COM0011 – Conquering the Lunch Box…A step by step guide to creating big things for little people

school_lunch_milk_570How many mornings have I stood in the kitchen wracking my brain for ideas to make for school lunches?  More than I care to count.  My children are always willing to try new foods  at home or when we eat out, but for some reason they are very limited as to what they will eat for lunch at school.  It never ceases to amaze me that the same two people who will try oysters and love kale smoothies refuse to eat sandwiches that do not rhyme with “am”. That being said, over the past few years I have built up a rotation that gives enough variety to keep me from being accused of “Making us eat the same thing every day”.

Armed with a handful of cookie cutters and a limited grocery list, I am ready to attack the dreaded lunch box.  If your kids school is like mine, they have two nutrition breaks made up of  20 minutes to eat and 20 minutes to play.  This is a change from when I was in elementary school (I won’t tell you how long ago) where you had 2 recess breaks and one lunch.  2 balanced meal breaks means packing two full lunches.  I must add that it is frowned upon to pack both lunches the same. Actually, I can’t stress it enough.   Each break must have its own unique elements!

Building a complete lunch is not as tricky as it may first appear.  Once you get the core elements in place it comes together nicely.

#1. Choosing the proper container.

I have never been so happy as the day I found multi-compartment lunch containers (sometimes called “bento-boxes”) These magical little boxes allow you to portion out  lunches for each nutrition break instead of the virtual free-for-all that happens without them.

I realized early on that although my 4-year-old was very intelligent for her age, she was not always able to make responsible lunch choices when left to her own devices.  ie. Eating all of the snacks first and leaving the healthier options.  Tupperware makes some great containers which fit nicely into most lunch boxes. You can find them online at: The compartments also make it possible to create balanced masterpieces each day.  I like to put a protein, starch and fruit or vegetable in each container along with a treat.

That brings me to my next dilemma –

#2 What to put into the box???

I know every kid is different but here are the top 10 fan faves at our house:


  1. Goldfish crackers. Any crackers really but they like the fish best

  2. Veggies (Cucumber slices, carrots, celery)

  3. Any kind of fruit (grapes, melon, strawberries, blueberries. You get the idea)

  4. Pitas and hummus

  5. Sandwiches (mine will only eat, ham, jam, or cheese)

  6. Ham Wraps with ranch dressing

  7. Nacho chips and salsa

  8. Hard boiled eggs

  9. Cheese and meat with crackers

  10. Yogourt covered raisins

Like the old saying “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, all business and no treats makes a lunchbox pretty boring.  I like to shake things up once in a while to keep things from becoming mundane.

Sometimes I will create a theme for lunch.  Orange lunch for example is made up of things that are the colour orange. (see photo below)  Personally, I don’t think I would much like it is my lunch was all the same colour but if it makes the kids eat it – its ok in my book.



(Nectarines, cheese cubes, mandarin oranges, carrot, cookies.  The ham wrap wasn’t orange because orange ham just seemed wrong)




homepagecarousel_funkycaterpillarCookie cutters are also a great way to put some excitement into lunchtime.  Some of our favourites are caterpillar sandwiches and trains. I couldn’t find a picture of  a caterpillar I had made, so I borrowed this one from Centra’s website.  Larger cookie cutters can create sandwich art while smaller shapes can add pizzazz to almost any lunch.  Fruits and veggies, cheese, pitas -the sky is the limit!

#3  On to the good stuff…Treats!

Most days I will include 1 unhealthy snack in with the rest of the lunches.  There seems to be more unhealthy option than healthy ones these days so there is never a shortage of treats to include.  Cookies, granola bars, rice crispie squares and gummies.  I could go on and on.  But some days you just need to let them eat cake! (or cupcakes)

cupcake              img_4651

One of the biggest challenges I have found when selecting treats is that so many of them include peanuts or tree nuts which are not allowed in our schools due to the allergies of some of the students.  The easiest way to eliminate this problem is to make everything from scratch.  Sounds like a good plan in theory but in real life its not always possible.  In real life, time is always short and task lists are always long. For that reason, it is important to read product labels carefully!  Many brands display a nut-free symbol showing that they have been produced in a peanut free facility like this:


I hope that the tools and tips I have listed above will help you conquer the lunch boxes at your house!

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7 thoughts on “COM0011 – Conquering the Lunch Box…A step by step guide to creating big things for little people

  1. Wow, I loved this blog you did such a great job writing it and it kept me interested the entire time. I think that the caterpillar sandwiches are such a cute idea I love it!! Also the same colored lunches are a cute and creative idea too, being a mom to a 6 month old I am a few years away from having to make lunches for my son but I’ll definitely remember these and the lunch containers.

    • Thank you for your kind words. Being a mom to a 6 month old must be bringing its own excitement into your house, Instead of packing lunches you get to discover solid foods together!

  2. Great job! I am always racking my brain for fun and different ideas for lunches. At the start of every school year, I always tell my kids that this is the year of superior lunches. Then, by November, they are usually getting the exact same lunch daily. Great ideas and great tips! Thank you so much for this blog!!

    • Thank you, Its is definitely hard to stay inspired all year. I find in our house you can tell when grocery day is….balanced lunches with lots of variety. By the end of the week its cheese sandwiches and apple slices with a water bottle because we have run out of juice boxes!

  3. Loved your post. Everyday I put together a healthy balanced lunch only to receive negative comments at the end of the day. By the winter I loose my enthusiasm and my kids have to deal with bread and cheese. Thanks for highlighting an underrated task.

  4. Great post – nicely done, informative, and love the colourful photos, it really caught my eye. I can relate to the lunch box dilemma – when my kids were school-aged I honestly couldn’t wait until the end of June because I knew I wouldn’t have to make lunches for a whole two months!! It was heaven! And when September came around I could feel the pressure creeping up again 🙂

  5. Hi Liz – I enjoyed your post and as bad as this sounds, I still feel little pings of relief that our lunch program was cancelled at the school. It took a lot of time making sure my son’s lunch was up to par. He’s really into healthy foods so it took quite a bit of time to make sure his lunches were satisfactory to both of us. I no longer have to rush around in the morning to make his lunch. I do have to rush home to feed him every day at noon, but somehow this feels easier. Looking forward to reading more of your posts.

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