School Lunch Ideas for Kids {no bento, nut-free}

Bento and lunch

We remember last year all too well, right? By June May we were a lunch-making-hot-mess. I know I was! Well, it’s that time of year, parents – prepare yourself for 10 months of school lunch making! 

Right now we’ve got that drive since it’s just the beginning. We {hopefully} have built ourselves up over the summer to be lunch-packing rock stars. Yet, jump on the web to find school lunch ideas for kids, and you might get discouraged. 

I was.

Most of the ideas I found over the past few weeks were full of peanuts and nuts {most school are nut-free}, and don’t get me started on bento. Ugh. Kudos to those parents that send butterfly shaped sandwiches and artistically arranged star cheeses … each. and. every. day. 

That’s just not for me. I strive to send food. Period. 

So, I made myself a round-up of school lunch ideas for kids – all nut & peanut free AND no bento. Yet you could cut it up all fancy-like if you wish. Yet, the expectation to do so isn’t here, folks. 

These ideas below are simple. For instance, my kids love sandwiches, but not everyday. So, I have a few other ideas to mix things up and prevent boredom for both the sender and the eater.

When choosing from the list below, obviously keep in mind what your kids would or wouldn’t like and will or won’t eat. If you want to add a dip for veggies – have at ‘er. If they don’t like tomatoes, take it off the list. If tuna makes them gag, don’t send it. 

When shopping, take a handful of ideas from each group. At the beginning of the week, chop the veggies and fruits and have little baggies of everything to grab and go so you aren’t doing the mundane prep work every school day. Do this for fridge and pantry items.

Also, when making sandwiches and wraps I make two days worth, so I get the next day off from making a main. 

** At my kids school, they have one lunch and 1 snack during a full day. So I send a main lunch item and then 3-4 options from the other 3 groups. I might do {2} fruits, {1} veggie and {1} from the ‘misc’ group one day with the main – and then mix it up for another day and go harder on the veggies etc. 

Also, I don’t send cookies or treats and this includes juice. Again, that’s just me. Instead, I send a water bottle and on occasion, my kids will have a milk from the milk program {we buy pre-paid milk coupons to send at leisure, so I get to pick and choose the day they get one}. Yet, if you want to add in some juice or milk to the send list – please do.

As well, our school discourages lunches that need to be heated up in the microwave. Once in a while is alright, but if so many kids did this all the time, there wouldn’t be enough allotted lunch-time for all the kids to heat, eat and be done before the bell rings. So, I opt for the thermos idea instead of things that need microwaving. 

My point with this list is to not have a day-to-day rule on what you need to send. You also don’t need to spend a lot of time cooking, baking and cutting cutesy shapes – unless you want to.

This is just a compilation of ideas so that the same thing isn’t sent each and every day. In my eyes, beating the mundane is winning. 




  • Tuna Roll-ups {take a tortilla shell, spread on tuna salad made with mayo and finely chopped celery, place lettuce on top and roll. Cut roll into slices to make it bite sized}
  • Jam sandwich {on occasion, this is the one ‘treat’ I will send}
  • Deli meat, cheese, lettuce and mayo sandwich 
  • Hot soup in a thermos, will still be warm by lunch
  • Chicken Salad sandwiches {or rollups like the tuna idea above}
  • Sliced deli meat or pepperoni sticks, cheese, pickles and crackers
  • Night before dinner leftovers in a thermos {like chili with a bun}
  • Hard boiled egg with crackers and pickles
  • hot dogs {naturals without nitrates} in a thermos


A close up of a logo FRUITS


  • whole apple or slices 
  • whole orange or slices 
  • plum
  • grapes
  • fruit cup
  • Melon {cantaloupe of honeydew}
  • Berries
  • Applesauce




  • Carrot Sticks
  • Celery Sticks
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Sliced cucumbers
  • Sliced Peppers
  • Broccoli 
  • Snap Peas
  • A mix of all, salad-style


Icon MISC.


  • Granola Bar
  • Muffin
  • Cheese String
  • Yogurt Tube or yogurt cup
  • Rice Cake Crackers
  • Goldfish Crackers
  • Pretzels
  • Fruit Leather
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Roasted Chickpeas
  • Naan bread and hummus
  • mini bagels with herbed cream cheese


If you have an item idea to add, leave me a comment below! 🙂  




  1. My son refuses to eat lunch at school so every morning we make lunches, or the night before. I love finding new ideas so it’s not the same each week. Love that you shared all of these.

    1. Oh, that’s tough. A friends daughter refuses too and she’s so tiny. They’ve had to resort to watching her drink a meal replacement in the office, sad situation. Hopefully you can get a good solid breakfast into him and perhaps send his favourite snacks to eat at school, so maybe he doesn’t view it as ‘lunch’ ?

