Starting school, whether you mean at the beginning of the school year or after one of the many holiday breaks that are built in, signifies getting back into the school routine, buying school supplies, and packing tasty and hopefully healthy school lunches. But that last one, particularity in my house is tough! Getting school lunch ideas that will actually work for your family can be so time-consuming and stressful.

Lunch Ideas

Truthfully, it can feel like the hardest part of school. Figuring out what to pack is not an easy feat. My oldest is super picky and gets into ruts, wanting the same thing for school lunch and snacks.

So, to help with this, I created a simple and awesome use tool to pick out food from each category and a monthly school lunch calendar to use to plan lunch ahead of time with my child. This has really helped solve the previously daily whining about what I was packing for lunch.

Also, armed with a planned lunch list, I am able to buy many of the necessary school lunch supplies in advance and often on sale. It is a huge time and money saver. And who wouldn’t want that, amiright?


School Lunch – Mix And Match Easy Ideas For Kids and Adults

In a few simple steps, lunch packing will be a breeze.

Step One: Print the Lunch Box Ideas Mix and Match Free Printable and the Calendar. Together they will make choosing a healthy lunch a snap.

Step Two: Sit down with your kids and have them help plan what they would like for lunch. This should take no more than 5 – 10 minutes. Use the Lunch Box Idea printable to guide the discussion.

You know what your kid likes to eat so you can steer them where you need to for the main items. But make sure to give them plenty of choices! I would even try to get them to add some items they have not tried before to their list to work on branching out. ?

I even did this step with my kindergartner. It made them feel like a big kid helping out in choosing what to eat.

Also, since they helped pick out the food they want to eat, they feel like they have a choice in what I am packing. I was most surprised at what items they added that were new. Since they were an active part in making choices for their lunch box, I found that there was a lot less whining in our house and there should be in yours too (hopefully!).

Step Three: Use the list made on the Calendar printable to go to the store and stock up on the items you need to pack. I actually just cut the list off the calendar and take it with me. It saves time and effort in having to recreate the list. You can also use it to keep your normal grocery list if you like to save even more time.

Step Four: Once you have all the items you need for the next few weeks or even a month…. all that is left for you to do is Pack Lunch!

What could be simpler than that?


What to Pack?

Now the process of getting lunches together is a snap, at least written down on paper. But if you are asking “What should you pack in your kid’s lunch box?” Then I would tell you that is a pretty personal question. Especially these days.

Many kids have allergies or special diets, whether chosen or imposed, and that can make it tricky to send varying foods to school.

For example, at my school, I pack a snack and they have limited what you can pack to 5 groups – due to peanut allergies. This is because classrooms in our elementary school have been designated nut-free areas and snack is had during work time.

If you are in the same boat, it can get pretty complicated figuring out what to send day in and day out! But that is the genius of this list, all the potential ideas are staring me in the face.

Use this ultimate free printable list of mix and match lunches


Luckily, we have much more flexibility in what we can send for lunch. I learned very quickly that just because there is flexibility, does not mean it is easy to figure out what to send!

So, I went through and listed every single possible food item that I thought was packable and categorized them. That is how the Mix and Match sheet came to be.

With an ultimate list of food to pull from it is easy to pack a multitude of different school lunches for the kids.

I have a copy of the Mix and Match sheet on my fridge. Since I have more than one kid I have the items that they will eat highlighted and they are color-coded by each child. If there is a ton of overlap highlight only half the word in each color. If that is too much you can print a sheet out for each child and then highlight the items that they most prefer.

I pick one item from each category. But tend to alternate the veggies and fruit day to day. An example of lunch for my elementary school child is:

  • carrot sticks
  • ranch
  • 1/2 bagel with almond butter
  • Small granola bar
  • Chocolate Milk

another might be:

  • apples and peanut butter
  • cheese stick
  • Triscuits or wheat thins
  • fruit snacks
  • Juice

You can create enough varied school lunches to last you the year!


Mix and Match School Lunch Box Categories include:

  • Veggies
  • Fruit
  • Protein
  • Grains
  • Dairy
  • Dips
  • Drinks
  • Fun stuff 🙂

There are over 170+ ideas on this sheet to choose from. Mixing them together does not take long and will easily yield plenty of potential school lunches for your kids, even the picky eaters!

Lunch Box Mix N Match ideas to make your life easier

This is the school lunch calendar which makes it easy to pre-plan what to prep for school lunch each week.

Free Printable Calendar

Now that you have a ton of ideas to choose from, use the Back To School Lunch Ideas- Calendar to write down what you plan to make for a week, two weeks, or a month. Whatever works best for you.

Use the meal plan to write up a list on the side of what you need and what you have run out of as the week progresses. Cut the list off and take it with you if you prefer not to have to re-write the items on your normal list.

In the beginning, I would take note of what gets eaten and what does not. Ask if it was because of limited time or if they did not like what was packed. Take notes on what meals go over the best and add them to a list of favorite meals.

I have about 25 – 35 go-to meals which I rotate along with a new item that they have not eaten before each week.



Take School Lunch to the Next Level with Start to Finish Planning

But, If you are looking to really up your game and make school lunch planning a snap, then you need to check out the School Lunch Game Plan!

Save time and your sanity. Don’t spend hours trying to figure out what to make for your kid’s school lunch and then have nearly all of it come home uneaten!

In the Game Plan you will get everything your family needs to make school lunch meal planning a snap. Get a plan in place for a week or even a month!!


  • Meal plan brainstorm worksheets and final meal list plan sheets 
  • Lunch Box Ideas – over 170 ideas
  • School Lunch Theme Inspiration categories and examples
  • School Lunch plan idea examples – 20 planned lunches
  • Meal Prep Planner and meal prep worksheets


  • Good Mornings Checklist – one ready to use and one blank to come up with your own ideas.
  • Breakfast Planner Ideas – 20 planned breakfasts and a sheet to plan your own
  • Breakfast Box Ideas – learn how to make your own on-the-go breakfast station

Meal Plan To Save Money on School Lunch

Are you looking for these awesome free printable Mix and Match School Lunch Box Ideas Sheet and the School Lunch Calendar? See the links below.

They are both sure to make your life easier this school year. Time saved, money saved and of course, sanity saved. 🙂

Easy Mix and Match School Lunch Box Ideas- Printable

Back To School Lunch Ideas- Calendar




Looking for some great ways to save on school lunches you pack? Check out this post on how to save tons of money on school lunches. It gives easy-to-follow actionable tips on how to save money packing school lunches. What is even better is that it can be applied to your lunches too!


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