Before you pack another PB & J for lunch, let’s talk about how these easy bento lunches can add variety to your lunch routine without much effort.
While packing a PB & J for lunch is easy and it’s one thing most kids never grow tired of, we as parents want to pack lunches that include a variety of ingredients that add nutrition to their lunchbox and, most importantly, that come together fast!
That’s why I love packing quick lunches like this – it helps me assemble a balanced meal with the variety my kids love, plus the nutrition they need with items I have on hand.
Check out this video with all my tips for packing lunches fast in the morning or the night before.
One of my favorite shortcuts is using Libby’s® Vegetable Cups. They are single-serve veggie cups that fit perfectly into a lunchbox, making them convenient for getting more veggies into your kids’ meals. My kids love them because they come in a cup and somehow that makes eating their vegetables more fun. Crazy, but hey, it works!
They come in a variety of options, including: Cut Green Beans, Whole Kernel Sweet Corn, Diced Carrots, Peas & Carrots, and Sweet Peas, so lunch is never boring. Sometimes, I’ll send the Whole Kernel Sweet Corn and other days the Sweet Peas or Cut Green Beans. You can send them sealed or drain the water and place the veggie cup inside the lunch container; it’s totally up to you!
My kids prefer them drained and inside the lunchbox, so having a bento box or a lunch container with compartments like this one is so helpful because it keeps the ingredients separate and “nothing touches.”
Packing the rest is a breeze; I usually mix and match proteins like deli ham, turkey, or hard-boiled eggs, plus strawberries, sliced apples or blueberries as the fruit.
Lately, my family and I have been making protein roll-ups; deli ham, turkey, or roast beef and cheese rolled up. They are an excellent way to pack in the protein and easier than making a sandwich. Plus, kids love all things hand-held.
Another great shortcut is packing all the lunches for the week, like this one, all at once! Most of the basic ingredients stay fresh for long periods of time, 3- to 5-days, so keeping a homemade lunch in the fridge is the perfect grab-and-go option for busy families.
To switch things up a bit, I sometimes add some chicken salad instead of the roll-ups, or I turn the roll-ups into a wrap or sandwich. Regardless of what the main attraction might be, the veggie cup and fruit are always sent on the side.
I will say that if you pack lunches the night before, your mornings will go a little smoother, but if not, most of these ingredients are easy to keep on hand and in the pantry for easy grab and go options in the morning.
Another reason I like to keep a variety of Libby’s® Vegetable Cups in the pantry is that they make a great side for the kids at dinner, or can even be used to make simple dishes like Easy Peasy Risotto, the ultimate cheesy, creamy comfort food!
There’s really no specific recipe for making healthy and fresh bentos in a time crunch. The trick is to have a variety of ingredients on hand that can fill all the compartments, and when in doubt, make it colorful and fun to eat.
I have one child that begs to take the left over rice to school. He loves black beans and cheese with it. I also add in his favorite carrots with peanut butter.
My sunshine’s favorite is hummus, cucumbers with skin off, mini colored peppers loves the yellow and orange, pita bread, pear/mangoe/pineapple fruit cup .with a thermos of cold water.
My kids love the old traditional ants on a log. I also throw in veggies as part of a pasta dish (they love anything served in a small thermos). I’ve also made them smoothies with spinach then frozen them in silicone popsicle molds. They can be messy but the kids enjoy them.
Carolina De Zan
One of my kids’ favorites is a couscous salad I make with pearl couscous, corn, diced cucumbers, red onions, tomatoes, sliced black olives, feta cheese and a balsamic vinaigrette. I pack it with a a side of sugar snap peas and fruit.
Carolina De Zan
My kids really like a couscous salad I make with pearl couscous, diced cucumbers, red onions, and tomatoes, black olives, corn, feta cheese and a balsamic vinegrette. I pack it with a side of sugar snap peas, and fruit.
Kelli K Tanguay
My kids love sliced cucumbers with ranch to dip, and then they love mac and cheese cold (i know, gross to me but they like it) so they get cold mac and cheese and an apple or pear.
You can hide almost anything in a smoothie! That’s my strategy!
My daughter loves those mini sweet peppers! We cut them up (or not) and she just munches away. Another fave in her lunch is cucumber slices. She isn’t really a *dipper* so we skip the dressing but I LOVE Southwest veggie dip (in the refrigerated section by bagged lettuce 😉 )
Yesenia Maria Delafuente
ham and bacon with cream cheese pin wheels, with cucumbers and carrot sticks and Ranch dip. Are my kids fave.
My kids love cut up veggies in their lunch, carrots, sweet peppers, cucumber, even broccoli!
My kids love steamable mixed vegetables with chicken tenders.
My son likes to pack his own lunch, and the bento style containers help to ensure he has a balanced meal. He does love his pb&j, but varies his sides. Hard boiled eggs are a favorite. I like the veggie cup idea!
We like to do homemade lunchables with carrot sticks and ranch. My 12 year old packs salad with lunch meat on top. I love these lunch containers! They make packing lunches so easy!
I always try to have some sort of veggies in my boys lunch boxes, and the rule is they have to eat them before they get their sweet treat. It’s been working so nicely so far!
I can sneak in ton of vegetables in a red sauce pasta dish which the kids will gobble ip.
I love packing my son cucumbers, adding different lettuce to his sandwiches (I need to try making the roll ups or maybe use romaine as an outer wrap? 🙂 ). I like the idea of using a veggie cup too. Adds some more variety. I’m hoping to eventually get my kiddo to eat warm soup out of a thermos. Baby steps here! This is progress, not perfection 🙂
My kids love to pack their own lunch. We use raw veggies from our garden or CSA farm box. One favorite is a garden pita sandwich with hummus.
My daughter loves an easy to make, mini “caprese salad” with mini mozzarella balls, basil and grape tomato and balsamic. Other times, we’ll make a nori wrap, with sushi rice carrots and cucumber and tofu or salmon or egg.
My favorite back to school lunch is pulled pork sandwich with cucumber slices with cheese! It’s easy since you’re using leftover from the night before and all you do is pack the pork, cucumber slices, and cheese in a container, put a hamburger bun in a sandwich bag 🙂
We love tortilla wraps with ham, cheese, cucumbers and carrots inside. Nothing special but easy and they don’t get soggy.