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5 Easy School Lunch Box Ideas

As a working mom, my life is crazy- like most parents. During the last 7 years, I worked full-time and learned a lot about packing lunches and cooking dinner on tight schedules and budgets. The tips and ideas keep the busy parent {you} in mind.

5 Easy School Lunch Box Ideas

5 Easy School Lunch Box Ideas & Tips

1| Pack foods your child will eat, NOT  what you want them to eat.

Students have anywhere from 15-30 minutes to eat lunch. To ensure your child gets the nourishment they need it is important you keep lunch fun, enticing and exciting. This can be done by:

  • Pairing favorite foods with “learning to like” foods.
  • Breakfast for lunch is a hit for many children. 
  • Use cookie cutters: they can add new shapes to sandwiches, fruit and veggies.
  • Explore variety with in the same food category. If your child does not like coined carrots, try serving them diced, speared or mashed.
  • Get creative and name your menu items with silly but fun names that will appeal to the child. Even better- let them help name the food. 
  • Get your kids involved- menu planning, shopping, and preparing the food. Kids of all ages can help in the kitchen when given an age appropriate task.

2| Get creative with leftovers! 

Leftovers are a perfect lunch box trick for busy parents.  Creating lunches from your leftovers not only minimizes stress but makes dinnertime clean up easier!

Roasted Chicken Ideas:

  • Taco Chicken Lettuce Cup: shred chicken and coat with taco seasoning. Mix with frozen corn, frozen black beans, diced tomato and scallions. Serve in a lettuce cup or tortilla.
  • BBQ Chicken Sandwich: shred chicken or dice chicken and toss in BBQ sauce. Serve on favorite pita, wrap, or bread with cheddar cheese, red onion slices, and avocado.
  • Caesar Chicken Wrap: shred chicken and toss in Caesar dressing. Wrap up in favorite flour tortilla with croutons, shredded Parmesan cheese, and tomatoes.

Hamburger Ideas:

  • Hamburglar Salad: chop up left over hamburger. Add hamburger, shredded cheese, tomatoes and croutons to a lettuce cup or bed of lettuce. Spice it up with your child’s favorite taco seasoning.
  • Taco Wrap: chop up left over hamburger and coat with taco seasoning. Mix with frozen corn, frozen black beans, tomatoes, avocado and scallions. Serve in favorite tortilla.
  • Combine warm leftover hamburger meat & homemade macaroni and cheese to a thermos in the morning for a hot school lunch. Using a thermos significantly increases the variety of foods that can be taken into school.

Pasta Ideas:

  • Leftover pasta is a perfect salad base.Use your child’s favorite dressings and veggies to make a masterpiece they are sure to eat.
  • Salad on a Stick: Add a rotating mixture of cheese, favorite veggies, basil leaves and pasta on a lollipop stick

5 Easy School Lunch Box Ideas

3| Think of a Salad Differently

A salad does not have to be a traditional salad full of lettuce greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, croutons, and dressing. A salad can be anything mixed together- grains, fruit, meat, veggies! Rethink your definition of a salad the next time you ask your child to eat a a bowl of leafy greens. Go for a frozen fruit salad. Not only will it keep the lunch cool but the child will love it. Our favorite frozen fruits are pineapple, mango, and peaches.

5| Keep cool!

Think of all the food we store in the refrigerator. Those are the foods that can spoil between the time your child leaves the house and actually eat the food. Keep the food cool with these tips:

  • Pack frozen fruit salads. My favorite frozen fruit that defrost with a great quality include mango, peaches, and pineapple. 
  • Use an ice pack with each lunch.
  • Freeze the drink the night before and it will be mostly defrosted and cold by lunch.
  • Add frozen yogurt tubes but avoid the yogurt with food colorings and added sugar.

Learn more about Clancy and her mission:

Transforming Thoughts about Hunger in US

Food insecurity (hunger) is a major public health concern in the United States impacting nearly 50 million people and is especially crushing to children. Before I became the president of The Al Beech West Side Food Pantry, I did not understand the true face of hunger. I thought food insecurity was associated with people living in chronic poverty. I was wrong.


The truth is many people live a paycheck away from making the hard decision between electricity, medication, and gas for food. The loss of a family member, birth of a child, reduced wages, a natural disaster, and even the break down of a car can put a family over the edge.

Serving clients for 5 years, I witness that childhood hunger is real in our communities. The stereotypically visualization of hunger includes children with bloated bellies, sunken eyes, and skinny limbs. In the United States, food insecurity is an invisible epidemic because it is often associated with a normal weight.

If we want to curb our nation’s food insecurity epidemic, we must collectively change the way we view, treat, and talk about poverty in the United States. Here are simple ideas to transform hunger in the United States.

5 Ways to help in your community

1. Donate your unique passion

Reach out to your local food bank and pantry to donate your passion. While it is great to have people available to pack food bags for client pick up, it is even better to have people with passion. Here are some past donations full of passion:

  • A canvas painting of fresh produce by a high school student to help raise money in an auction
  • Elementary students practicing their instruments during client pick up. We have experienced the sounds of flutes, guitars, and pianos while clients picked up their orders!
  • A college student brought her gift of photography to help with social media promotion of the bi-weekly farmer’s market (see below).
  • A senior gentleman built us new shelves to ensure safety of our volunteers.

2. Organize a food sorting play date

Call your local food pantry to determine when there is a food donation being delivered. Let them know you want to organize a volunteer day for kids. Older kids can inspect the food for expired product and damaged goods. Younger kids can organize the food by product and the parents can carry any heavy items to storage.

