Healthy, Make-Ahead School Lunch Ideas

School time is now upon us. And for many moms that brings the dreaded “what do I pack for school lunch that is healthy and won’t break the bank?”

I have some great ideas for you today. These work really well for me and my kids.

1. Use Muffins Instead of Sandwiches. My kids are really picky when it comes to sandwiches. And they can only take so much pb&j. So one thing I like to do is make muffin ahead of time and freeze them. Then when packing their lunches in the morning all they have to do is grab a frozen muffin and it will be thawed by lunch time. Works great! I can make a couple different batches of muffins and they will last a few weeks. Here is a good healthy option if you want to do this.

Whole Wheat Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
original recipe source

1/2 cup butter (1 stick or 4 ounces)
1/2 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
1/4 cup honey
2 large eggs
2 cups whole wheat flour
2/3 cups mini chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350. Line or grease a 12 cup muffin pan. (I usually make these in my mini muffin tins. Makes 34 mini muffins or 12 regular size and 24 mini muffins).

Beat together the butter, sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth. Add the banana, honey and eggs, beating until smooth. Add the flour and chocolate chips, stirring until smooth. Divide batter into the muffin cups, they’ll be nearly full. Bake the muffins until a cake tester inserted in the center of one comes out clean, 23-28 minutes. Remove from oven and after a couple of minutes transfer the muffins to a rack to cool.

2. Forget Fruit Snacks! Another good energizing snack is these Peanut Butter Balls. My kids LOVE these, and I can sneak in whatever I want to make it healthier. The recipe is quite adaptable. Just like the muffins, the kids pop these in their lunch bag in the morning and they are thawed by lunch time. One of my kids likes chocolate chips, the other two don’t.

Peanut Butter Balls
Original recipe source

1 – cup honey
1 1/2 – cups creamy peanut butter
2 – cups dry powdered milk
3 – cups quick or old fashioned oatmeal, uncooked
1 – 2 – tablespoons wheat germ or flax meal
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (optional)

Mix all together with hand mixer. Form into balls with hands and freeze on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper until firm. Remove from freezer and store in a large zip lock bag in the refrigerator.

3. Make Smoothies Ahead. Another idea for you is to make smoothies and freeze them in containers like this:

Then take them out of the freezer in the morning and they will be thawed by lunch! My kids love smoothies and I sneak all sorts of veggie and fruit goodness in them. It’s a great way to give them a boost during their day…a healthy boost! Here are some of my favorites to make. Keep in mind these measurements are approximate…I never measure when I make smoothies and I always use different ingredients..what I have on hand.

Orange Julius
1/2 c. orange juice concentrate
1 c. milk
1 or 2 bananas
3-4 raw baby carrots
handful of fresh pineapple
handful frozen peaches
half apple cut into chunks
1 c. vanilla yogurt
honey to sweeten (optional)

Blend until smooth! I use frozen fruit so I don’t add any ice. If you use canned or all fresh you will want to add ice. Can also add pears or any other yellow or orange fruit or veggie.

Purple Passion
1/2 c. vanilla yogurt
1 c. milk
handful of frozen blueberries & raspberries & strawberries
handful raw baby spinach
3-4 baby carrots
1 banana
honey to sweeten

Blend until smooth! Like I said above, if you don’t use frozen fruit add ice.

Peach Raspberry Smoothie
2 c. frozen peaches
1/2 c. frozen raspberries/strawberries
1 c. vanilla yogurt
1 c. milk
honey to sweeten (optional)

Blend until smooth.

Peanut Butter Blast

1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. peanut butter
1 banana
chocolate syrup
small handful of graham crackers

Blend until smooth.

4. Make Your Own Kid-Sized Portions. The last tip I want to share is about planning ahead. Instead of purchasing pre-packaged smaller items at the store like applesauce and yogurt for your kids’ lunches, do it yourself! I bought these containers at Walmart, and I fill them with fruit, yogurt, applesauce and whatever else. This way I am saving money as well as giving them better food. For example, I can my own applesauce and fruit.

What back-to-school lunch ideas do you have to share?


  1. I make my kids peanut butter cracker sandwiches with Ritz or Club crackers and seal them in a snack bag in my pantry. I also wash my fruit ahead and also put grapes in a snack bag. I cut up pieces of ham/turkey and cheese, and pre portion crackers in snack bags for “lunchable” type lunch or snack Or Salami and a string cheese. You can also set up veggies and ranch.

  2. Great ideas! What kind of container did you use for the smoothies?

  3. Great ideas. I will definitely be using many of these! I also just found some square sized containers that are perfect for salads. My kids school charges $3 for salad bar and this way I can make it for about $.50 each. Thanks for getting my creative lunch ideas flowing…

  4. I used Ball containers for freezing. They are in the canning section at Walmart or Target. I got 5 containers for $4.

  5. Anyone know where you can get that those cups to freeze the smoothies in? Thanks!

    • Look in the canning section of your grocery store or at Walmart. They are the same things that I use for freezer jam.

Comments are now closed for this post.

Lost Password