Kellye Fox | 

12 Kid-Approved Lunchbox Ideas That Are Easy and Budget Friendly

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If you’re looking for some amazing lunchbox ideas and ways to make the start of your day easier, I got your back. Before-school morning routines can be rough and having lunch for your kiddos ready to go ahead of time can bring the morning crazy down to a relative calm. I even have some eco-friendly options for storing school lunches.

And if you need to stock up on lunch box snacks (think peanut butter, jam, crackers, and brands like Nabisco, Keebler, and Nature Valley), September is going to be a great time to do it. You’ll definitely want to keep an eye on Amazon, Target, and even CVS where we saw 75% off Cheez-Its, Oreos, and Goldfish, in past September sales.

For more smart shopping tips and savings hacks, text HACKS to 57299, and be sure to download the Krazy Coupon Lady app.


1. Prevent chips from being crushed in school lunches by filling the zip bag with air before sealing.

A woman using a straw to blow air into a ziploc bag filled with chips.

Take it from me, kids complain about broken chips in their lunch. Try using air as a school lunch hack to keep them from getting crushed. Simply insert a straw into the corner of a semi-closed sandwich bag and blow air into it until it’s inflated. As long as they don’t pop the bag, this lunchbox idea should work.

Running low on Ziploc bags? Head over to our coupons page to see how much you can save.


2. Freeze juice boxes or pouches so they stay cold.

A person's hand holding a frozen CapriSun pouch next to a box of more CapriSun pouches sitting on a shelf in a freezer.

Keep juice boxes cold in your kids’ school lunchbox — it works as long as you remember to partially thaw them! Keep a few juice pouches in the freezer, and the night before school, put them in the fridge so they’ll still be cold by the time your kids eat lunch.

If you go straight from the freezer to the lunchbox, they may be gnawing juicy chunks of ice because they won’t melt in time. Not that your kids would mind a slushy, but they may get thirsty.

Check out our Capri Sun coupons page to save a few bucks on your next purchase of juice pouches.


3. Buy snacks in bulk and divide them up at home for organized lunchbox ideas.

A woman using a measuring cup to separate snack mix into individual ziploc bags.

The secret to making bulk buying work for school lunches is to spend a few minutes portioning it out immediately when you get home. If you don’t do this, you’ll just create extra stress for yourself when the morning rush hits. Plus, if you do it right away, it’s done, and that’s a rad feeling.

When it comes to lunchbox ideas for kids, they like to give their input, and this snack idea also allows them to help out! Let them choose which bag to take each day.

Tip: For an eco-friendly option to plastic baggies, go with reusable silicone food storage bags.



4. Stop a sliced apple from browning by wrapping it in plastic wrap.

A sliced apple on a cutting board being wrapped in plastic wrap.

Do your kids want to eat fresh fruit, but maybe don’t have time to take bites off a whole apple during school? Maybe they balk at the idea in general. I’ve been there with my kids.

To keep a sliced apple from browning, stack it back together and wrap it up in plastic wrap or place a rubber band around the apple pieces to hold it together.

You could also slice the apple, soak it in lemon water for about three minutes, dry and reassemble it, then wrap it in plastic wrap. Hopefully, this will inspire them to eat the darn apple.


5. Prepare and freeze PB&J sandwiches ahead of time for speedy lunchbox ideas.

Three frozen sandwiches in ziploc bags being pulled out of a freezer.

You don’t always have to resort to store-bought lunchbox ideas for kids. Try making your own brand of frozen (non-soggy) PB&Js, but way cheaper:

  1. Spread peanut butter on one slice but not to the edge. Do the same with the jelly.
  2. Put the slices together.
  3. Seal the edges with a large cookie cutter, cutting out the middle section of the sandwich, or pressing down the edges with a hard plastic cutting board.
  4. Once sealed, you can cut off any edges or excess.

Tip: Don’t throw those bread scraps. You can toast them up and grind them into bread crumbs for a casserole topping or breading for meat. No waste!



6. Stock your pantry with lunchbox ideas and let your kids choose what goes in.

Three containers filled with lunch box sized snack foods.

We keep three bins stocked in our pantry. One has pretzels, trail mix, and granola-bar-type-stuff in it, another has fruit cups and applesauce, and the last one has treats.

The kids must choose one thing from each bin to put in their lunch. They get control over what they want to eat, and I only have to worry about lunchbox ideas for the “main dish.”


7. Freeze a sponge and use it as a homemade ice pack.

 A woman putting a frozen sponge into a lunch box.

If you’re out of ice packs to keep your perishable lunch items cold, freeze a sponge (Scotch-Brite has sturdy ones) and stick it in a plastic Ziploc bag to keep moisture contained. Simply soak the sponges in water, sprinkle salt over them (because salt helps it freeze faster), and pop them into the freezer.

This lunch hack will put your mind at ease about that cheese and turkey in their lunchbox — it’ll all stay cold! Try this trick as one of many brilliant beach hacks on your next vacation too.


8. Make fun food shapes using cookie cutters and work in some healthy lunchbox ideas too.

A person using a cookie cutter to cut cheese into fun shapes.

If you have little kids, they’ll appreciate a little variety in presentation. Also, it’s a good way to get some healthy lunchbox ideas in front of them (maybe without them noticing). In my experience, boosting visual appeal may sway them to eat their entire lunch, not just the parts they like.

Use cookie cutters to elevate your school lunchbox game by making cool shapes out of cheese, luncheon meat, bread, and more.


9. Create caterpillars with grapes, chocolate chips, skewers, and icing.

A person making grape caterpillars using grapes, skewers, icing, and chocolate chips.

If lunch looks fun, kids are more prone to eat it. Assembling this treat is an activity that they can help you with too.

Wash a container of grapes and skewer them from end to end. To make a caterpillar face, use a toothpick to dab vanilla icing on the end grape. Add mini chocolate chips and there you have an edible caterpillar for a healthy snack.



10. Serve DIY Lunchables with divided reusable containers or silicone muffin liners.

A lunch container with squares of ham and heart-shaped slices of cheese divided by muffin cups.

No shade to the Lunchables brand, but you can easily make your own without spending at least $2 – $4 for each box. If you have multiple children, the math makes sense.

Using a bento box or a reusable food container, add your caterpillar grapes to one section. Get colorful cupcake liners, and fill the other spots with crackers, luncheon meat, and cheese cutouts.


11. Create butterfly snack bags with decorated clothespins.

Ziplock bags, with snacks in them, twisted and clipped with a decorated clothes pin to make butterfly snacks.

This idea may take a little longer because of the clothespin decoration, but you can use them over and over. (Assuming your kids bring them home — fingers crossed.) Fill your Ziploc bag with your desired snack, then clip the clothespin in the center to make the “wings.”

Decorate the clothespins with markers or use washi tape. Attach pipe cleaners with hot glue and bend them to make “antennas.” Now let the kids fly away with their lunch!


12. Bonus points for parents: Write a message on a banana peel with a toothpick.

A person putting a banana, with "I (heart) you" carved into the peel, into a lunchbox.

Because why not?

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