  2. Since my kids are totally mutilating the pb& fluff sandwiches they have been getting I am going to have to get a bit more creative myself!

  3. I love this article. I send lunches to school with my son. I try to be creative, but he gets peanut butter and jelly or a plain tuna sandwich more than I’d like to admit.

  4. I love these lunch ideas. My daughter is just starting school, and I don’t want to be sending her peanut butter and jelly sandwiches everyday.

  5. These are great ideas! I’m so not crafty to do bento lunches. Plus; definitely don’t have time for cutesy stuff like that. It’s usually throw it all together and run. This will be helpful!

  6. Love the list! We eat a lot of sandwiches for lunch on non-school days so I’m always trying to come up with new lunch ideas.

  7. This list is just what I need. Although the cute panda-shaped fruit balls are adorable, they go in my “yeah, right” pile. My daughter eats about 3 things on rotation (by choice) so it’s tough to mix things up!

    1. Hope this helps for you! I know, I can list off a million other things I’d do before that – just me of course…

  8. Great ideas for lunches, especially when you have brain drain and can’t come up with anything! Thanks!

  9. These are such great ideas. Thank you for the no bento part. I am just not ready to be doing all of that!

  10. These are definitely some great ideas for back to school lunches. I always get caught in a rut sending peanut butter and jellies until my kids complain.

  11. New and refreshing lunch ideas are always welcome.I am going to copy this list so that I can rotate these ideas.It’s hard to think of wholesome good foods that are peanut and allergy free on a daily basis and something the kids will love.

  12. Glad to hear I am not the only parent intimidated by all those bento lunches! I am way too lazy for that. These are some great ideas to add variety to lunches.

  13. Great, great, great ideas… my little ones love deli sandwiches and we always include fresh fruit and veggies with dip in a little cup…

  14. I wish I had ideas like this when I was making school lunches everyday. I was always struggling to come up with fun and interesting lunches for the kids.

  15. School lunches are so difficult, because the kids get sick of sandwiches. Thanks for the ideas!

  16. WOW,You have so many great ideas here,Thanks for sharing and making lunch time easier

  17. A few of our faves….Naan bread and hummus, mini bagels with herbed cream cheese, pasta salad in a thermos, hot dogs (naturals without nitrates) in a thermos, stuffed pita pockets, cold pizza. My girls have to have minimum one vegetable, one fruit, one dairy, one protein, one grain at lunch. No juice here either – just water. 🙂

  18. When I was young my dad made my lunch, and it was SO horrible. Every time. I would have loved to have a lunch from this menu!

  19. We do hot lunch because I’m a terrible planner. This is great, gives me ideas when the oldest hates what they are serving at school.

  20. We don’t have any kids in school, but I still need lunch ideas for at home so these are great! Maybe I’ll actually plan ahead instead of standing in front of the fridge at noon wondering what I’m going to make 🙂

  21. Great advice. I packed my daughter’s lunch for most of last year. Then she started saying she wanted to eat the school’s lunch. Now she eats the school’s lunch daily, and now she is trying new foods and eating more fruits and veggies. I can’t complain. I do pack her a healthy snack though to eat during snack time before lunch.

  22. My kids love homemade pizza rollups in their lunch once in a while, make on Sunday and I’ve got a couple days finished (Thank you for no Bento ideas…………..who has time for that!!)

  23. I have been busy this last month finding lunch ideas. I like the ideas you have shared, especially the tuna roll ups. My kids love tuna and they love tortillas so this would be a hit!

  24. This is a great list. I am going to print it out and keep it on our fridge for inspiration.

  25. Lots of great lunch and recess ideas here. Your jam sandwich reminded me of something I occasionally send my kids to school with. and that is jam and cream cheese sandwiches. Great for adding a bit of protein and dairy. I totally forgot about it until now.

  26. After 2 weeks off for the holidays, this is a great reminder for lunches as we were getting into a rut already. I’d like to add smoothies to the list. Kids can choose what they want in it, then I pour into individual containers and freeze. Grab one in the morning and it’s thawed by lunchtime. It also serves as an ice pack in their lunch bag.

  27. Great ideas! My kids get tired of taking sandwiches day after day so we try to switch it up by using buns, or wraps instead.

  28. I’ve always eaten lunch at home and mostly had recess in school growing up. I don’t have kids but, I’d rather they eat according to schedule and if they miss it, they can eat at the next meal. I know parents are worried when their child doesn’t eat a lot as my friend’s child was also in a phase like that. They rarely get sick due to this. In daycare, I fed kids by the tablespoon to avoid waste. They can have as much as they like, but, they are not coerced or coaxed to eat more or less. Meal times should be enjoyable, not a stress workout.

  29. Dried fruits, raisins can sometimes work. I’ve also sent perogies in a thermos and they loved that. A couple new ideas for me in this list – thanks so much!

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