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Monday, October 24, 2011

I need some new lunch ideas

Ro and Ree tried hot lunch at school and hated it. They begged to have “mama lunch” every day instead. So I pack them lightning-fast lunches while they’re having breakfast each day. The problem is that it’s only October and I already feel like I’m mindlessly packing the same few things Every Single Flipping Day. I need to make some visual menus of tasty things that are easy to pack and won’t spoil easily so that I can break out of this yawner lunch rut. Those menus worked wonders on our home lunches, and I’m hoping that I can modify them to focus on packable food and they’ll kick our school lunches in the pants too. Maybe I’ll work on that this weekend.

In the meantime, here are a few lunches that pass the Ro and Ree “we’re practically vegetarians” litmus test. They all include some combo of protein, starch, and fruit -- and the proteins are usually turkey deli meat, cheese (havarti for Ree and white cheddar for Ro), yogurt, peanut butter, hard-boiled egg, avocado, or nuts.

The Bagel Thins and Sandwich Thins they sell now are always popular. I guess the girls don’t like too much bread:

Buttered tortilla or tortilla cheese wrap-ups are good options. Actually buttered anything is. They would eat butter with a spoon if we let them. We keep Smuckers Uncrustables in the freezer for the mornings like today when the alarm doesn’t go off and we wake with only 17 minutes to get out the door (&*$%!!):

Cookie cutter shapes out of bread (like the hearts or the apples) always get gobbled up. For yummy apple slices, I cut the apples, put in a ziploc bag, sprinkle with cinnamon, and shake:

Hm, I’m noticing a lot of pretzel sticks in these lunches. Booooooooring.

Food markers always make them grin. And the girls love Trader Joe’s onigiri, but I usually pack it in the hot thermoses. They gave this room-temperature try a thumbs down:

We use these divided ziploc containers most days. I pack them in Ro and Ree’s insulated lunchboxes on top of big icepacks. I also do a few hot lunches in those squatty thermos things that have soup or parmesan buttered noodles. I guess I’ve never taken a picture of those.

So, help a mama out here. What are your go-to packable lunches that always result in big smiles and empty lunchboxes?

Post 24 of 31 in Oct Daily Life


  1. Anonymous10/24/2011

    How about:
    - mixed cheese rounds, hummus, egg salad, or tuna salad in TJ's mini pitas?
    - healthy, homemade trail mix?
    - a homemade protein shake in a thermos(or packed frozen)?
    - a mini muffin with nuts/fruit?
    - carrot/raisin/pineapple salad?
    - baked beans (well, maybe not)?
    - a "Smart Dog"?
    - TJ's veggie chili?
    - yogurt, with or without your own add-ins?
    - cottage cheese salad (with gelatin, cool whip, fruit, nuts)?
    - buy school lunch once per menu?

  2. Fun, thanks! (what's a smart dog, by the way?)

  3. Those lunches look lovely - very appetizing. How do you put on the text? Like that! I have no new ideas for you though. In comparison my boys'lunches look very simple - just two/three slices of wholegrain bread with peanutbutter or cheese etc and some fruit and drink.

    Something that struck me: you use white bread; I live in the Netherlands and white bread is not eaten much here. It is sort of 'not done' to give your child white bread :):). Waaaaay too unhealthy, M3 :). If I use lunch at work I eat white bread though, and also feel a bit uncomfortable about that too... But in the US there is no campaign from the government, I guess? XX Anne

  4. Anonymous10/25/2011

    def more interesting than my kids lunch boxes
    the only thing we do diff is that i bake muffins every 2 weeks with the kids and we freeze them and pull them out of the freezer fresh each day, mostly with fruit of some sort in them.
    Rice crackers and Hummus
    or carrots/cucumber and hummus
    sultanas i think thats what you call raisons?
    -one fav snack is dry noodles?, they are like a chinese/singapore noodle with a flavouring on them and packaged in an individual serve - all natural ingredient? no idea if you have them over there ?


  5. Anonymous10/25/2011

    do you still have that bento link you used to have?

    i remember she did some on the go lunches, would that help?

  6. The first commenter gave you most of my ideas.
    My biggest idea is to do it the night before. I make lunches either as I am making supper or cleaning up from it. If we have leftover veggie sticks, or fruit from supper, those go in the lunches. Same with little containers of leftover salad or small cubes of chopped up meat. IF we had pasta that is saved to heat up for thermoset in the morning.
    It works for us, saves me stress and time because the stuff is already out. I am too big of a stress monkey to have to do deal with it in the morning.

