painting sunny

Let’s Do Lunch Again Sometime


Like, today. Or even better, every day this week!

Consider this the third installment of my learning-to-pack-school-lunches trilogy. Kind of like Mockingjay is to the Hunger Games, or Breaking Dawn is to Twilight. Let’s not even get into Harry Potter, those things go on and on. Didn’t their high school last 8 years or something? Can you imagine basically living through high school twice?

Okay, let’s put that nightmare aside and get back to business. When I realized I was about to begin packing lunches for the kids for the first time ever, I did my research and planned compulsively accordingly, then I went ahead and jumped right into it with my first full week. Since then, I’ve tried a couple things again, found some things that didn’t work and a few that were quite successful, and remembered to a few photos along the way. I think it’s best if we start with the successes. Let’s the games begin!

More School Lunches:  PBJ on whole wheat English muffin, string cheese, diced watermelon, and cinnamon Chex cereal | Painting Sunny

PBJ on whole wheat English muffin, string cheese, diced watermelon, and cinnamon Chex cereal

More School Lunches: Blueberry oatmeal muffin, cubed cheese, wheat crackers, baby carrots, diced cucumbers, and ranch dip | Painting SunnyBlueberry oatmeal muffin, cubed cheese, wheat crackers, carrots, cucumbers, and ranch dip

More School Lunches: Cheese quesadilla, salsa, sliced grapes, and cinnamon Chex cereal | Painting SunnyCheese quesadilla, salsa, sliced grapes, and cinnamon Chex cereal

More School Lunches: Bagel sliced with butter and jam, blueberry oatmeal muffin, Greek yogurt tube, diced watermelon, and baby carrots | Painting SunnyBagel sliced with butter and jam, blueberry oatmeal muffin, Greek yogurt tube, diced watermelon, and baby carrots  More School Lunches: Naan bread slices, vegetable hummus, baby carrots, string cheese, and sliced grapes | Painting Sunny

Naan bread slices, vegetable hummus, baby carrots, string cheese, and sliced grapes

Yes, one of the challenges is keeping the kids hands out of the lunch boxes the night before. Those grapes go missing so easily…More School Lunches:  | Painting Sunny

Those blueberry oatmeal muffins have been a hit. Remember when I baked them? I froze about half of them still in the silicone baking cups, and when I’m packing lunches in the evening (to be eaten the next day) I just pop them into the lunch box and they have thawed the next morning. Voila!

I almost always accidentally write viola and then have to correct it to voila. It would make no sense to be talking about violas right now.

As always, these lunches were made with EasyLunchboxes and the Mini-Dippers containers by the same brand (those are Amazon affiliate links). I’m not paid or perked to mention any brands, I just really have loved using them! They work out perfectly for our family. Check out their blog for a mega-ton of ideas, too.

Another success has been the No-Nut Pea Butter – the boy totally eats it! So far as I know he hasn’t noticed it’s not real peanut butter. When it runs out, I am totally trying out a few other things, though… thank you all for the awesome suggestions! You are my mentors on this journey.

What has not panned out the way I hoped? Just one thing that was so overwhelming disdained by the children it shall never be repeated. Cold macaroni and cheese. You would have thought I’d sent lumps of charcoal and stewed spinach by their reactions. In my defense, it was homemade delicious mac and cheese and personally I like cold mac and cheese. That, apparently, is not a hereditary trait.

Someone asked me what lunch bags I use. Good question, my friend! There is a link to a similar one to the type I picked up at Target right here. Ours looks a bit different (the front pocket Velcros rather than zips). I bought three of them, two blue and one black so we would have a spare in case a grown-up in the household wanted to pack a lunch or if one didn’t make it home. It’s worked out awesomely. Like, the boxes fit easily but snugly inside, nothing shifts around, the front pocket holds snacks and the top mesh compartment fits an ice pack. It’s like I designed a cooler bag just for my purposes, which never happens for me!

Anyone else tried to feed their kids cold mac and cheese? Others weirdos like me who prefer their pasta or pizza less-than-hot?

PS: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own, and I have not received compensation for anything written. Keepin’ it real.


Author: Dani @ Painting Sunny

Hi there! I'm Dani, and it's lovely to meet you. My little family just moved to the quaint little college-town of Ithaca, NY and are loving it. Come hang out with me and talk about food, books, art, and other odd little things.

