Healthy Cold School Lunch Ideas


Are you looking for healthy cold lunch ideas? Well, you’ve come to the right place! I know it can be a hassle to pack your child’s lunch and send them off to school. I’ve been doing this for many years and making lunch does get old.

You are probably looking for an easy lunch recipe or how to pack a healthy lunch. Whatever the case may be, you’re in luck because I have some healthy cold school lunch ideas for you.

Healthy Cold School Lunch Ideas

When it’s time for the kids to get back to school and summer or winter break, I have mixed emotions. In many ways, I love having them home during the summer and breaks. But I also long for the controlled chaos and hint of structure that comes with the kids being back in school! 🙂 Last year during registration, I heard a woman who works in the cafeteria tell someone else that hot lunch comes to about $50.00 per month per child. YIKES! For my family, that’d be $250 per month just for LUNCH! My boys LOVE to have “hot lunch” at school. My older kids… not so much.

So whether you will be having cold lunch for school, online learning, or home-school, here are some great ideas for making lunch time easy and healthy for everyone.

My Plan of Attack

#1 Get the Kids Involved

Over the past two years, my kids have been in charge of making their own lunches for school. It’s an easy thing for them to do if I’m prepared and have all the tools ready for them.

I think it’s also important for kids to have responsibilities at home (more than just keeping their room clean). With 5 in school this year, ranging from 12th grade to 1st grade, mornings will be CRAZY! So my kids MUST be a huge part of the lunch making process.

#2 Menu Plan

There’s no reason I can’t come up with a weekly lunchtime menu! Make a list of 5-10 cold lunch ideas and then rotate through it every 1 or 2 weeks. (HINT: I’ve got a free printable of lunch ideas below!)

I love using this app to do my menu planning and shopping. This will make shopping for kids’ cold lunches so much easier!

Below you’ll find a long list of lunch ideas and a free printable (see below) for you to keep in a handy place! Feel free to share your own ideas in the comments! Hang the list inside a cupboard drawer, in your pantry, or on your fridge for quick and easy inspiration.

#3 Be Organized

We have a “lunch cupboard” at our house. Inside you’ll find the bags, baggies, containers, peanut butter, honey, and other lunchtime snacks. It’s all in one place kept together, easy to find! Don’t have the extra space? Place items in a tote in your pantry!

I know some people (namely my sister) that will make up sandwiches for the entire week on Sunday evening and then throw them in the freezer. This is great for busy mornings! Just pull the sandwich out of the freezer, grab your fruit, snack and drink and lunch is ready!

Another family I know would make the lunches the night before. Each night someone is assigned to make lunch for everyone the next day. Bags/totes are packed and placed in the fridge. This definitely helps with the morning rush!

We thought this was pretty brilliant…

The Bin Method

Cold lunch ideas bins

You fill bins with the items for lunch, with a number of how many to take, and then the kids grab whatever they choose from each of the bins! Each bin has its own category of food. For example,

Bin 1: fruit to-go and veggie source bars
Bin 2: fruits cups and applesauce
Bin 3: cheeses and yogurts
Bin 4: Meats & veggies
Bin 5: granola bars or muffins
Bin 6: “junk food”, popcorn, or veggie straws

The options are really endless here and it is so fun to mix and match. You and the kids and prepare different things at the beginning of the month and they can enjoy it all month long.

Sandwiches/Main Dish:

1. Tortilla Pinwheel Recipe

Tortilla pinwheels are super cute and super delicious with ranch spread! You can also turn it into a “Sandwich Sushi” – tortillas with a layer of cream cheese, ham, cheese, and spinach leaves.

2. Pizza Puffs Recipe

These are so easy to make and I bet you have all the ingredients already. Its a fun way for kids to eat pizza with their cold lunch! See the recipe here.

3. PB&J

This is a staple in our home and we absolutely love our  fast easy homemade strawberry freezer jam recipe! Or you can try this version of a PB&J Roll-up for a new cold lunch idea.

4. Healthy PB&J Muffins

Peanut butter and jelly muffins are so easy and healthy. But they taste so good that really they should be a dessert!

5. Lunch Box Smoothies

My kids love smoothies and I love that it is so simple to add into my kids’ cold lunch boxes.

6. Angry Birds Lunch

Your picky eaters will have so much fun with this cold lunch idea that they will eat it all up!

7. Healthy Zucchini Muffins

I love zucchini and since it is still zucchini season, these zucchini muffins are perfect to have for your kid’s school lunch.

8. Salad

If you have kids or teenagers that love greens, try a salad for a healthy school lunch idea. We love to prepare all the parts separately at the beginning of the week, so that the kids can easily grab what they want and throw it all together at school (or at home).