  7. Delurking to say that I'm seriously jealous. I'd be thrilled if my food-phobic (yes, seriously, but by age 8 it's getting marginally better) would eat even half that stuff. Here in Israel children take a healthy breakfast (usually a sandwich) with them to school, while lunch is eaten after school, but here are a few of the things my two take:

    Salami (on sandwich with hummus for one kid, just plain slices for the other)

    omelette sandwiches - very Israeli. Make a thin omelette and stick on bread/roll/pita with/without ketchup or hummus, and with a slice of cheese or veggies right in the sandwich if they'll let you

    Leftover pizza

    Leftover pancakes (no syrup) - can be used to make a sandwich too

    Little savory pastries (bourekas)


    (Oh my god, is that seriously all they're eating, there must be more...)

    Ooh, and these Full Meal Muffins - I stick in a few chocolate chips too to make them think they're getting away with something ;).

    Hope some of these help.

  8. Oh, and of course a bit of cut up fruit or veg - even my picky one will eat carrot sticks and cucumbers, and red peppers under a bit of duress.

  9. I feel like I'm in a lunch rut too and I'va already got some new ideas thanks to you.

  10. I'm not much help, but CVS has crackers that taste like cheese nips (but less salty) that are shaped like stars. They are really cute and darn cheap.

  11. don't feel bad. My boy only takes lunchable pizza EVERY day. I feel bad, but that's ALL he will eat.
    And this helps more than you think. I pack his lunch the night before, but it in the fridge. It's cold & ready to go when we oversleep.

  12. I think I'd put in some white chocolate chips (just a few) and a mozarella stick wrapped in a piece of salami with a toothpick through it (the colored toothpicks of course). I'd put a green olive and a black olive through each side of the toothpick.

  13. Bagel thins with cream cheese and jelly
    Mini corn muffins with "stuff" mixed in it - leftover rotisserie chicken, taco meat and cheese, ham. Bake them as you would normal corn muffins. (I make a double batch and freeze them all. I pack a couple in the lunch frozen and they thaw by lunchtime.)
    Our own "lunchables" with summer sausage, cheese and crackers.
    Good luck on the never-ending lunch struggle!

  14. My son is a vegetarian and I pack a lunch for him everyday. I always do a "main," a fruit, and a veg, and sometimes include a "treat."

    Mains (things with * get packed in a squat thermos to stay warm):
    -peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat (booooring, but he loves 'em)
    -macaroni and cheese*
    -baked or fried tofu (usually leftovers)
    -rice and black or red beans*
    -grilled cheese sandwich*
    -hummus and dippables (crackers, pita chips, mini pitas, whatever vegetables we have on hand)
    -Smart dogs or Trader Joe's meatless corndogs (Smart Dogs are a brand of vegetarian hot dogs) wrapped in foil b/c they won't fit in the thermos
    -English muffin or tortilla pizzas or leftover slice of pizza
    -"taco pizza" a tortilla with vegetarian taco crumbles (I usually use grated tempeh for that, with taco seasoning) and melted cheddar on top
    -refried bean and cheese burritos/roll-ups
    -tortellini with pesto*
    -buttered pasta*
    -hard boiled eggs
    -"breakfast for lunch" with pancakes (I pre-make and freeze them)
    -sliced, sauteed vegetarian sausage (we love Field Roast brand)

    -apples (whole, or slices with cinnamon)
    -pear (whole, or cubed with cinnamon)

    Veg (we're in a VERY picky stage here):
    -red pepper strips

    -mozzarella stick
    -banana oatmeal or blueberry muffin (I bake in bulk and keep in the freezer, they defrost by lunchtime)
    -a couple Cat cookies from Trader Joe's

    He also gets a snack at school everyday and that is usually a different fresh fruit, or craisins/raisins, or nuts, or trail mix.

  15. Anonymous10/25/2011

    What's wrong with eating butter with a spoon? Ha...that's how much I like butter too. I think because my dad would give us a spoonful of butter when we were little. Funny.

    Your lunches look yummy but always great to get new ideas.

