a healthy and yummy lunch.

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By Lynda (Guest Post)
August 19, 20060 found this helpful

I'd go for ANYTHING premade, such as homemade:
frozen t.v. dinners, pot pies, big fruit bowl, salads if all girls, plenty of crackers, sale entrees, Pizza, or


frozen beef patties pre-cooked and buns/chips.

Word to the wise: Ground rules would be a good thing to set up early, such as:
1) Watch the clock, locks, pets
2) No guys or partying
3) Clean up your messes
4) Whatever you make, you must eat, not waste
5) Limit number of persons that can come
6) Each one is responsible for following house rules
7) Don't clean out the house of all food/drinks, save
some for the others
8) a Note that says,"Sharing in the cost by tossing a couple of dollars in the small basket/wide neck jar would be appreciated."
9) If raining, wipe feet, leave umbrella at door.

If you have no guidelines/boundaries, you might be deeply hurt and setting yourself up for great liability.
I remember being one of those friends that didn't
take advantage of parents yrs ago, but this is NOW.

You might consider limiting it to once or twice a week, not just "anytime", and you really should KNOW who's coming "just in case". Someone MIGHT take advantage of your teen, you or your home, especially if they are new acquaintances and not really yet "friends".

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August 20, 20060 found this helpful

If you have a fridge and microwave you have it made. Need I say more?

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By Grandma Margie (Guest Post)
August 20, 20060 found this helpful

I absolutely agree with all of Lynda's remarks and suggestions! You are really setting yourself up for some surprises and disappointments, and very possibly, legal liability. I have worked with a lot of teenagers in my lifetime and I don't think I've ever met one who is totally trustworthy. Their INTENTIONS are good but they really don't have the mental toughness at this age to hold out against that thing we all hear and talk about...."peer pressure"! Teenagers are probably my favorite age group of people.


I'm not being critcal of them or picking on them. It's just not a good idea to give them that much unsupervised time and space in your home. Something can and will happen that will be regrettable! You may not find out about it for years but eventually a story will come out and you will wish you had been less gullible and easygoing! This is just some advise from an oldtimer with lots of experience and some regrets! Best of luck to you and your family.

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Gold Feedback Medal for All Time! 696 Feedbacks
August 20, 20060 found this helpful

Unless these teenage girls are real good friends of your daughter's and you know them yourself, I wouldn't allow it....and certainly you shouldn't have to provide someone else's kids with a free lunch....let their moms pack them a lunch that they bring with them and eat at your house....but seems to me since you will be away, they all should just eat at school. I know it makes me sound like a scrouge and not very trusting but I've heard too many stories. You might trust your own daughter to come home and eat lunch but I don't think she needs to bring classmates with her....just doesn't seem like a good idea to me.

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Diamond Feedback Medal for All Time! 1,317 Feedbacks
August 21, 20060 found this helpful

Not a good idea to let teenagers in your house while
you are out. The minute something goes wrong
other parents will blame YOU for allowing it. Your daughter may not like it but insist they stay at


school during lunch. If something should happen to
other kids or yours you will have only yourself to
blame as you allowed it.
Sounds mean but remember doctors state a teenagers brain is not fully developed, add peer pressure etc...

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Bronze Recipe Medal for All Time! 52 Recipes
August 25, 20060 found this helpful

Wraps, have tortillas, lunch meats, veggies, dressings, leftover meats like chicken or steak etc. They could make their own and its not expensive. Also to all the VERY well meaning advice givers on not allowing this to happen, this is not the question that was asked. I have a teenager and trust him till he proves I cant, which he hasnt done.


I am not saying that is always the way, but I think if we give our children the same respect we expect for ourselves they will surprise you. As for the bad apples well there are some in ever bunch and you shouldnt punish the good for the bad. Just my 2cents and not trying to be difficult.

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By medievaldesire (Guest Post)
June 12, 20070 found this helpful

I don't have any new ideas, although I do agree with all the food ideas already stated. I also think that micksgirl has raised a great point, as a young adult, I can say that teenagers aren't so untrustworthy as you all seem to think they are. I personally went over to my best friends house every day during junior high and high school... granted I did pack my own lunch, but some days I ditched it and joined in on her moms yummy left overs.


We were average teenagers too, and nothing ever went rotten, we even eventually had the responablility of getting her younger sisters a heathly dinner when her working mom wasn't there (and I tell you it wasn't easy as they are both very picky eaters) But I think that the taste of responsablity that it gave us was enough to teach us that our parents do trust us, even with the stove on... and all.

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Silver Post Medal for All Time! 267 Posts
June 12, 20070 found this helpful

I believe that people who don't trust their teenagers create untrustworthy teenagers. It's a self fulfilling prophecy. Children don't cross a magical "responsibility" line at 18, they need to be taught all along. That means having the chance to mess up along the way.

I liked the comment "I have a teenager and trust him till he proves I can't, which he hasn't done. I am not saying that is always the way, but I think if we give our children the same respect we expect for ourselves they will surprise you." I have met many teenagers who are totally trustworthy and responsible.

