School Lunch Essentials: Products and Ideas

Back in August, Claire began preschool. Moving from daycare to preschool meant that we lost the free “hot lunch” option. Even though I knew Claire loved and always cleaned her plate, I was excited to start packing her lunch for the school year. The only downside was that our school is a peanut/treenut free campus. So, my child who can down three PB&Js in one sitting was out of luck! Either way, I was excited. If you’re a Facebook or Instagram follower, you already know how excited I was! I posted her lunches for about the first month or so. This post is to share where I got some of my favorite products that I use in her lunch and also the food ideas we have gone through in the past 8 months. The bottom of the post will share some of the packed lunches I “created” back in August.

SchoolLunch

  1. Sugarbooger Good Lunch Divided Container: I received the “Hoot” design of this lunch container as a gift for Claire when she was much younger. I honestly never used it until I started packing her lunches. I knew I would need another just in case one was in the dishwasher. I purchased the “Matryoshka Doll” one. I LOVE these containers. They snap shut on all four sides, which is a big benefit. We’ve never had a problem with leaking or spills. They clean great with a rinse or in the dishwasher. I feel they have enough space to hold all of her lunch items and it fits perfectly in the Pottery Barn Mackenzie Lunch Box we purchased for her. Currently the doll one is about $13 but you can find the “Hoot”, “Garden”, and “Robot” designs for $7 with Prime on Amazon. There are several other cute designs other those mentioned above.
  2. Pottery Barn Kids Mackenzie Lunch Bag: This Mackenzie lunchbox from Pottery Barn Kids has been great. We have a solid pink with navy trim bag that has her name monogrammed. We bought an Ariel patch off ETSY and attached it to the front. My favorite part of this insulated zippered lunch bag is the side pocket for the drink bottle. The above lunch container fills most of the inside, therefore the drink bottle wouldn’t fit otherwise. It washes great with a wash rag and some warm soapy water. The link sends you to my current favorite, the Pink Watermelon print. Currently there are a few designs on sale for $19.
  3. Bentgo Ice Lunch Chillers-Ultra Thin: I went with these “Ultra Thin” ice packs for Claire’s lunch pack. They keep cool a very long time and are still very cold when I unpack her lunch bag sometimes 10 hours later! I like the thin feature of these because I like to put one on the bottom and another on the top of her container to try to cool from both sides. With two of these and the container, I have no issues fitting them into the Mackenzie Lunch Bag.
  4. Pantry Elements Silicone Baking Cups: You can find a TON of these reusable, washable, silicone “muffin tins” on Amazon. Searching for food ideas on Pinterest, I couldn’t help but notice the many people who use these in their kids’ lunches. I purchased this set on Amazon. It comes with PLENTY. So much I even split the set with a friend. They wash great in the dishwasher and still look brand new. You can see in the pictures below how I used them to store and separated some of her food.
  5. Cool Gear Lil’ Spike Bottles (12 oz): I found these pop up straw bottles at Target in the aisle with the Ziploc bags and such. I LOVVVE these bottles. The main reason is because each bottle comes with a freezer ice pack that attaches to the lid and fits into the cup. I stick the entire lid (with attached freezer pack) into the freezer over night. In the morning I fill up her cup (I do 3/4 water 1/4 Honest Juice) and pop the lid on. While we are getting ready and having breakfast, I put the whole cup in the freezer to allow the juice to freeze up a little bit too. By pick up time, if she has juice left over, it’s still cold! Like the lunch containers, I have two of these. This helps me out when one might be in the dishwasher or if I forgot to pop the lid/freezer pack back in the freezer after washing.
  6. Evriholder Sandwich Cutter & Crust Removers: I found these sandwich cutters on Amazon. I liked that it was a variety pack: dolphins, hearts, dinosaurs, and a butterfly. What I love even more is that they sent a 5th one (a bat) for free! These work great. The only change I had to make was to use a larger slice of bread. The bread I was originally purchasing wasn’t big enough for these cutters. When cut, the sandwiches fit perfectly in the larger portion of the Sugarbooger Lunch Container.