    Aunt Jane :-)

  16. I am on my 8th year of packing lunches and I've found the easiest way to do it, imo. Similar to a previous commenter, in the morning I pack last night's dinner in a thermos (easily prepared in the am while I'm heating water for my tea). The night before, I've cut up the fruit and veggies and they are already in the lunchbox alongside either a sweet or crunchy treat. We use the laptop lunches system, though I've just discovered the gogreen lunchboxes and have lunchbox envy. Anyway, it takes less than 3 minutes to do that in the am and the meals are always different so they (and I) don't get bored.
    Smart Dogs are veggie hot dogs.
    My kids eat hot lunch twice a month when it's pizza day. :-)
    Good luck!

  17. Anne: you can get a box of Wilton edible food markers -- fun felt pens that can write on food. Oh and I am sneakily converting them from white bread, shhhh, don't tell the girls! The sandwich thins were the easiest to change because they have a yummy honey wheat multigrain type. Haven't found a good plain bread that they'll eat yet.

    Mette -- I forgot about those dry noodles! They used to love those. I'll try them.

    Love the muffins ideas!

  18. string cheese stix, goldfish sandwich bread (already cookie cutter shaped!) Tiny boxes of raisins. Baby carrots. I found little tiny sauce boxes with lids at the dollar store (10 for 1$!) and i use those to put in dips or a few candy corn/m&ms every once in awhile.
    Also, I find that it's best if I make up a weeks worth of goodies at once, so that way every time i pack I'm not reinventing the wheel. So I'll make up 5 bags of rainbow goldfish and 5 bags of pretzels and she can get one a day. And I'm done with that for 2 weeks! WOOT.

    And I pack at night. I've got no time to do it in the morning. ANd you've got TWO to do! I'm impressed you do it in the AM!!

  19. Dude, I totally forgot, NUTELLA. We can't have peanut butter at our school, so Em has Nutella sandwiches a lot. Also, little mini pepperonis. Those are fun.

  20. Anonymous10/25/2011

    We buy Gogurts and freeze them. I just put them in their boxes in the mornings so they are mostly thawed by the time they eat lunch. They love them frozen too.

    I invested in a good thermos for each child recently and so they love taking hot food while everyone else has just a sandwich. We do regular soups, ramen noodles, spaghetti noodles with butter and cheese, etc. In fact, while the old thermos sometimes let things cool too much, they now complain that their food stays too hot.

  21. Anonymous10/25/2011

    For "Smart Dog" info, see:


    I find them at Fresh & Easy stores. The "Smart Ground" is good, too, especially for pasta sauce and veggie chili.

  22. Anonymous10/25/2011

    Another vote for leftovers. My son has always prefered most food at room temperature so it works well. Plan ahead and make extra of dinner the night before. My son will take almost anything he liked for dinner as lunch the next day. Have your lunch boxes out when you're serving dinner, and fill them as you fill plates. I put the lids on the lunch containers and put them directly into the refrigerator before we even eat dinner. Next morning all you need to do is put the prepared containers into the lunch box.

    Depending on the size of the meal, sometimes I add a piece of fruit (cut up) or carrot sticks/broccoli trees/other veggie.

    Add a drink (we use refillable 8-ounce bottles). Milk tends not to be good after it sits the morning. He usually prefers juice with his lunch, for his one juice serving of the day. Most fruit juices keep, but he insists orange juice tastes gross by lunchtime. Sometimes he chooses plain water. Toss in a freezer pack, or not, depending on the outside temperature and you're done.

    Sweets and deserts (other than plain fruit) are banned at my son's school, so they're not even an option.

  23. I'm not much help as I only pack (borning) lunches for myself but one thing I thought of was rice cakes with peanut butter. One of Hannah's faves.

  24. My 2.5 year old is super picky, but he will eat a sandwich on the new Pepperidge Farm Goldfish bread. It is very thin, just like the sandwich rounds. It flies off our store shelves, so you may have to check a couple places to find it in stock. It comes in Honey Wheat!

    The girls may be "too big" for all the Earth's Best products he eats. But all their stuff is organic and vitamin fortified. You may be able to talk them into some of their crackers or snack bars. Quick and easy!

    He also eats a lot of Annie's products.

    Check out the Morning Star Farms Spicy Black Bean Burger too!

  25. What about pasta salad? We use Annie's Mac & Cheese, cool it, add ranch, peas and/or carrots, shredded cheese, diced chicken or ham, maybe boiled egg?

    F&B really like it.

