Screw Bento Boxes. Top 7 Things REALLY in My Kids’ Lunches

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I wanted to share a photo of how my kids’ lunches looked today:

Photo courtesy of

Yeah, right. Honestly, who has time for that crap?

The girls started kindergarten a few weeks ago, so I’ve officially become a lunch packer. Abby and Izzy “help,” but since I’m the grocery shopper, it really all comes down to me. I’m already a miserable failure and it’s time to ‘fess up. Here are the top seven things you can regularly find in my kids’ lunchboxes:

Image of Go Go Squeeze courtesy of

 because I’m so green and I love all the extra packaging. Oy.

Image courtesy of Photobucket

 Uh, can you say sodium?

Image courtesy of Photobucket

 And really…”fruit snacks?” Let’s just call them what they are. Candy.

Image courtesy of Photobucket

Image courtesy of Photobucket

Image courtesy of Photobucket

Image courtesy of Photobucket

 The string cheese may be the one actual thing that sorta saves me? Some redeeming qualities??

Now it’s your turn. What’s in YOUR kid’s lunchbox?

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  • Sherri Kuhn

    Ah, the lunchbox…sigh, don’t miss those! My son took just a plain, PB sandwich for more years than I can count and my daughter takes only a sandwich and water! And most of the time she makes it herself!

    • Anonymous


      You are so lucky. And you make me feel tons better! Thanks so much! xoxo

  • Evonne

    I don’t have time to make cute bunny lunches, so my kids pretty get what you pack.  Minus applesauce because mine don’t like it and no peanut butter because of too many allergies in the school.

    I did get creative yesterday and made burritos with cheese and lunch meat.  Turns out my son doesn’t like tortillas.  Oops!

    • Anonymous


      LOL! too bad about the tortillas! But at least you tried, right? Which is a really good thing! I may try some wrap-type sandwiches for the girls…

  • Anonymous

    the girls lunches look similar to Noah’s…lol  he get a Yoplait kids, Juicey Juicey juice box and a Snackwells pkg most days

    • Anonymous


      Hooray! Same story here. SO relieved to hear from moms who are on the same wavelength… ;-)

  • nicole_asmanyasgiven

    PB&J every day, applesauce or a fruit can, small serving of chips, water. Every day. I let them buy once a week if they want to. Every once in a while I make ham and cheese or something if they ask before I start making the lunches. Sometimes fresh fruit. But mostly boring. I will never make something like that first picture, even if I do give them that kind of food.

    • Anonymous


      You are awesome & make me feel like I’m a normal mom! ;-) thank you!

  • Kirsten

    we’re on a Costco-tub O’ Goldfish right now, and we do the string cheese.  Oh, and she just informed me yesterday that the string cheese is a no go
    b/c its warm & squishy when she gets it.  That actually kind of
    grossed me out too.  I’m sick to death of packing healthy stuff they won’t eat & bring home all festering, or just throw away so they don’t hear the lecture. Sandwiches….well.  I feel so superior b/c I use ORGANIC peanut paste, dontcha know. :) 

    • Anonymous


      Ewww, now I am rethinking string cheese–but mine eat lunch pretty early at school, so maybe it’s not an issue? hmmmm. And yes, we get out Goldfish from Costco! ;-)

  • Nancy C

    Oh, sweetie. I think they all look like that. Add a tootsie roll to mine!

    • Anonymous


      Ooooh, what a good idea! LOVE IT! and you! xoxox

  • kim/reluctant renovator

    Love this post. I admire the cute bentos, but ask the same question. Really? Do I have time to create edible art. I’m happy just to get a protein and a fruit or veggie (make that AND on a good day) in the box.

    • Anonymous


      Spot on, sweets. So glad I’m not alone in all of this! Thanks so much for coming by to read & leaving me some comment love!