35 thoughts on “Let’s Do Lunch Again Sometime

  1. Thanks for the ideas Dani! Keep psoting your ideas! I enjoy reading them!

  2. My daughter loves cold mac n’cheese. She has requested it in her lunch on more than one occasion. So, no, you are not crazy :)

  3. My childs school will not allow cold pizza or pastas. They take them and microwave them before the kids can eat them. I send it anyway. We eat cold stuff at home, I don’t know why it’s any different at school…

    • Oh wow, that’s interesting! The kids are totally fine having cold pizza; they eat it and it doesn’t bother me. :) both of their schools will not heat anything, so if I want to send something warm it would have to be in a thermos, and I just haven’t even attempted that yet! Xo, Dani

  4. Hi! I was just wondering if you toasted the bagels/english muffins (namely the english muffins) and did they get soggy in the container? thanks!

    • I actually do toast them a little bit! The first couple of times I didn’t, but them I began toasting them just a bit less than I would at home, so they are still soft but just a little toasted. They seem to hold up better and not become soggy if I’ve toasted them. I also only put thin layers of butter, jelly, peanut butter, etc. and that seems to help! :) xo, Dani

  5. While we LOVE cold pizza in my house, cold Mac n cheese, well, not so much! We use Thermos Funtainers (which you can find on Amazon for half the price if you aren’t picky about the characters on them). They are FABULOUS. I have sent (hot) Mac n cheese, soups, even taco meat in them and they have been a hit. The trick is to fill them with boiling water for about 10 minutes, then drain and dry and fill with warm food, and they stay warm all day. I’m Always looking for new lunch ideas so thanks for posting these!!
    ~ Dani C

    • So cool when another Dani is around! :) and that is an awesome tip – I’ve thought about packing thermoses (especially when the weather starts getting cool, which here in the Northeast will be rather early) and will totally take your tip on the Funtainers. Clearly, warm Mac and cheese is the way to go for my kiddos… Xoxo, Dani

    • Was going to say that we send mac and cheese in Thermos Funtainers too! Boiling water in them first is the trick! in the winter my kids often take soup that way. I make grilled chees sandwiches in the morning and put them in their bags too … obviously those are not still hot at lunch but they just like them cut in strips and they dunk them in the soup

      • I have actually sent grilled cheese in a thermos! Do the boiling water trick, cut the grilled cheese in half (or strips) and wrap each half (or strips) in foil before putting it in the thermos. Stays warm and doesn’t get soggy! ~Dani C

      • Soup without grilled cheese is like a hug without a squeeze, right? :) Those are awesome ideas! Grilled cheese is one of those rare foods that I’m guaranteed to have the kids eat, so I’m so glad to have this guidance on how to get it into their school lunch! The boiling water tip for thermoses is great – I would never have thought of that on my own! You guys are awesome :) xo, Dani

  6. I just found your blog via Pinterest – this post had been pinned! Great ideas – I’m seven years into making-lunches-for-school – and am always looking for new ideas. Though my kids have been happily eating vegemite sandwiches every single day of their school lives – I like to mix up everything else I put in. I LOVED your voila/viola comment, really funny. It would definitely have been a mad segue (segway?) to have been talking about violas all of a sudden! Cat

    • Thanks so much for coming over from Pinterest! I don’t think I have eve actually had Vegemite will am totally open to trying new things, and if your kiddos eat it every day it must be good! :) I also always misspell “definitely” as “defiantly”… Another big difference in context! Xo, Dani

  7. Thanks for this post. It’s very helpful. BTW – my kids like cold mac & cheese. So I don’t a hard time for that meal, especially the boy who also likes frozen mini pizzas from Trader Joe’s uncooked. It’s an acquired taste. We use the EasyLunches containers too. I send in water using Reduce Water Week kids bottles because I like to “grab & go” effort of them, and I like the tray that comes with them. I love the lunch box you posted!

    • I so wish my kids would get on board with this cold mac and cheese thing! :) I will look up those water bottles for sure – we have several kids water bottles but none so far that I’ve really become attached to. Thanks for the tip! :) xo, Dani

  8. I found this through Pinterest. Thanks for the ideas. I’ll definitely be adding homemade muffins and probably quesadillas to my lunches. I do feel compelled to tell you that Eclipse is the third installment of Twilight.