  26. Anonymous10/25/2011

    Try Dave's bread, specifically their raisin bread. It is nutritious (whole wheat) and when toasted with butter it is delicious. I eat two slices for breakfast nearly everyday. At room temperature it is just divine.

    Smart Dogs are vegetarian hot dogs. TJ's has them.

  27. Oh, and stuffed muffins (taco is my fave, but F&B also like corn dog, chili, etc). Or mini quiches if they like eggs?

  28. Anonymous10/25/2011

    You have way more variety than we do! But I can add
    -turkey rolled up with cream cheese and a toothpick through it.
    -Trader Joe's pumpkin pancakes (we don't eat them with syrup). I make them in the morning.
    -Cheesy popcorn.
    -Those seaweed wrap things with rice and avocado or tuna.
    -oatmeal in a thermos.
    -soup in a thermos.
    -drinkable yogurt.

    Casey doesn't really like bread, so it makes it tough.

    You are lucky you are allowed to send nuts! We have a no nut rule here. I'm going to make a list now from your blog and the comments. I always mean to but I never do.

    Oh my coworker buys one "lunchable" every week, and if she is running late one day she uses it, otherwise she sends it Friday.


  29. I was also surprised at how many people suggested peanut butter. Practically no where around here (including our church and all the public schools) will allow peanuts and most won't even allow tree nuts either. It can be challenging, and you are doing a much better job than me already!

  30. We use a thermos a fair amount too. Spencer's favorites are:
    Spaghetti & Meatballs
    Black beans, rice & chicken
    Non thermos favorites
    Dim Sum
    chicken & black bean burrito w/ cheese, avocado & apple. Heat the tortilla for a few minutes on the stove top to soften, use sour cream to seal it.
    Sandwiches on the Hawaiian sweet bread mini rolls -- favorites are chicken, a meat ball, tuna or salmon salad
    Frozen yogurt tubes, fruit crushers
    chips and guacamole
    with each lunch he gets fresh fruit and some sort of vegie and a muffin (we've been making pumpkin lately in honor of fall!) or some other little treat -- often a few chocolate chips and mini marshmallows.
    We use a laptop lunchable or planet box lunchbox and also have a thermos for cold so we can send milk or a smoothie to drink.
    Do you know weelicious.com? She has great ideas and recipes.

  31. My first grader loves repetition in his lunches, I guess maybe it is comforting to him? He goes to a small school that does not have a cafeteria, so pretty much every day I pack a sandwich (peanut butter or turkey), sharp cheddar cheese in cubes, tortilla chips or pretzels, and a fruit (strawberries, grapes or apples). Occasionally he requests refried beans (they have a microwave in the classroom). On the other hand, he seriously fantasizes about being able to eat cafeteria food! He still waxes nostalgic about the mashed potatoes they served at his daycare...

  32. Anonymous10/25/2011

    I make my kids tell me ideas for lunches (usually on Saturday or Sunday) what they want so I can make sure I have everything 'in stock' Of course, I have veto power, but usually they remember ideas I've forgoteen. Between their ideas and mine, we do well--I always write it down, b/c I might not remember halfway through the week. I pack in advance whenever I can. It helps so much to make numerous lunches at once and freeze them. Baked tofu, cucumber slices, and cheese cubes are favs. I'm also trying to transition to them packing once a week for themselves--good skills, and it helps me out.

  33. My daughter doesn't like bread so I roll lunchmeat and put it on a toothpick. Hummus and pita is popular, cheese and crackers, rice cakes, rasins, tomatoes and boconcini (sp?), salads, tuna salad (just tuna, mayo and celery, no bread), soup, chili, pasta, cold macaroni salad, bagles and cream cheese.
    I am enjoying the suggestions too!!

  34. I forgot to say that Minigos and yogurt tubes are very popular with my kids.
    We are not allowed peanut butter or any other nuts or nut butters so we have them for breakfast.

    I have several pictures /ideas on Pinterest ...

  35. Anonymous10/25/2011

    Most days (for the kiddo and myself) I pack the previous night's dinner.In fact, what I usually do is after dinner is made, I'll portion out our lunches in the glass snap-lock containers... THEN we eat dinner. So usually the kiddo (first grade) will take some form of veggie, carb, protein. For instance, today's lunch was leftover mac & cheese, some steamed broccoli, and roasted chicken drumstick. On the side were some apple slices (plus water). I'll heat the food up in the morning as I make breakfast, and pack everything into an insulated lunchbox. She doesn't mind that it's room temperature.