3. Know the best foods to donate

When donating foods know which foods are the most nourishing but self-stable. Food pantries appreciate canned foods such as tuna, chicken, beef, salmon, peanut butter, beans, fruits, and vegetables that contain no added salt or sugar.

4. Donate garden surplus

Even if you have one cucumber drop it off! If everyone gave just one cucumber, there would be more than enough to go around. Remember- very piece counts and is worth your time.

5. Transform thoughts through compassion

Learn about food insecurity by listening to stories around you. If you have been on a food assistance program yourself, think and refer to it as a positive influence in your life. For example- if you participated in the National School Lunch Program, consider how it helped you succeed in school. Would you have been able to concentrate on your spelling test? Would you be where you are today, if you did not have access to  the program?

Clancy’s Mission & Initiatives

My mission is to decrease the stigma associated with food assistance programs in the hopes that more families will take advantage of programs such as food stamps and WIC. Food assistance programs give parents access to better food options and decrease the stress caused by the fear of running out of food.

Cooking with Clancy website

Cooking with Clancy is a website where parents can find affordable food recipes and learn how to eat nourishing foods on a strict budget. Parents learn how to cook the most nourishing and affordable foods along with timesaving kitchen tips. For access to her FREE meal plans click on the box below.

Access to a FREE meal planning course, meal plans, & most affordable health food list!

Children Feeding Children Greenhouse Project

The grassroots project is an effort to fight local hunger with dignity and fresh produce. The greenhouse is housed a local elementary school where the students cultivate transplants from seeds. The transplants are then donated to the youth-based organizations for edible landscaping and community gardens who donate the harvest back to the food pantry. To learn more, please email me at


Bi-Weekly Farmer’s Market

Each week the food pantry hosts a free farmer’s market for the food pantry recipients, volunteers, and other organizations associated the food pantry. Allowing community members and food pantry guests to take produce together creates an environment of community and recipe sharing while creating dignity.


One Pot Meat Spaghetti Recipe

One Pot Meat Spaghetti is not only tasty but it is very affordable at $1.25 per serving. It is a featured dish in our meal plans that are complete with cooking strategies and shopping lists. Visit Cooking with Clancy Meal Planning to learn how to access the meal plans that feed a family of four on roughly $125/week.


1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup onions, chopped
4 cups chicken broth or water
1 can tomato sauce (15 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1.5 tsp. salt or to taste
3 tsp. italian seasoning or pizza seasoning
16 ounces spaghetti noodles (broken)
1 cup Parmesan cheese (shredded)

Brown meat and onions in a large stock pot over medium-high heat until fully cooked.
Stir in chicken broth, tomato sauce, and spices; bring to a boil.
Add spaghetti, cover pan, and simmer 10-15 minutes, stirring often to prevent sticking. Depending on type of pasta, you may need to add more broth or water as needed for desired consistency.
When spaghetti is tender, top with grated cheese.
Refrigerate leftovers with in 2-3 hours.

About the Author, Clancy Harrison

Clancy Harrison MS, RD, LDN is a sought after speaker for Congressional Briefings, live TV segments, and professional seminars.  Clancy is an award winning author of Feeding Baby and Past President of Northeast Pennsylvania Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Giving the Gift of Charity in the Spirit of the Holidays

The holidays are around the corner which can be very stressful. Too often, I find myself searching for the perfect gift for the person who has everything. The gift I am giving this year  is a donation in the honor of loved ones.

1 in 5 children {nationally} do not know when they will eat next. To make it much worse, our local statistic is 1 in 3 according to Commission on Economic Opportunity! As the president of the Al Beech West Side Food Pantry, I battle this statistic every day. We feed 70 families each week and many of them are your neighborhood children.

Giving the Gift of Charity in the Spirit of the Holidays

We have joined forces with the Wyoming Valley Montessori School {WVMS} and other organizations and created the Children Feeding Children Garden Project. The project is a sustainable solution for fresh produce for the food pantry recipients. A greenhouse will be built to sow seeds to transplants offering an opportunity for education while giving back to the community.

The children will learn about:

  • Botany
  • Food Sustainability
  • Eco-friendly Gardening Practices
  • Nutrition
  • Food Insecurity
  • Economics
  • Earth Science
  • Empathy
  • Building a Better Community


The transplants will be donated to 11 faith-based youth groups along with other student organizations in our community. The youth will care for the plants in their organization’s existing landscaping beds. Once the produce is harvested, it will be donated to the Al Beech West Side Food Panty. The remaining transplants will be available for sale generating income for the project. 100% of the donations will be used to educate students and fight childhood hunger in our community. WVMS students have already raised $2400 and you can help us reach the goal of $60o0 with a simple gift to a loved one this holiday season.

What you get:

  • A warm fuzzy feeling of doing something great for children.
  • Bragging rights for the best gift that represents the true spirit of the holidays.
  • Save money on wrapping paper and shipping costs.
  • Save time and stress with holiday shopping.
  • Cut down of packaging wastes which is better for the earth.
  • A voucher for a FREE transplant.
  • An opportunity to give hope to children.
  • An opportunity to build a stronger community.
  • A thank you letter with our EIN number and your donated dollar amount for tax deduction purposes.
  • Free updates on our project on our FB page: Children Feeding Children

How it works:

  • Download the 2 page Gift of Food form, Children Feeding Childre Donation.
  • Complete the form and mail into food pantry (address on form).
  • We will mail the honored recipient a certificate, transplant voucher, and a thank you note on your behalf. You can even offer additional notes to your recipient’s thank you letter. Please see the form for more details.
  • The thank you notes to the recipient will be the art work of local children.

To download your Gift of Food Form, click Children Feeding Children Donation Form. Also, my latest and most popular post: Stop Calling Food ‘Poison’ out of Respect for ALL Mothers.