  • Elaine

    You know what?  I TRIED SO HARD to convince B to eat school lunch today.  An UNhealthy corn dog and he still would NOT. I pack lunch every day.  And yes, many of the same things are included although his school is now peanut free so it’s even harder now… (I use sunbutter sometimes) I usually add a fruit, like an apple, banana, grapes or grape tomatoes. Also, baby carrots. Oh and he doesn’t like cheese but thankfully the other 2 do! :-) 

    • Anonymous


      How is the sunbutter? I haven’t tried that, but would be a nice change! I love that you tried to get him to eat the school lunch. Ours is pretty crappy too—the main dish, anyway. Sides are healthy.

  • Christina Eldridge

    Erin, I pack my kiddos’ lunch everyday too because school lunch is terrible.  They take water in a small stainless steel container. Took them a while to get off the juice boxes but I told them how much waste it created. They took juice for a while in the container but eventually got off of that. They usually will take leftovers and heat them up, they love having a hot lunch. Sometimes sandwiches (you know organic whole wheat breads and meats :). I use reusable BPA free containers and will pack oranges, clementines, cup up apples, grapes or berries. I only use applesauce cups if I’ve run out of fruit. Chips too :) Oh and they always get a dessert (sorta wish I hadn’t set that precident). They like Newman O’s. My best advice is train them now while they’re young! Easier than when they’re 13 and 10 :)

    • Anonymous


      We do water some of the time too, they have BPA free drink containers and sandwich containers…and I do fruit for them also, but I just catch myself (especially lately, with the pregnancy) reaching for the same/easy stuff I can just toss in there. Oh, and we LOVE NEWMAN O’s! (and the Trader Joe’s O’s, omg, it’s terrible how addicted we are!!). They do not have access to a microwave in kindergarten, so they can’t heat stuff up…..but when they are older that will be nice and easier for me, too…. Thanks for weighing in!!! xo

  • Jacki

    If it is not a lunchable, my son simply wants a PB&J sandwich.  We are going into our 5th year of them and he still loves them.  We have the go-gurt in there, and perhaps some applesauce or fruit that is lying around on the counter.  He is completely over the string cheese.

    • Anonymous


      YOU ARE MY HERO!!! So glad to hear this and thanks for stopping by to read!

  • Tracy Morrison

    I hate packing lunches. Just wait – by May it will be Doritos, Coors Light and an Oreo in a brown paper bag -  and you will feel like you deserve a gold star for sending SOMETHING. Holy hell.

    • Anonymous

      I love you, Tracy—you make me laugh! Doritos and Coors Light sounds like MY LUNCH, LOL!


  • BigMamaCass

    I only send my 3 year old with snacks but he gets pretzels and fruit juice pretty much every day.  Sometimes I even throw in a fruit roll up.  Mom of the year right here yo!

    • Anonymous


      Then we are tied for Mom of the Year! WOOT!

  • From Tracie

    Being a homeschooler, I don’t have to pack a lunch….but honestly, that doesn’t mean we are eating anything better than what your kids are eating. We do a lot of peanut butter sandwhiches and string cheese and fruit snacks (yes, candy, and yes, I love them. I also love fruit roll ups and pretty much anything else made for kids to eat.) We did have bananas today, so that might have redeemed me a little. 

    Those bento boxes are scary. I can not imagine taking the time to do all that. Katarina actually loves doing the lunch thing, so she usually makes our stuff – and that is more beautiful than the most intricate bento box. 

    • Anonymous


      Glad to hear I’m not alone! And why is it that my kids are better about eating real fruit at home? I wonder if there is pressure at school & I wonder what is in other kids’ lunches (part of the reason I posted this, actually!)…? I was also thinking why go to the effort to make those fancy bento lunches when they probably get all jostled around and messed-up in transit?!!? LOL

      • From Tracie

        I have wondered the same thing about them getting messed up in transit. nothing about bento boxes makes sense. 