    • Umm, yes you are totally right about Eclipse! Clearly, this is a good reason for me to re-read and re-watch the books and movies again, I think. :) Thanks so much for stopping by, and I’ll be posting some new muffins soon I’m planning to try out! xo, Dani

  9. I just started using these lunch boxes and love them. My daughter loves pizza lunchables but I refuse to buy them and decided to make my own. I bought flaky layer biscuits (the Grands) and pulled each one into 2 pieces. I rolled each piece just a little, pricked it with a fork, and baked on parchment. They turned out PERFECT!! They actually look almost identical to the crusts in the store bought one. My daughter ate the whole thing and asked if she could take them for lunch everyday in 1st grade! Score 1 for mommy!!! I put the cheese in one section and the pizza sauce in the little dip cup.

    • Wow, that is brilliant! Having the cheese and sauce separate must keep it fresh, and that is a great use of the different compartments. My daughter doesn’t eat meat, but my son loves pepperoni’s and we keep a bag of them, so this would be easy to just slip a few to the side for him. Thanks so much for the awesome idea, I will try this for sure :) xo, Dani

  10. Did you notice the watermelon leaking juice into the other parts? I love these boxes and that is my only complaint- didn’t know if you found a way around that! Loved your lunch ideas!

    • You know, I did have that happen once (and when I used them with watermelon in the medium compartment several days in a row I noticed a very slight discoloration of the plastic there) but the other times I think the watermelon was either a little less juicy, or once when I cut it up I set the pieces down on a paper-towel momentarily before packing them and that seemed to help. Why does watermelon have to be so delicious and yet so messy?! I’ve also thought about tucking a small piece of plastic-wrap over the top of any wet stuff. Anyone else tried this? XO, Dani

  11. Whenever I do mac n cheese, I put it in a small thermos container. It is usually still warm enough by lunch and kids eat it up! On those days I don’t use the easy lunch boxes but they are a staple in this house!

    • I have totally got to get on this thermos thing! I’m thinking there have to be other possibilities with it too. Veggie chili, maybe? Before the weather turns cold, I’m def investing in one and looking for some thermos-lunch-ideas, so let me know if you have any other tips! :) XO, Dani

  12. You can pack mac and cheese or any hot food/ dinner leftovers with a small thermos ( I suggest brand name, the generic ones weren’t as good). We have one that holds 10-12 ozs, and fits perfectly in my sons lunch box. Just put boiling water in it for about 5-10 minutes to get the internal temp up, then dump the water and add your pre heated food. Stays warm until lunch and the kids are happy campers! It’s great for giving them soup in the colder months too. Just throw in some cheese and soft breadsticks :)

    • Breadsticks with soup is a great idea! My kids do love anything bread-related. :) I’ll definitely want to switch into some hot lunches, now that we live in a colder climate! xo, Dani

  13. I came for the lunchbox ideas, but now I’m realy curious. Is highschool only 4 years?!
    I went to primary school for 8 years and highschool for 6 years in the Netherlands, and I know in France it’s 7 years.

    • I think most places in the US it is four years! I honestly couldn’t have handled any more awkward teen age years – but maybe High School is cooler in the Netherlands or France? ;) That explains the whole Hogwarts being 8 years, though, since it is from the UK! I think here elementary school is usually Kindergarten through 5th or 6th grade,middle school is 5th or 6th grade through 8th grade, and then High school is 6 or 7th grade through 9th grade… anyone else have a different US public school experience? xo, Dani

      • Hogwarts goes from age 11 to 17 so its like middle school and high school combined.

        I have a question: How do you put a hot thermos (we have a FUNtainer) in a lunchbox and still have an icepack for the rest of the lunch? We don’t send a lot of hot food to school here in South Florida, but I was wondering if anyone had a good trick.

      • Yeah, I have totally got some re-reading to do! :) That is a great question about the thermos – I wonder if on days a thermos is packed, cold items just aren’t packed that day? Cheese with the soup sounds so good, though! :) I hope somebody answers!

      • We have lunch boxes with 2 seperate sections so on days I pack hot and cold I will keep them separate and it has seemed to work so far!
        ~dani c

  14. My kids eat their Mac n cheese cold too. I’m told my kids must be weird, lol. Love the lunch ideas! I’ve also done mini bagels with cream cheese – a big hit with my 10 yr old

    • I was totally that weird kid, then – I always loved pasta and pizza cold! :) I mean, if noodles can be cold and so can cheese, cold mac & cheese just seems logical. Cream cheese is a great idea – That may have to be added to next week’s lunches! My 3 year-old just started eating it and I love that there are different flavor combinations possible! xo, Dani

  15. Pingback: The School Lunch Round-Up: End of Summer Fast Approaching | painting sunny

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