    On some days I'll pack a sandwich, no nuts allowed: deli meat or hummus (I've never done egg salad or tuna salad b/c of the mayo sitting out) usually on sandwich thins or sometimes stuffed into a mini pita. When I make sandwiches I'll usually serve it with carrot/celery sticks, or lightly steamed green beans, and some sort of fruit and water. I'm afraid I'm not much help in offering new and exciting lunch ideas, but I have to say, packing the previous night's dinner has helped me tremendously.
    Good luck!

  36. One hit here is what I named lettuce roll ups. We use large pieces or romane lettuce (cut to approx. size of a piece of bread) put ham and cheese with mustard and sometimes long thin pepper slices and roll it up. Kinda looks like a canoli size roll. The teacher thinks it is great and Hannah Grace prefers veggies and meat and can do without bread.

    Cold pasta salad is another favorite. Any olives, small tomatoes, tiny piece of peppers,carrots and pasta with italian dressing. Or any combination of veggies in the frig works great.

    We do a small regular salad with ham and cheese rolled up on top. Kinda like a small chief salad.

    Our grocery store also carries what looks like a lunchable in the produce section, they have celery sticks, carrot sticks, peapods and small tomatoes with dip it.

    We enjoy all your ideas. Hope you like ours.

    Blessings from CT
    Caroline & Hannah Grace

  37. Another favorite, is celery with peanut butter and I top with seeds, pumpkin or others, or sometimes, cranberries or raisins. Cream cheese also makes a great filling if you can't use peanut butter.

    We also do a cracker, cheese cubes, pepperoni with olives or pickles.

    It is great seeing all the ideas.

    Caroline & Hannah Grace

  38. AmyinTexas10/25/2011

    So glad to see this post! I pack a "laptop lunchbox" for my three kids each day. None of my kids like sandwiches, and my youngest can't take nuts to school. As he isn't a big fan of protein, it's a struggle to come up with things that aren't crackers and fruit. My older kids like frozen burritos (the height of health food - not), pot stickers, and a variety of leftovers like pasta, mac-n-cheese, and the occasional quesadilla.

  39. I stole your idea and blogged and linked to you...so here's back at you with my picture lunch menu:


    That means we've now linked in a full circle, which MIGHT crash the internet, creating a black hole that could end all of existence. I don't KNOW, but you know...it's a concern.

  40. Thank you for this post ... I am SO in a rut with Maya's lunch! What I dislike most of all is when I put what I think is a creative lunch together for her and it comes home 1/2 eaten. Grrr! So, I'm copying these ideas and coming up with a master list for Maya to help choose lunch items. Perhaps we'll rotate on a weekly basis. I'll let you know how it goes!

  41. Anonymous10/25/2011

    dried abricots
    dried dates

    pita bread segments with cream cheese, or other spreads

    homemade little meatballs (keep in the freezer and break them out one or two at a time)

    pottles of semolina or custard, rice puddin or porridge (made the night before and kept in the fridge) with apple sauce on top.


    cooked chick peas (canned ones are ok, no cooking required) seasoned with pesto

    cooked green peas (more for babies, who love to pick them up with two fingers)

    puffed corn or puffed wheat (as is)

    fruit leather (made of 100% fruit pulp only)

    Would love to see your amalgamated version on your site for later reference :-)

    Pat from New Zealand

  42. Anonymous10/26/2011

    Fresh pasta (tortellini)

    Italian bread sticks (instead of pretzel sticks), you'll have to break them into pieces as they would be too long otherwise

    Pat from New Zealand

  43. Anonymous10/26/2011

    Apart from all the nuts suggested I am also surprised by the amount of sugar and salt.

    I am more frugal,
    we use water to drink,
    half or one whole fruit (variation) or fruitsalad
    one or two vegetables, carrots, cucumber, tomatoes, mixed salad
    yoghurt (small size)
    brown bread with lettuce, cheese or meat or a salad with pasta, chicken, meatballs etc

    my kids do not get muffins, pretzels ets except for Saturdays when we go heavy on sugar and salt.


  44. Anonymous10/26/2011

    Very picky- which went from one extreme to the other. When I brought her home she would eat anything anytime.

    She always wants hot food in a thermos. I warm the thermos up with hot water which I empty out before I fill it.I buy a box of plastic spoons.

