Bento box lunch meal planning idea for kids

20 brilliant lunch and snack ideas to get you out of that rut

There are no kid-food problems, only solutions. From bento boxes to Thermos fillers to homework-time grazing platters to apps for lunch, M&M’s easy, family-friendly eats dial back mealtime stress and bring a taste of nostalgia to the table.

When you fill your freezer with simple, kid-approved bites, life is just easier. Pull out what you need, when you need it, and save the rest for the next time your family is on the hunt for lunch or a snack (which is, strangely, every day). You can easily bake off just a few pieces at a time from a few different boxes, seal the remainders up and tuck them back in the freezer for another day.

We’ve rounded up 20 ideas that will make everyone — especially the cook — happy.

DIY after-school snacks kids can make themselves

Whether your littles are letting themselves in with their own key after school or you’re there to welcome them home, they’re going to arrive hungry. So it’s smart to have a bunch of after-school snack options they can make on their own.

A bit of planning is your best friend when it comes to warding off growling tummies. Keep several boxes of microwaveable apps on hand and precut an assortment of veggies and fruits so your independent kid can grab what she needs to nourish her brain during homework time.

After school snack platter

Put your sous chef to work whipping up a microwave app spread or show your big kid how to do it solo so he can get cooking before you get home. Pizza Rolls (available in Pepperoni and Cheesy), Mini Quiches (Classic French Style and Florentine), Chicken and Pineapple Mini Skewers and Deep Dish Pizzas (Pepperoni, Deluxe and Three Cheese) can all be zapped in minutes — just check the label for the microwave instructions and cook one type at a time — to create a satisfying snack that will keep everyone happy until dinner. (And believe us, we have ideas for that, too.)

Get saucy

Keep a variety of your favourite sauces within easy reach in the fridge door so kids can dress up their bites any way they like.

Bento box eats

Think of a bento box as a blank canvas. Each section is ready to accommodate whatever you want to fill it with. To help inspire, we came up with some lunchtime themes.

Beef empanada bento box

Fiesta Box:

Heat our Beef Empanada Bites and add to the box with sides of sliced avocado and watermelon. These tiny, savoury hand pies are filled with seasoned ground beef, melty cheddar and veggies.

Quesadilla bento box

Tex-Mex Box:

Our Chicken Quesadillas come in four-piece boxes, which are perfect for dividing between two bentos. Heat and package up alongside grapes, popcorn and fruit.

Mini Quiche bento box

Brunch Box:

Mini Quiches are not exclusive to brunch and hors d’oeuvres spreads. Try adding a few, like our Mini Quiche Florentine, to a box with a hard-boiled egg and sliced cukes for a filling vegetarian meal.

Pub bento box

Pub Box:

Your order’s up! Fans of finger foods will love an assortment of pub favourites, like Chicken Strips with Plum Dipping Sauce, Macaroni and Cheese and cut-up carrot and celery sticks.

Pizza roll bento box

Pizza Day Box:

Add pizza to your kid’s sack lunch, and she’ll be the envy of everyone in the lunchroom. Tuck Pepperoni or Cheesy Pizza Rolls — a collab of pizza and crispy egg roll wrappers — into the box with halved grape tomatoes and apple slices. Toss in a little container of Buttermilk Dill Dipping Sauce to dunk, too, please.

Bring the fall fair home

Translate all the fun treats you get at your hometown fair to a lunch box near you. And while these perfectly portioned, less-waste eats are a tasty surprise in the school cafeteria, they also make a delicious alfresco finger food spread at home.

Fall finger food

Start with a preheated oven and a baking sheet or two, depending on the cooking times of your picks. Dips are part of the fun, so don’t skip those. We’re doing:

  • Mini Franks in Pastry + Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce
  • Sausage Rolls + Original BBQ Sauce
  • Jalapeño and Cheddar Cheese Sticks + Chipotle Mayo Spread
  • Cream Cheese Stuffed Jalapeños + Cream Cheese and Cheddar Stuffed Jalapeños
  • Fried Battered Pickles + Buttermilk Dill Dipping Sauce

Variety is the spice

A lunch box filled with an assortment of tasty bites is more fun. Top yours up with a bit of everything, and include a napkin because these selections are saucy.

A group of school thermos lunch ideas

Thermos lunches

Tucking into a hot lunch is the best. Our fave fillers include Fettuccine Alfredo, or Wonton Soup with thinly sliced green onions for garnish. Italian Style Beef Meatballs tossed in tangy Original BBQ or Honey Garlic BBQ Sauce over a bed of Long Grain White Rice is another winner. So is beefy, cheesy Lasagna cut into fingers so it’s easy to eat. Or pack up Beef Chili with separate containers of shredded cheddar and sour cream so your little foodie can garnish just the way he likes.

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