36 School Lunch Ideas to Try When You’re Tired of PB&J
We’d be lying if we said that school lunch was super high on the meal prep priority list every week. In fact, sometimes a haphazardly slathered PB&J sandwich—or PB&B, or PB&M (if you know, you know)—is all that’s getting done before running out the door. In an ideal world, we plan a school (or work) lunch menu, prep it on Sunday night, and make life just a tad easier and breezier. These lunch ideas do just that.
From fun snacks to next-level sandwiches to big-batch casseroles, these 36 school lunch recipes will keep your brown bags full of delicious and healthy meals. Sweet treats included! Make every Monday, Wednesday, or Friday feel special with one of these easy make-ahead lunch recipes that even the picky eaters will love.
Smoky Snack Mix
Recipe: Smoky Snack Mix
Go ahead and double this tasty recipe—you're going to want it to last all week.
No-Bake Granola Bars
Recipe: No-Bake Granola Bars
When you're in a pinch, these no-bake bars will fill up a lunch box or save snack time.
Gourmet Grilled Cheese with Bacon
Don't let the name fool you—this grilled cheese is as kid-friendly as it gets.
Roasted Tomato Soup with Cheddar Cheese
Send this perfect tomato soup in an insulated container with aforementioned grilled cheese recipe!
Oven-Fried Zucchini Sticks
Recipe: Oven-Fried Zucchini Sticks
Forget greasy French fries. Serve these crispy zucchini sticks as a healthy school-day alternative.
Sheet Pan Pizza with Corn, Tomatoes, and Sausage
Meal prepping at its finest—make a sheet pan of this pizza, and you have more than one lunch ready to go.
Chocolate Peanut Butter-Fudge Bars
Recipe: Almond-Chicken Wrap
Instead of the usual mayonnaise-based dressing, we made a simple homemade honey mustard, which kids will love.
Chicken Biscuit Sandwiches
Recipe: Chicken Biscuit Sandwiches
Buttery biscuits, creamy white barbecue sauce, and slow-cooked chicken make this recipe a weekday warrior for kids and adults alike.
Oatmeal-Caramel Cream Pies
Recipe: Oatmeal-Caramel Cream Pies
Bring a touch of nostalgia to lunchtime.
Buttermilk Chicken Tenders with Roasted Potatoes and Green Beans
Leave those fast-food chicken tenders in the dust. Homemade is so much better. For school lunch, you can pack more portable sides.
Meatball Sliders with Tomato Sauce
These mini sliders make a fun alternative to a basic ham sandwich, don't you think?
Turkey, Apple, and Brie Sandwich
Recipe: Turkey, Apple, and Brie Sandwich
Sneak in healthy apples and protein-packed cheese for a turkey sandwich that's anything but boring.
Classic Pimiento Cheese
Recipe: Basic Pimiento Cheese
Fix up two pieces of bread with this classic Southern spread, and that's about as deliciously simple as it gets.
Raspberry-Almond Crumble Bars
Recipe: Raspberry-Almond Crumble Bars
These gooey, crumbly bars top off a lunch spread in the best way.
Creamy Cheddar-Potato Soup with Bacon
Like a loaded baked potato, but in soup form—pour it in an insulated container, and it's good to go.
Breakfast Biscuit Sandwich with Sausage, Egg, and Cheese
If breakfast is your kiddo's favorite meal, serve it up at lunch for a fun treat.
Fresh Fruit Salad
Recipe: Fresh Fruit Salad
This fruit salad lightly marinates in a honey-orange mixture—which means even the most fruit-adverse will be convinced to get their fruit in.
Crock-Pot Salsa Chicken
Recipe: Crock-Pot Salsa Chicken
Use this easiest-ever Tex Mex chicken in whatever your student prefers: tacos, burrito bowl, quesadilla, or even nachos.
Egg Salad Sandwiches
Recipe: Egg Salad Sandwiches
This classic spread will never go out of style. Make a batch, and send it to the cafeteria.
Recipe: Turkey Quesadillas
Tex-Mex...but make it school lunch-ready! Roast turkey is the ultimate loophole.
Blackberry-Oat Crumble Bars
Recipe: Blackberry-Oat Crumble Bars
These ooey-gooey treats taste like a twist between blackberry cobbler and a bar cookie—which means...heaven?
White Cheese Calzones with Marinara Sauce
Calzones feel oh-so special when the kids can fill and fold their own.
Skirt Steak Sandwiches
Recipe: Skirt Steak Sandwiches
Make lunch feel a little fancy with these mini steak sandwiches.
Turkey and Spinach Meatball Sandwiches
Sneak some spinach into everyone’s lunch boxes with tender turkey and spinach meatballs.
Turkey, Pesto, and Fresh Mozzarella Sandwich
Say hello to your new favorite way to use leftover turkey.
Soulful Chicken Soup
Recipe: Soulful Chicken Soup
Send a bowlful of comfort to school with this old-fashioned chicken noodle soup.
Ham and Dijon Grilled Cheese
Recipe: Ham and Dijon Grilled Cheese
A classic grilled cheese but even more dynamic. Ham and Dijon mustard make a tasty duo.
Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
These cookies taste just like Grandma's—which is just the comforting touch needed to end a school lunch.
Easy Creamy Chicken Spaghetti
This is the ultimate weeknight warrior, and it makes the best leftover lunch the next day.
Recipe: Ham Biscuits
Southerners have been eating ham biscuits for lunch for generations. Why stop now?
Recipe: Crack Crackers
Elevate cheese crackers with ranch dressing mix for an easy kid-pleasing snack.
Ham-Stuffed Biscuits With Mustard Butter
A few simple ingredients—a Hawaiian roll, deli-style ham, mustard, and cheese—combine to create a ham sandwich that is so much greater than the sum of its parts.
Chicken Salad in Lettuce Cups
Recipes: Chicken Salad in Lettuce Cups
We like to switch up a classic chicken salad sandwich by using lettuce cups.
Recipe: Burrito Bowls
This recipe is full of customizable ingredients, so every child gets exactly what he or she likes.
Chicken and Fontina Panini
Recipe: Chicken and Fontina Panini
You wouldn't guess this fancy-feeling lunch panini only calls for five ingredients.