I was preparing dinner for my little brothers BEFORE I was a teenager. We are all in our thirties now. We had little trouble in our teenage years, I believe, because our mother respected and trusted us to make our own decisions.

School is about out for the year now. Kathyg, how did the lunches work out? Anyone else have practical experience with this situation instead of "advice"?


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By (Guest Post)
April 15, 20080 found this helpful

This lady didn't ask for parenting advice. Only advice on quick lunches, so thanks anyway ladies. I also am curious about good quick lunches that don't require a microwave. That makes them disgusting. Any ideas on quick lunches? I have an oven at my disposal and a mini fridge. I just need some things I can make and eat within a half hour. some good ideas but i'm looking for some things a little more hearty than cold cuts and chips with dip.

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April 15, 20080 found this helpful

A lot depends on their tastes -but the following always work nice for me:

Soups - can freeze and reheat small portions
Casseroles - variety is endless.
Pot of chili
"salad bar" - they can make their own.
Tuna/egg salad
Sausage rolls (tuck sausage/bacon& cheese into pizza dough balls and fold over to form a roll - bake at about 400 for 12 min or so - serve cold or warm in an oven)

Hope this helps.

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August 22, 20080 found this helpful

I strongly agree that this question was about lunches and not child welfare. Here in OH you are allowed to be left home alone at the tender age of 12. Trust your kids and they will trust you. If we are always thinking them to be untrustworthy then eventually they will be.
I would buy deli meats and bread and some chips to keep around for the "pop up" lunchers. Make some kool-aid the night before. xoxo

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By high school freshman (Guest Post)
September 1, 20080 found this helpful

Okay this is not meant to be a book on parenting! All this woman asked for was an answer to her question about quick lunches. My suggestion would be to keep things in the house that the kids like. If there favorite food is say, fried chicken but they don't like the taste of it when it's re-heated just fry some boneless chicken breasts and have plenty of salad stuff around so they could make a chicken salad. Ask them what they want for lunch. After all, they have to eat it!

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Read More Answers

November 5, 2009

I'm looking for cheap easy lunch ideas for myself and my partner. Any helpful hints? We work separate hours and jobs. Thanks.

By harmony from Northern CA

Read More Answers


ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

November 5, 2009

I'm a busy homemaker who is just discovering the wonderful world of being frugal. My household consists of 6 family members, 5 adults and one 4 year old. To help cut costs, I have decided to start making bagged lunches for the 3 of them that are at work or school for lunchtime.

So I'm looking for reasonably healthy, affordable bagged lunch ideas that are easy to make ahead of time and just take from the fridge. Variety would be good, I don't want them getting bored of the meals and not eat (or go spend $8 at a fast food restaurant). Any advice?

Stacey from Dorr, MI


Easy, Healthy Bagged Lunch Ideas

Make your own fruit and veggie packets ahead of time. Peel, cut, and put into individual bags or containers so that it is easy to grab 'n go. Same goes for snacks. By a big bag and make your own snack bags. Saves money and time. I also try to make lunches the night before so that it is easier in the morning. Many people don't want to be bothered to make a lunch if they are in a rush, but if it is already done then it is a no-brainer. (01/06/2009)

By Christine Biernat

Easy, Healthy Bagged Lunch Ideas

I usually make meals like chili, stews, soups, and some Indian dishes in larger quantities and freeze in individual containers in the freezer, just grab and go and heat it up in the microwave at school or work. You can also purchase plastic containers which have several compartments in one, so you can put several things in there, just like a frozen meal you'd buy in the store (mashed potatoes, veggies, and a protein).

When apples are really inexpensive I make my own apple sauce and store in containers ready for lunches. I do the same with rice pudding. Much healthier and cheaper than the store bought stuff.

Hummus veggie wraps made with pita bread and filled with tomatoes and cucumbers is really good, too. Hummus has lots of protein and is easy and cheap to make. Also looks like something more gourmet than the average peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Good luck. (01/06/2009)

By Lisa

Easy, Healthy Bagged Lunch Ideas

I like to make salads in small containers and put the dressing in a separate small container. All you have to do is add the dressing and shake it to mix it all together. There are so many things you can put on a salad, meats, cheeses, veggies, fruits, and nuts. And there are so many different dressings that you won't get bored having the same old thing. (01/08/2009)

By penn4482

Easy, Healthy Bagged Lunch Ideas

A sandwich with one or two pieces of fruit is a good lunch. You may want to include just a few potato chips or a pickle. Years ago we used to say something sweet and something salty for a packed lunch. My son likes to take a cup of yogurt for his morning's coffee break.

For those who have a microwave to use, leftovers make the best lunches. (01/09/2009)

By Carol in PA

Easy, Healthy Bagged Lunch Ideas

I live in Hawaii and get lots of different influences from different cultures. I also have a very very picky daughter that does not like to eat so I constantly bribe her to take her home lunch to school. So with the Japanese influence and my daughter in mind, I am forced to find an alternative lunch solution.

