Thursday, March 14, 2024

School Lunches

 For the last few years, we’ve been buying school lunch, but the price kept rising ($8 per lunch x 4 kids, we were spending $500-$600 per month on school lunch!)  Plus, the quality of offerings had really gone downhill. (Most irritating were the days we paid $8 per lunch for “cereal bar.” Of course, it was their favorite day!) 

A few months ago, we started packing lunch but we’re in a terrible rut.  In an effort to save even more money, we’re also working on packing adult lunches since the cost of going out to eat every day for lunch was REALLY adding up. 


The team at More Than Paper set off to turn it around with school lunches and adult lunches and solve the problem. Let’s start with the kids – we know packing a healthy and appealing lunch feels like an incredibly daunting task but with these tips, maybe we all can provide our kids with nutritious meals that they will enjoy! (Though our money is on that they will always love the cereal bar.) 



San Diego Pediatricians | Children's Primary Care Medical Group » Archive »  5 EASY BENTO BOX LUNCHES FOR KIDS

Creator: VeselovaElena Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

  • Bento Box Fun. Bento boxes are a fun and versatile way to pack a variety of foods in one container. You can include a mix of fruits, veggies, proteins, and grains to ensure your child gets a well-rounded meal. Think of colorful options like cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, cheese cubes, whole grain crackers, and berries. 


  • Wrap It Up. Wrap sandwiches are a great alternative to traditional bread sandwiches and can be filled with a variety of ingredients. Use whole grain, tomato, or spinach wraps and fill them with lean proteins like turkey or grilled chicken, along with lettuce, tomato, and a spread like hummus or avocado. 


  • DIY Lunchables. The store-bought Launchable are full of sodium and sugar and you can create your own version of the popular by assembling whole grain crackers, cheese slices, lean deli meats, and some fruit or veggie sticks. Not much different than a Bento Box here, but kids really like whatever dessert option is packed. 


  • Protein-Packed Salads. Salads don't have to be boring! Create protein-packed salads by adding grilled chicken strips, hard-boiled eggs, chickpeas, or tofu to a mix of greens and veggies. Include a tasty dressing in a separate container for your child to drizzle on top. 


  • Leftover Remix. If they liked last night’s dinner, won’t they like it for lunch?  If they are temperature sensitive, find out if your school cafeteria has a microwave and if it feasible for your children to use it. If this is something your children might enjoy regularly, consider making extra for lunch when you make dinner. This sounds like the simplest of all the options to us! 


When it comes to what to put all of these good ideas into to transport lunch to school, More Than Paper has a variety of lunch bag options.  This one here is perfect for your daughter who’s a bit older and has outgrown one with a lot of designs. 

Small Lunch Cooler by CB Station (Emerald)


The sturdy canvas bag is insulated and has a zippered closure, so your lunch doesn’t fall out.  Conveniently, the bag has an outside pocket that you can store a phone or small wallet in.  The bag is personalized with embroidery using initial(s), monogram, or name. You select the font and thread colors to be used – there are endless combinations to make it yours. 


We’ve carried these lunch sacks for years and they are also a great option for kids. 


Pen At Hand Stick Figures - Lunch Sack - Annie



Healthy Taco Salad (+ meal prep tips) - Sweet Peas and Saffron

Photo used from Denise via:

Going out to lunch every day at work also adds up in a big way, so it’s cost effective to pack your lunch at the office a few days a week.  My husband and I aren’t interested in Bento boxes or Lunchables, so we went on a search for adult lunch options, too. Here’s what we found for some ideas: 


  • Grain bowl: Combine quinoa, brown rice, or farro with a variety of toppings such as roasted vegetables, grilled chicken or tofu, avocado slices, and a drizzle of tahini or vinaigrette.


  • Salad NiƧoise:  Try a French-inspired salad with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, boiled potatoes, green beans, hard-boiled eggs, olives, and seared tuna or canned tuna in olive oil, drizzled with vinaigrette.


  • Stuffed Peppers: Fill halved bell peppers with a mixture of cooked quinoa or rice, ground turkey or beef, black beans, corn, salsa, and cheese. Bake until the peppers are soft and the filling is heated through. 


  • Mediterranean Platter:  Assemble hummus, tabbouleh, falafel, pita bread, olives, cucumber slices, cherry tomatoes, and feta cheese for a refreshing and satisfying lunch with a variety of flavors.


  • Taco Salad: Build a taco salad with a base of mixed greens or shredded lettuce topped with seasoned ground beef or turkey, black beans, corn, diced tomatoes, avocado slices, shredded cheese, and a dollop of Greek yogurt or salsa for a Tex-Mex twist.


  • Asian Noodle Bowl: Prepare an Asian noodle bowl with cooked soba or rice noodles, stir-fried vegetables, tofu or shrimp, and a savory soy-ginger sauce garnished with chopped scallions, sesame seeds, and a squeeze of lime for a satisfying and flavorful meal.


  • Caprese Sandwich:  Enjoy a classic Caprese sandwich with sliced fresh mozzarella, ripe tomatoes, basil leaves, and a drizzle of balsamic glaze or pesto on crusty ciabatta bread for a simple yet delicious lunch option.  Even better? We recommend putting this sandwich in the panini press (or grill) to make the version hot and melty. 


When it comes time to the lunch bag itself, we love this lunch sack available at More Than Paper made by CB Station. 

Khaki Waxed Lunch Sacks by CB Station


Made of waxed canvas, this has a rustic and masculine appearance so it’s perfect for your husband or high school son.  The lunch sack has plenty of space for food, snacks, or a soda can and can be rolled up for easy transportation when finished. (Here’s to hoping your son doesn’t lose it!)  


The sack features a water-resistant, reinforced bottom, a buckle top closure, and is USDA approved insulation for hot and cold temperatures.  Choose from personalization options such as single initials, a line of text, two initials, or a monogram, along with selecting the typestyle and thread color for the personalization to make it yours. 


We hope that your lunch time gets a little less expensive, more creative, and more exciting and that your days of paying $8 for cereal bar are gone with these tips and inspiration.  Share your comments about what successes (and failures) you have had packing school lunch here, or on our Facebook page! 


Happy Lunching!