Creative Ideas for Making Kids' Lunches at Home

Brynne Conroy

Prepping school lunches can be stressful. During periods when the whole family is at home, things can get even more hectic at mealtimes.

To help you figure out how to manage the madness, we asked expert Erin Chase of $5 Dinners to share her creative ideas for making kids’ lunches at home.

Creative Lunch Ideas for Kids at Home

After the corona virus outbreak, Chase started sharing free kids’ cooking lessons for periods of school cancellations. Some of the featured recipes in the series include:

  • Taco Soup. If you’re looking for a kid-friendly recipe that utilizes all those canned goods in your pantry, Chase’s taco soup recipe is for you.
  • Bagel Pizza. This fun classic can be made by each child to suit their personal tastes. Parents of picky eaters rejoice!
  • Herb Crusted Pork Chops. This sounds and tastes like a fancy restaurant meal, but in their video, Chase and her son put it together and got it in the oven in just 25 minutes via a simple, kid-friendly process.
  • Homemade Mac & Cheese. Comfort foods are key during stressful times, and this is one lunch your kids can easily learn to make themselves while they’re at home.
  • Potato Chip Chicken Tenders. This unique recipe isn’t just delicious; it’s something your kids will be excited when they can make it on their own!
  • Chicken Quesadillas. These can easily be personalized for picky eaters. Chase has recipes for chicken and spinach, chicken fajita and buffalo chicken varieties.

Creative Premade ‘School’ Lunch Ideas

During a normal school year, it doesn’t matter whether you finish packing a school lunch the night before or as your child is running out the door. You still won’t have to worry about prepping and serving the meal in the moment.

That’s different over summer break or during periods of social distancing. Everyone’s home, and you’re trying to get lunch ready while everyone’s underfoot. You’re worried about your work and their school and that life insurance application you just put in, and all the craziness is making it difficult to get even the smallest tasks – like prepping lunch – all that much more difficult.

An easy way to mitigate the insanity is premade ‘school’ lunches that are ready-to-serve in the moment.

Overnight Granola & Parfaits

These overnight granola parfaits fit the bill. Featured in Chase’s cooking lessons, the ingredient list includes 10 items:

  • Oil
  • Butter
  • Vanilla
  • Quick cooking oats
  • Rolled oats
  • Cinnamon
  • Ginger
  • Chopped nuts
  • Milk or yogurt
  • Fresh fruit

Creative kids lunch ideas for picky eaters

Need some lunch ideas for your picky eater?

Chase says setting up a build-your-own buffet can be a great solution.

Build-Your-Own Peanut Butter & Jelly Stations

“Make ‘build your PB sandwich’ stations and let the kids discover the magic of peanut butter, jelly and potato chip sandwich!” says Chase. 

If you’ve never heard of a PBJ & Potato Chip sandwich before, you’re not alone! But Chase let me in on the glorious culinary secret. 

“The salty crunch is a great addition to the traditional PBJ,” she explains.

She also suggests including these alternatives in your build-your-own PB & J station, allowing each child to customize their sandwich to their own tastes:

  • Honey.
  • Sliced banana.
  • Granola.
  • Other seed- or nut-based butters.

Kids’ Lunches and Food Storage

Many of us are planning ahead in many ways, and one of them is building food storage for the first time. It’s not easy to figure out striking the right balance between what your children will actually eat and what will keep well.

In these situations, Chase suggests mix-and-match options that can work well in a variety of different meals. Examples include: 

  • Canned beans.
  • Canned tomatoes.
  • Canned or frozen vegetables.
  • Rice.
  • Pasta.
  • Tortillas.
  • Shredded cheeses.
  • Eggs.
  • Meats.

“There are dozens of different meal options that could be pulled together from these ingredients,” says Chase, “and you won’t feel like you’re eating the same things over and over.”