Getting smart with school lunches: work smarter not harder

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I received product samples to facilitate my review and a promotional item to thank me for participating.

I will admit, I went into this school year thinking I was going to be that mom. You know, the one that makes all her kids’ lunches and sends them off with some really awesome and healthy meals. Then somewhere along the line life happened and time slipped away and I didn’t even go grocery shopping let alone plan out some meal options. So there I was sending my kids off to eat the school’s version of a healthy meal.

To be fair, they do offer some decent and healthy choices at our school. They even participate in a “Harvest of the Month” program where they use locally grown foods in a farm-to-school program. The problem lies in that I don’t really know what is in all of the other foods they are given, or where those foods come from. I am a stickler for knowing as much as I can about all our food products, so why should school lunches be any different?

So what does a semi-obsessive mom who is trying to eat organic and locally produced foods do?

I’m not sure what everyone else would do, but I started planning out some meal options.

All of these options are really easy to whip up in no-time, and most utilize left-overs so there is hardly any pre-planning required. In most cases, if you know what you are having for dinner, you can be sure to know what you and/or your kids are having for lunch as long as you plan it out to make extra at each meal – remember, work smarter not harder!

Seven Easy and Healthy Lunch Ideas

Toasted Ham & Cheese, Fresh Carrots, Fresh Berries, Organic Milk

Luckily my kids love fresh veggies so packing them either whole (yes they love to eat them that way), or with a quick slice is a no brainer. Fruit can be hit or miss but blackberries and blueberries seemed like a fun option. Organic, ready to drink milk and a toasted ham and cheese sandwich round out this meal option.

What I love about this lunch is that all of the ingredients here are fresh, including the bread. Since we use the Roman Meal bread I know it is fresh because they partner with regional bakeries across the United States to make sure their bread is freshly baked and never frozen. I can also attest that it is great-tasting – I made one of theses sandwiches for my daughter and actually ended up eating it myself before she got to the kitchen so I then had to make another for her. 🙂 Of course Roman Meal uses whole grains in their breads as well, so that is a plus.

roman meal2

Mmmm, doesn’t this look so tasty?!  Yes, yes it was — which is why I ate it and had to make another for my daughter. It must be those hints of honey and molasses in the Roman Meal bread that did me in. 🙂

roman bread

Grilled Chicken, Fresh Strawberries, Fresh Cucumbers, Whole Wheat Crackers and Hummus

This lunch is so super easy. If we are having chicken the night before I can just throw an extra breast on the grill or in the pan and have a ready made lunch for the next day!


Salami or Pepperoni, Fresh Grapes, Organic Crackers, Cute Cheese Cutouts

On a day where I’m not in a huge prepping mood this simple lunch idea can be assembled in no-time. You don’t have to do the fancy cheese cut-outs, but it sure is fun.


Chicken Wrap (shredded or cubed, with dollop of dressing, cheese, and lettuce), Fresh Grapes, Pistachios, and a side of Crackers. 

Another simple meal that uses some leftover chicken or pork. Decide to make it cutesy with the cheese cut-outs and figurines, or skip that step if pressed for time. I have one kid that loves wraps with lettuce, and one who doesn’t care for it that way so I may add in a side of broccoli or carrots as well.


Turkey Sandwich Cutouts, Fresh Berries, Fresh Cukes, Simple Buttered Pasta with fresh Parm.

Get out that Roman Meal once again and jazz up a sandwich with some cutouts. You don’t need anything fancy, just grab a cookie cutter and go at it! Round out this lunch with some fresh veggies and fruits, and a side of simple pasta with fresh Parmesan cheese that is leftover from the night before and you are set.


Ham and Cheese rolls, Nuts, Fresh Fruit, Veggie Chips, and a Chocolate Square

This meal couldn’t be any easier. Simply grab some ham, roll it up with some cheese and stick with a toothpick. The other items are so simple to place that there is barely any prep involved and this is one of my favorite options!


Leftover Chicken Pizza with Olive Oil Sauce, Fresh Fruit, Cucumber cutouts

Who says you can’t use leftovers? One of my favorite pizza options is a healthier chicken and cheese pizza that simply uses a drizzle of fresh olive oil and herbs for the sauce. It is super delicious and makes a really easy lunch for the next day.


If you have some awesome lunch ideas I’d love to hear them, share in the comments below!

Ingredient Choices

There are several factors that play into my food choices but it really boils down to choosing things that I can get locally; whether it be from a farmer’s market, a CSA farm we subscribe to for deliveries, or from family and friends.

For the things we can’t just pick up from the farm, I choose to buy from companies that I know and trust. Places like Organic Valley (which happens to be right down the road from us), and Roman Meal (which uses local bakeries for their bread products) are at the top of that list.

Roman meal

In addition to buying things locally, I, of course, want to make sure the actual items I’m purchasing have some nutritional value. It doesn’t pay to buy local if I’m still buying stuff that doesn’t really provide any nutrition. Roman Meal bread is a great source of whole grains, with vitamin D, calcium, and fiber.

More Great Recipes

Stuffed Tomatoes

Recipes like these stuffed tomatoes are featured in the Roman Meal Recipe Calendar. Check out all the great breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes in the Roman Meal Whole Grain Recipe Calendar. There are so many great options for every season of the year!

roman meal recipe




Image credits: Roman Meal, Flickr (Melissa).

Jesica H

My name is Jesica and I'm happy to 'meet' you! I'm just living life and loving every minute of it! I try to not let things hold me down or hold me back, I just live! Here at The Mommy Bunch, I offer solid advice on all things parenting, household, and living life as a working mom.

jesicaj1 has 1662 posts and counting.See all posts by jesicaj1

6 thoughts on “Getting smart with school lunches: work smarter not harder

  • September 16, 2014 at 5:18 pm
    My son likes when I make meat and cheese Kabobs.. super easy but appealing to the eye and fun! Reply
  • September 18, 2014 at 10:32 am
    Not only do your meals look delicious but I love the lunch containers, forks and fun cheese cut outs! Reply
    • September 18, 2014 at 12:45 pm
      Thanks Trisha, my kids really like those little forks. My daughter specifically requested lunch from home once I got them. :-) Reply
  • September 18, 2014 at 6:14 pm
    These lunches are so cute! I love all your lunchbox and cutters....what a creative way to make lunch fun. Your kids are really lucky! Reply
  • September 20, 2014 at 10:18 am
    I am not very imaginative - sandwiches mostly, and fruit. Reply

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