    -fried rice (I buy a big container of take out)
    -Ramain noodles
    -Ravoli and sauce
    -spaghetti & meatballs
    -chicken & dumpling chunky soup
    -mac & cheese
    -Stoufers Swedish meatballs

  45. As the mother who packs peanut butter and honey or sunbutter and honey -- for the child assigned to the peanut-free classroom -- every single day, I can't wait to read the suggestions.

    I do have four baskets in my pantry with easy items I regularly put in lunches: bags of Pirate Booty, raisins, Kid's Cliff Z Bars and squeezable apple sauce in various flavors -- strawberry/apple, banana/apple, carrot apple.

    I also put in yogurt smoothies with a little freezer pack and I make mac and cheese every once in awhile and send it in a thermos.

    What you're sending looks infinitely more exciting!

  46. Wanted to mention for all the nut questions that our school was completely nut free for kindergarten, but for grades 1-6 they have separate "food allergy" tables where the kids with allergies sit. So kids without allergies are allowed to bring anything in snacks and lunches, and the kids with allergies sit in the designated areas and know not to share food with anyone else.

  47. I'm sure you probably do, but do you ever make kabobs? my kids love apples, cheese, grapes and salami kabobs! :o)

  48. Hi there :)

    I came across this website recently and I think it's right up your alley! There's a chance you've already heard of it, but if not then I hope it helps.


  49. Anonymous10/26/2011

    Anna, we scrape the salt off our pretzels before giving them to the kids and with muffins, the upside about making your own (although a bit of work), you don't need to add any sugar (works well if you have dried fruit or berries in them) or make savoury muffins to begin with :-)

    Pat from New Zealand

  50. Tess' school is also nut free. A few times and I forgot and packed cashews for her, thankfully that didn't cause issues.

    She also doesn't like bread, and doesn't like buying her lunch.

    We're pretty boring in that we almost always pack a meat and a cheese - the meat is either ham, pepperoni (yes the big sandwich kind) or chicken (we buy a rotisserie chicken once a week). We always do a fruit - some type of berry or an apple usually, sometimes a Trader Joe's dried strawberry. Then I do a combination of other things like sweetened rice cakes, cheez its, tortilla chips or a Greek yogurt.

    Every once in a while we do hot lunch with something she really liked from the previous nights dinner - noodles, or pork chops (pre-cut up for her) and rice.

    I wish she liked the options your girls seem to eat!

  51. Nutella, Sunbutter, olives, string cheese, StoneyField Farms yogurt tubes, dried cereal in a small dish, ham roll ups - slice of deli ham, cream cheese, pickle in center - roll and leave as a roll to pick up and eat or slice into smaller, bite size pieces to eat, V-8 Fusion drinks, Ramen noodles....these are just a few more "go to" things I use to liven up lunch. I have to admit, most days it is the same sandwich, fruit, yogurt, drink....your lunches are already way more exciting!!

  52. I love this site, not sure if you know about it but you can get so many ideas here: Happy Little Bento.

  53. You should check out the blogs Another Lunch & Wendolina for lunch ideas. :)

  54. Try making the lunches the night before. We have ice packs that we put in the lunchboxes too.
    My daughter does not like bread, so I do turkey or ham roll ups a lot. Lately she is into soup so in the morning we will heat soup in the micro, then put in her thermos for lunch. Makes her happy!
    Kim O

  55. Don't be hard on yourself. The girls would probaby like making their own lunch bags.

    You probably already got this comment already but there are a ton of bento blogs out there that should give you limitless ideas! I wish my daughter had a variety of an appetite like your daughters do. She has become picky as soon as she turned 3.

    You can go everyday with packing them a different fruit and you don't have to get the same fruit for each unless they want that. And you don't have to get a pound of it either.

    In addition to pretzels you can try goldfish, peanut butter crackers, pita chips.

    You can also go everyday with a different veggie. Grape tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, for instance.

    Also you can go daily with a different cheese stick or slice.

    Also a hard boiled egg shaped in a favorite character.

    Or the yogurt sticks?

    Or those Japanese rice balls that have salmon in it or shrimp.

    How about olives?

    In addition to PBJ sandwiches you can do ham and cheddar or turkey and swiss. Instead of sandwiches you can do wraps. BLT wraps?

    Here are the bento sites I like are:

    Good luck!