This is supplying my daughter with a nutritious lunch and it is very organized making her friends envious of her food so she is more than willing to take the food to school and eat it, solving some of my daughters eating problems.

This site and others, google "bento" for tips on assembling and what the supplies you would need. Substitutions for the expensive supplies are mandatory with my tight budget.

There are many more. Good luck. (01/09/2009)

By soyzicks

Easy, Healthy Bagged Lunch Ideas

My husband and I smoke chickens and then make chicken salad, and chicken tacos, enchiladas out of the left overs. We usually smoke 3 at a time, and that's just for the 2 of us. In your case, with such a large family, I would recommend 8 chickens. Here's what you do. Chop up some onion and mix with minced garlic and some poultry seasoning. Stuff cavityies of the chickens with this mixture. Season outside of chicken, omitting salt, no salt until chickens are done. Now wrap in foil and smoke for at least 6 hours. Be very careful removing from smoker as juices will scald you. Allow chickens to cool and then debone.

Before I forget, this chicken salad is also excellent stuffed in a tomato or a avocado, for a light meal. Now back to the chicken salad. I chop onion, celery and the chicken, put in a bowl. I actually run my chicken through a old fashioned meat grinder, a food processor will work well for you. Now add some Miracle Whip, a squirt of mustard and a little chopped pickle or some relish. You can add salt now if you like. Enjoy. (01/09/2009)

By Cheryl

Easy, Healthy Bagged Lunch Ideas

Here's some good ideas:

You would be surprised at how much a plain sandwich will be coveted by other students or coworkers when it is made with homemade bread. I gave you all ideas for cold lunches, because I don't want to assume your family has access to a microwave. (01/09/2009)

By Carly St.Clair

Easy, Healthy Bagged Lunch Ideas

Just one little comment: Of course I know your family is using reusable containers and saving their paper bags, right? Even Zip-loc bags can be brought home and washed, especially if what's been in them isn't too messy. (01/10/2009)

By Lelia Jo Cordell

Easy, Healthy Bagged Lunch Ideas

My dear husband works physically hard and eats aplenty. Each day I send the following items (keep an eye on the trans fats and sat fat on the labels):

Phew! All of this is packed in a cooler with 2 large blue ice freezies.

To make this possible, on Sunday night, I bag up the veggies for 3 days. The nuts and cookies are already bagged. On Wednesday night, I bag veggies for 2 more days. I'd bag all the veggies a week in advance, but by day 4 and 5, they don't look so great. I keep the veggies in their bags in a special location in the fridge, so they are easier to find and no one makes the mistake of grabbing one to munch (because they look delish!). Sandwiches are made the night before.
When on sale, I'll send a South Beach Diet wrap sandwich to give myself a break.

The granola bars, nuts, cookies, tunas, are kept together, so all I have to do it grab each one and toss it into a plastic shoebox. In the morning, that day's lunch is therefore already gathered and all I have to do is open the fridge and fetch the yogurt, veggie bag, sandwich, and freezies.

And, as I was accused of being too efficient, I did not make it once when I was sick, and received an immediate apology, repeated several times. (01/10/2009)

By Holly

Easy, Healthy Bagged Lunch Ideas

When eggs come down in price for you (if they haven't already, they have a little bit here). How about a boiled egg? Cheese and crackers?
Apple slices (with or w/out peanut butter dip)? Celery sticks (with or with out peanut butter)? Carrot slices or curles?

You could freeze your own ice pack to keep lunch cool or freeze bottled water to serve a double duty as cold water after it melts a little from morning until noon + as a coldpack. Use small containers for chips or DIY a reusable chip bag that can be washed out to remove grease left by chips. Grapes. Freeze and by noon they will be ready to munch.

Mom always liked to buy inexpensive sandwich cookies (back then it was like 2 lbs. for 50 cents to $1) and we always had those on long trips to save $ instead of buying gas station snacks or from a machine.
Popcorn could be popped the night before and bagged or boxed into a great sack lunch. Or the leftover is usually always good the next morning for breakfast.

Below is a link to DIY a reusable lunch sack from a Fed Ex mailer:blog.makezine.comor you could easily make 6 + extras from a dollar store vinyl tablecloth. Get the largest size and have leftover fabric for other small items. Carefully open the size sack you want to use for the lunch as a free pattern.

You could take this a step farther and make a couple of pockets inside or a false bottom to place a small ice pack in. Use your sewing machine to put the names of the people whom the bags belong to or get out your tube paints or permamarkers. (01/10/2009)

By melody_yesterday

Easy, Healthy Bagged Lunch Ideas

Make zucchini bread or banana bread as cupcakes and freeze them in separate bags. Semi healthy, delicious and easy. (01/10/2009)

By Jenifer

Easy, Healthy Bagged Lunch Ideas

PS. I forgot to mention a prewrapped stick of low fat cheese. (01/11/2009)

By Holly

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