9. Wraps

Wraps are such a fun idea for kids school lunches because just like a salad you can prepare all the ingredients beforehand and the kids can grab the ones they love the best and make it into a healthy wrap super quick. Check out these kids-proof wrap ideas here.

10. Mac & Cheese

We love making mac & cheese in our Instant Pot! You can whip this one up fairly quickly and serve it as a cold lunch idea the next day. (See how to keep it hot in the tools section below). Check out our favorite recipe here.


This list of cold lunch ideas includes everything from homemade lunchables to chicken wraps and filling salads.

They’re easy to make and some can be made in just 5 minutes using leftovers and fresh produce.

Whether you’re low-carb, looking for something to indulge in, or just looking for unique lunch ideas, this list has something for you – even ideas that work great for the working man in your life, whether that’s your husband or you!

This list of cold lunch ideas includes everything from homemade lunchables to chicken wraps and filling salads.

They’re easy to make and some can be made in just 5 minutes using leftovers and fresh produce.

Whether you’re low-carb, looking for something to indulge in, or just looking for unique lunch ideas, this list has something for you – even ideas that work great for the working man in your life, whether that’s your husband or you!

simple cold lunch ideas

Picky Eater Pleasing School Lunchbox Ideas

I’ve found over 100 inspirational school lunch ideas for kids for you on Pinterest. I’ve done the footwork for you to bring you easy cold lunchbox ideas for kids to keep you inspired for the rest of the year. These Bento Box friendly lunch ideas are creative and delicious enough to please even picky eaters!

1. 10 More Healthy School Lunch Ideas

school lunch ideas

Healthy School Lunch Ideas from Kristine’s Kitchen

Kristine has so many healthy lunch ideas, I absolutely love reading her posts! Just looking through her pictures is phenomenal for inspiration for healthy and creative cold school lunch ideas. You’ll find healthy school lunches filled with color and creativity.

2. Ham and Cheese Pockets

school lunch ideas

Ham and Cheese Pockets from Dessert Now Dinner Later

Amber from Dessert Now Dinner Later, who used to work in a bakery, has shared with us one of her easy, flakey and addictive secrets! How to make your own ham and cheese pockets simply, with ready-made ingredients at home! They are perfect for breakfast on the go, school lunch boxes, and after school snacks. Even picky eaters will love this recipe!

3. Mini Pizza Bites

school lunch ideas

Mini Pizza Bites from Mum in the Madhouse

These mini pizza bites are the perfect cute and creative school lunch idea. They are fun to make and even better to eat. Think Totinos… but WAY better! I love these homemade pizza bites for a tasty snack or meal that no kid can turn down.

4. Top 10 Kid-Friendly Wraps

school lunch ideas

Top 10 Kid-Friendly Wraps from Super Healthy Kids

My kids adore wraps far more than sandwiches. And let’s face it, sandwiches get old day after day. Liven up your school lunches for the rest of the year with 10 delicious new healthy wrap ideas! Using fruits, avocados, and veggies these creative ideas are meat-free, simple, and they are all calling my name right now.

5. Healthy Creative School Lunch Ideas

school lunch ideas

Healthy Creative School Lunch Ideas from Vigor it Out

This awesome roundup features over 50 healthy no-sandwich lunchbox ideas to give you months of creativity! These delicious ideas will keep every day delicious and fresh for the rest of the year. Every single idea fits perfectly in a bento box and makes packing lunches on busy mornings a snap!

6. 15 Muffin Tin Recipes for Kids

15 Muffin Tin Recipes for Kids from I Heart Arts and Crafts

Jackie from I Heart Arts and Crafts has done us the honor of rounding up 15 mouthwatering school lunch ideas that can all be made in muffin tins! Kids like creative food, especially when incorporating some of their favorites like mini pizzas, corndogs, or burgers.

Meals and leftovers take on a whole new life when you bake them in a muffin tin. They are kid sized and immediately enticing.

7. Top 10 Paleo Kids Lunch Ideas

school lunch ideas

Top 10 Paleo Kids Lunch Ideas from Eat Drink Paleo

Irena over at Eat Drink Paleo is a Paleo diet genius. She’s rounded up 10 delicious Paleo diet approved kids lunch box ideas that are definitely perfect for adults as well! Some of these recipes take a little work, and others are completely easy. It’s definitely worth checking out whether or not you follow the Caveman diet.

8. 6 Healthy Creative Lunchbox Wraps

6 Healthy Creative Lunchbox Wraps from Vigor it Out

My family adores wraps far more than any sandwich I could ever create. These 6 recipes are so diverse you are sure to find something to please every palate! healthy sweet treat wraps, classic flavor favorites, and more!

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