Lunch Box Inspiration ~ Real Food Roundup

A friend of mine recently found out that our kids’ school lunch program reheats food in plastic containers with a plastic film on top. Yikes! Isn’t it common knowledge how dangerous that is? It makes me sad that what otherwise seems to be a great food service company would make such a poor decision, especially for our children.

While it wasn’t a big deal for me because I pack my kids lunches, my friend is now feeling super stressed about what in the world to pack for lunches. So I thought I’d write a post with some resources to help make the process easier for her, and hopefully many others.

First, the lunchboxes. I actually wrote a post last year, The Lunchbox Lowndown, reviewing some of the most popular options on the market. I review both the containers and the lunchboxes that they fit in, and I’ve got a full range of prices so everyone can find the right fit. I also share a few fun reusable goodies for inside the boxes. So be sure to check that post out as well!

Now, if you know that you are going to struggle with coming up with ideas day after day, and don’t feel you have the time to create your own menu plans from the ideas I share below or any other resources you may have, then I have some GREAT news for you!

Have you heard of Momables? I’ve followed her for a while, and have gotten some great ideas at times, but having a gluten and dairy free family, I often found her meals didn’t work for us. But this year she released a Grain-free version of her meal plan along with her Classic plan! Yay, happy dance! You can pay for 3 months at a time, or for an entire year for additional savings.

Everything planned out for you. Shopping lists for 3 lunches a week plus 2 dinners for the family that can be sent as leftovers. Really awesome. Sarah…this might be something you want to check out. 😉

If you just need a little inspiration, then look no further….

Here’s my lunchbox roundup:

100 Days of Real Food is one of my go-to resources. They have put together 5 School Lunch Roundups over the past few years, and while they aren’t always gluten and dairy free, they are always real food, balanced nutrition, and can often be easily modified.

Kitchen Stewardship is another fave. This post, Packing a Lunch: Healthy Food to Go is a wealth of real food goodness. There are tons of links to other great related posts as well.

Another awesome real food resource is Family Fresh Cooking. Check out this post with 100+ Healthy, Delicious and Easy Lunchbox Snacks.

And here’s a great list from Wild Mint with 75 school lunch ideas for kids.

If you have kids with allergies or are gluten-free or Paleo, here are some great places to start:

I really love Keeley McGuire. Here’s a post that includes 20 non-sandwich, allergy friendly lunches (most are free of all top 8 common allergens!). As a mom of kids who love their sandwiches, I am constantly coming up with yummy alternatives because gluten-free bread is crazy expensive! And here’s another one of Keeley’s posts, with 25 more allergen friendly lunch box ideas.

For your Paleo needs, check out The Paleo Mama’s post with 40 gluten-free lunch ideas, or Nom Nom Paleo’s Forky Friday Paleo Lunchbox Roundup.

If you’re on Pinterest, I’ve got these all pinned on my Lunch Box Inspiration Board, and will add to it as I find more great resources!

Finally, I’ll tell you a somewhat embarrassing story from when I was little. I was in second grade and had just moved to a new town, and my parents were both working full time. I was in charge of packing my own lunch. I quickly realized that my friends all had cute little notes from their moms, so I started writing myself notes and saying they were from my mom! I’m not sure what I was thinking, as I’m sure it was pretty obvious that I wrote them, but aside from probably feeling sorry for me, nobody called me out! 😉

Now if you wish you were that mom that wrote cute little notes, the good news is that there are some great done for you resources that are sure to put a smile on your kiddos face. Kids Activity Blog has compiled over 500 free printable lunchbox notes from adorable to encouraging to funny jokes to share. Such an easy way to really brighten their day!

And I’ll leave you with one last tip: I always have my children bring home any food they didn’t eat. That way I know what they liked and didn’t like and if I’m packing too little or too much food. This information saves me from wasting food (and money!) in the future. And yes, sometimes that means I open stinky lunch containers, but honestly, it takes me less than 3 minutes to clean them both out and stick them in the dishwasher. Try it a few times and you’ll see it’s no big deal. 🙂

I hope you’re feeling confident and inspired to pack lunches that will nourish your kids bodies and minds so they can thrive in school.

Happy Packing!

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