Here are Claire’s favorite foods that I pack into her lunch. I have many options and never pack an item back to back. I try to always change and rotate so that she doesn’t become sick of anything. I am happy to say that she eats 100% of her lunch 99% of the time!

Main Meal

  • Sandwiches
    • Using the fun Evriholder cutters, I will do deli meat, cheese, and mayonnaise for sandwiches. From time to time I’ll use a bun or roll, but I find she prefers sliced bread.
  • Roll Ups
    • I spread Laughing Cow Spreadable Cheese on a tortilla. I lay two slices of deli meat over the cheese. I then roll up the tortilla and use a sharp knife to make “pinwheels”. This is one of Claire’s top picks for lunch!
  • Homemade Lunchables
    • Ask the deli worker to cut your deli meat into slices that are a quarter of an inch thick. They’ll look at you crazy but explain it’s for “homemade Lunchables” or for crackers. I usually only get one or two slices since I rotate the meal options throughout the week. I use small cookie cutters to cut the meat. I pair the meat with cheese shapes. I tend to buy either the  Horizon Organic Shapes or the Sargento Fun Cheese Shapes (Mickey Mouse shapes). I did the cute Pepperidge Farm “Golden Butter” crackers that are shaped like butterflies a couple of times. Each time they came home untouched. So, when I do a homemade Lunchable, I tend to skip the crackers.
  • Veggies with Hummus
    • This hasn’t been a very successful option. So far the only veggie she has eaten has been carrots cut into sticks paired with hummus. I tried cucumber, cherry tomatoes, and slices of green bell pepper once at home and it didn’t go well. We’re working on liking raw veggies 😉
  • Pretzels with Hummus
    • I use the regular “Tiny Twist” pretzels. I put a stack of them in a muffin tin and pair it with some hummus. She uses the pretzels as dippers. You’ll see in the pictures below a green topped container. This is what I hold the hummus in. I also found this in the aisle at Target with the Ziploc bags. I think it’s meant for salad dressing. It fits perfectly in the Sugarbooger container!

 

Sides/Snacks

  • Fruit
    • Fresh Fruit: strawberries, grapes, blueberries, Cuties
      • Tip: Keep strawberries in a Ziplock bag in one of the smaller portions of the lunch container.  This helps reduce liquid from strawberries getting onto other food.
    • Dried Fruit: bananas, strawberries, blueberries (we LOVE the Trader Joe’s Freeze Dried Fruit)
      • Tip: I do dried fruit as a trail mix. I typically mix two or three of the fruits with the yogurt covered raisins.
  • Cheese
    • Cubes, shapes (Horizon Organic Shapes or Sargento Fun Cheese Shapes (Mickey Mouse shapes), BabyBel Cheese
  • Fruit Pouches
    • Gogo, Mott’s, MashUps, and Trader’s Joe are our favorite brands.
  • Greek Yogurt Pouches and Tubes
    • Chobani brand all the way!
  • Veggie Chips/Straws
  • Granola Bars
  • Raisins
    • Sunmaid Yogurt Covered is our favorite.
  • Fruit Strips/Snacks
    • Fruit Strips: Trader Joe’s, Simply Balance (Target), and Annie’s Homegrown are our go to brands.
    • Fruit Snacks: My all time favorite is Annie’s Homegrown, but from time to time we go the Disney Princess, Dora, Star Wars, or Doc McStuffins route.
  • Cheese Crackers
    • Goldfish, Cheese Its (we LOVE the Star Wars and Scrabble Jr. editions), Gerber’s Owls, and Annie’s Homegrown Bernie’s Farm are our top picks.
  • Pretzels
  • Oatmeal Crisp
    • Betty Crocker makes oatmeal crisp “cookies” with Frozen and Ninja Turtle characters on them. They’re quite yummy!
  • Puffs/Melts
    • Gerber brand puffs and melts were early favorites in the school year. We had some in the pantry as they are great snacks in her snack cup. She enjoyed these in her lunch box for the first few months. I would do them like a trail mix with each other and the raisins.
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