Back to school packed lunch ideas for first timers!

Ok, if you’re looking to get your bento box on then I’m going to tell you straight up, this isn’t the blog post for you. The idea of me sending my children to school with anything remotely resembling a panda or minion or whatever else fun these amazingly talented parents put together is HILAR. I can barely pour cereal into bowls on a morning without grumbling, I truly detest mornings THAT much.

If you are like me and this is the part where we can all look at each other and whisper… but is a sandwich every day enough?! Are snack things really that expensive and will they even eat it? I’ve spend years denying packed lunch requests for two reasons: one, I think I made this clear earlier, I’m shit on a morning and I am likely to forget on at least one occasion and end up bashing together a ham sandwich between two end slabs of bread and throwing in a carrot for good luck. Secondly, I often worry that my kids aren’t getting enough or that they won’t have something warm in their bellies for the remainder of the day. Edith has (very infrequently I’ll admit) come home and told me she’s been cold at school, and we’ve all been in the position of being cold and unable to shake it. Hot food in their tummies before they go out to play can only be a good thing in my mind, right?

So, with that in mind, I’ve put together a few ideas for school packed lunches – as much for myself as for you. Once again, you aren’t going to find pretty or cool, but you will find practical and easy to make.

Cold options

  • The Sandwich – the holy grail of lunch food, everyone expects it, most kids love it. We’re talking ham, cheese, sliced chicken, tuna, egg, salami, jam, prawns… anything really, just make sure you avoid the peanut butter and you’ll be fine.
  • The wrap – did you make fajitas last night? Well make a wrap today! If you didn’t then you can still crack on with ham, cheese… basically anything you would put in a sandwich just, you know, in a wrap.
  • Quesadilla – these are such a hit in our house and take seconds to make. I usually do ham and cheese for my kids but they have had left over bolognese and cheese, chilli con carne and cheese… the possibilities are endless.
  • Antipasti box – sounds fancy, but if you think about it, it really isn’t. This is the easiest of the easy… a little ham, a little salami, a few olives or tomatoes or whatever you kiddo likes and a few cubes of cheese. Send it off in a box and the add in a chunk of crusty bread and you’re off. If your child likes things like parma ham or even pastrami, then you can add in those too.
  • Cold pasta – plain, in sauce… it doesn’t matter, just don’t forget the spoon. I’ll be doing this for Edith at least once a week I think.
  • Pizza – don’t act like you’ve never snarffled a cold pizza the morning after the night before. Pizza is damn delicious cold. It’s also almost always going to be a winner with my kids so a couple of slices instead of a sandwich would make them happy.
  • Cheese and crackers – basically a cheap version of dairylea lunchables.
  • Filled pitta or flatbread – somewhere between sandwich and wrap!

Hot options

You might be thinking… hot options? Won’t it be cold by the time they eat it? Does the school even allow it? Well no, not if you grab a thermos and yes, they usually do. I use a Chilly’s, S’well and Hyd8m8 thermo and they are all brill, and usually I do it with leftovers so it’s no extra effort! Just make sure you add a fork/spoon.

  • Chilli con carne – an easy one, one that all my kids like and something that is nice and easy.
  • Curry – leftover curry is perfect for a thermos food container!
  • Pasta – another one that works really well!
  • Casseroles – any kind of casserole is always a nice winter warmer
  • Soup – great, but has the potential for mess. I think flasks are better for this as it will keep the soup hot BUT they can drink it and not spill everywhere!
  • Breaded chicken strips with rice (think katsu) – ideal for little ones that like nuggets and get a bit picky!
  • Fried rice – yep, something like a chicken friend rice is always a lovely option and easy enough for kids to eat!
  • Nuggets or fish fingers – literally no reason you can’t bundle a few of these in with some bread or potatoes on the side. Why not?
  • Meatballs – Toby’s fave!

Snack/sweet options

  • Fruit – always my go to for the boys and forever returned in tact by Edith.
  • Fruit bars or roll ups – if you have a child like Edith that hates fruit but likes fruit rolls ups or bars, then thats a great (and occasionally expensive) way to get fruit into them.
  • Biscuits – don’t knock the humble biscuits.
  • Crisps – banned in some schools (bloody ridiculous) but I always think crisps go fine with a good ole sandwich and there is no reason not to include them! If you want healthy options, why not go for rice crisps or veggie ones.
  • Flatbread – I really love a good flatbread (think the ryvita ones) with some cream cheese or even just alone. YUM.
  • Pitta – chopped up, or as it is.
  • Breadsticks – great with dips.
  • Cake – no, I refuse to stick to exclusively “healthy” options. My kids can have a piece of cake in their pack up if the school can serve sponges in custard.
  • Flatjacks or tray bakes – see above and go away with the health comments.
  • Crudités – perfect for a child that likes em, or even with houmous.
  • Cheese strings or cheese snacks – even if you just cube up some cheese.
  • Pots of fruit – Reuben is actually obsessed with Del Monte fruit pots so these would be fab for him.
  • Fruit smoothies – easy to include, especially if you put them in a pouch and packed with goodness.
  • Picnic style snacks like sausage rolls, chicken poppers, mini pasties – all easy to buy and 2 for £3 or similar in most supermarkets.
  • Quiche – I love a bit of quiche.

Whatever you’re choosing to do, I hope these suggestions are useful – I am so here for a lil’ bit of leftover love and getting warm food into those bellies!


  1. Avatar September 7, 2020 / 7:41 am

    This is list is great!! So many different ideas. Thank you so much!

  2. Avatar September 3, 2020 / 7:17 pm

    Great ideas here! I am always stuck for lunch ideas so bookmarking this. I’d never have thought of doing anti pasti or pizza, it’s nice to actually find ideas that include things kids will eat!

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