8 Healthy, Easy School Lunch Ideas You Can Make Ahead

Updated: Oct. 13, 2022

Your weekday just got easier. Use these school lunch ideas as templates for quick and healthy meals that come together in a snap.

Whether you’re back in class or learning how to homeschool, the first few weeks of back-to-school are always hectic. It’s easy to get overwhelmed if you’re trying to make your kids’ lunches in addition to feeding them a nutritious morning meal (we love these make-ahead breakfasts) and getting everyone ready for the day.

Why not take this time-consuming task off your to-do list by making your family’s lunches ahead of time? You’ll be amazed at how much smoother schooldays are when everyone’s meals are prepared.

We know that make-ahead meals will only work if they’re both healthy and kid-friendly, so we’ve put together a list of eight delicious and nutritious homemade school lunch ideas, as well as tips for faster, easier meal prep.

1. Sandwiches with Condiments on the Side

Easy School lunch idea-Sandwiches with Condiments on the SideTaste of Home

If you’ve ever tried making sandwiches ahead of time, you know the problem is that condiments soak into the bread, making it mushy—and no one wants a mushy sandwich!

You can easily solve this lunchtime issue by leaving off the juicy stuff when you prep. If you’re making turkey sandwiches, for instance, put the bread, meat, cheese and lettuce together, then simply toss a few packets of mayonnaise or mustard (which you can get at large grocery stores or online) into the bag.

This way, the bread won’t get mushy, and your kids can control how much of the condiment goes onto their sandwich. It’s a win-win!

Check out some of our favorite lunch box sandwich recipes.

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2. Make-Ahead Kabobs

Easy School lunch ideas-Lunchtime KabobsTaste of Home

Another creative and fun kids lunch idea is to utilize kabob sticks. You can go traditional with these Antipasto-Kabobs, using leftover meat, olives and noodles, or you can think outside the box and include your kids’ favorite foods, like hot dog slices, bread, cheese or sandwich meats.

Simply cut your chosen ingredients into slices or rough squares, then slide them onto wooden skewers. It’s so easy you’ll want to “stick” to this trick all year!

If you need some more inspiration, any of these kabob recipes would be lovely served cold.

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3. Quesadillas

Easy School Lunch Ideas-QuesadillasTaste of Home

This idea is perfect if you own a large skillet that can fit multiple tortillas. To quickly make delicious chicken quesadillas, roughly chop up a rotisserie chicken, a few tomatoes and some chives.

Put a few tortillas on your skillet, then top them with the meat, tomatoes, shredded cheese, chives and maybe some beans! Of course, you can put just about anything in a quesadilla, just adjust to your child’s tastes.

After filling, fold the tortillas in half, and cook them until the cheese is melted. Once they’ve cooled a bit, slice up the quesadillas and pack them with a small container of salsa, sour cream or guacamole. This recipe is so good (and easy) you might end up taking it for your lunch, too.

Get a jump start on planning lunches with any of these quesadilla recipes.

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4. Soup

Easy School Lunch Ideas-SoupTaste of Home

If you’re meal prepping for the week, there’s no easier entree than a quick make-ahead soup recipe. After you’ve made the soup of your choice, ladle it into individual containers, throw a dinner roll into each bag and lunch is served.

Freeze any soup you won’t be able to finish within the week to use in the future. These big-batch soup recipes will set you up for weeks.

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5. Muffin Cup Meals

Easy School Lunch Ideas-Muffin Cup MealsTaste of Home

If you have a bit of time to cook on Sunday, make some meals in muffin cups. You’d be surprised what make-ahead school lunches you can come up with, from meatloaves to pizzas. Pack with some fruit and bread for a balanced and easy-to-pack lunch.

Take a look at these muffin cup recipes your little one will absolutely love.

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6. Mixed School Lunch Box

Easy School Lunch Ideas-Lunch box wrapTaste of Home

Not every lunch has to be a single item. Try making a protein and fruit box, like the one you’d grab at Starbucks. The lunch pack above features a sliced chicken wrap, cut melon and grapes, carrot slices, cherry tomatoes and ants-on-a-log.

Pack sliced cheese, mixed fruits, a big handful of nuts, pretzels or chips and a few pieces of chocolate or a cookie. These low-maintenance lunches are easy to modify for fussy eaters. We have many more tips on how to deal with picky eaters from a mom who’s been there.

7. Fruit Parfaits

Easy School Lunch Ideas-Fruit ParfaitTaste of Home

Another kid-approved lunch that’s oh-so-easy to prep is fruit parfaits. All you have to do is layer some blueberries, raspberries, blackberries or cut strawberries in a mason jar with granola. Pack the jar and a single-serve container of their favorite yogurt into each of your kids’ lunchboxes with a spoon, and voila! Lunch to-go.

Some of our favorite parfait recipes include Gran’s Granola Parfait (pictured above), Powerhouse Protein Parfaits, Almond-Vanilla Yogurt Parfaits and Coconut-Granola Yogurt Parfaits.

8. Make-Ahead Pasta Salad

Easy School Lunch Ideas-Pasta Salad in a JarTaste of Home

There are two great things about pasta salad: first, it can feed an army, and second, it gets more flavorful the longer it sits.

This recipe for Pasta Salad in a Jar is the perfect lunch box food, and you can speed up prep by using a food processor to chop the ingredients. Just toss in the onion, artichoke hearts or peppers and give them a few pulses, then you’re ready to mix everything together.

These pasta salad recipes also make great lunch box options.

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If you get into the habit of making lunches in advance, you’ll never want to go back to the old way. Plus, when you give your kids fun, healthy meals every day, you’ll be setting them up to have their best year yet. What’s not to love? Find more back-to-school ideas that’ll keep the kiddos engaged.

Did you love these make-ahead school lunch ideas? Check out these make-ahead breakfast casserole recipes to make the most important meal of the day a little bit easier.