  • Anonymous

    I’ve taken it to the next level of lazy and make my kids eat school lunches…which in the U.K are actually pretty healthy but also incredibly gross (soggy vegetables and meat so overcooked its like leather anyone?).  For £1.75 to eat at school I’m soooo not bothering to pack lunch for each of my three kids regardless of how much they moan ;)  In fact I’ve swung it so well that on occasion when there’s a school excursion and I HAVE to pack lunch they are thrilled to have a Peanut Butter sandwich, an apple, crackers + cheese and a yoghurt.  

    • Anonymous


      You rock! Love the lazy stuff and that your school lunches are gross there, too. I let mine eat at school sometimes, and the other days I wonder why I bother, too…LOL!

  • Jenny

    My daughter is almost two and gets a hot lunch at day care. It used to bug me that I had no control over what she ate. I had visions of fixing wonderful lunches. Their lunches are on a 5 week menu cycle prepared by a nutritionist…I can’t compete with that! I love this post!

    • Anonymous


      A nutritionist? OMG! Lucky! I am totally jealous!

  • Diana

    Jellybean is 8 months old. He had goldfish yesterday for the first time. Yep – starting him young so he knows better than to expect a bento box once school rolls around!

    • Anonymous


      WOOHOO! You are my hero! I think mine started w/ Goldfish that early too. They’re a staple around here!

  • Jennifer Williams

    She gets a PB&J, but the premade kind (she LOVES them), chips, sometimes low sugar fruit snacks/candy, sometimes cookies, sometimes a fruit cup, and then I pack her snack every day too, which is usually apple sauce and string cheese or a protein bar (she likes the Kellogg’s strawberry ones) or crackers. But she really doesn’t like crackers that much so I don’t pack those very often.

    • Anonymous


      We are SO on the same wavelength. YAY!!!  ;-) Thanks for coming by!

  • Courtney

    hahaha I was totally impressed if you made the first, because I did nothing with my daughters lunches the last few months of pregnancy! all she got today was a jelly sandwich (no peanuts butter of course so we dont kill a classmate!) apple sauce and a pumpkin muffin I unfroze from the freezer last night. i have no idea if they taste good but she seems to like them…i wont try them!

    • Anonymous


      You crack me up—love the pumpkin muffin bit!  ;-)

  • Whitley

    Erin: same thing four days a week (no school on Fridays): sandwich, cheese stick, grapes, and either banana or goldfish for snack. Sippy cup – water to drink. We put the variety in at night: vegetables, etc. – Whitley

    • Anonymous


      It does make me feel better that we do better at home. School lunches are just not ideal for lots of reasons, mostly that we’re rushing and they’re picky and I am pregnant. HAHA!

  • Theinquisitivemom

    I know. Tricky trying to balance health and what they’ll actually eat. Luckily Ella will eat a ham or turkey sandwich daily. I’m trying to make fruit snacks and granola bars “dessert “. Oh and pudding. I do string cheese (my kids like Colby jack), applesauce, crackers/chips, and fruit as sides. Plus hopefully 100% juice. What I really hate are the days I am lazy and she eats hot lunch. It is all junk. Since when are mozzarella sticks with sauce lunch?!

    • Anonymous


      I know what you mean. I let my kids do the hot lunch once a week, but it is mostly junk. I mean, at least they have milk and the sides are veggies and fruit, but the main dishes? OY! And hey—cut yourself some slack! You have 3 kids! I’m about to be in the same boat ad we need to stop calling ourselves lazy! xoxoxox

  • Leighvslaundry

    I now consider Fuitabu to be a fruit. And like you, string cheese packed lovingly in Griffin’s lunchbox makes me feel like less of a failure.

    • Anonymous

      Oh Leigh—I LOVE YOU & FRUITABU!! xoxoxoxox

  • Midwestmomments

    Ha ha! I was JUST thinking about that this morning. Who has time for those? Super cute, yes. Realistic? No.

    • Anonymous


      So happy we’re on the same wavelength! Huge sigh of relief! ;-)

  • Tulpen Elefanten

    My kid usually buys lunch. But when I do pack it’s a ham and cheese on wheat with mustard, pretzels, a yogurt, and grapes. The grapes usually come back home.

    • Anonymous


      Sounds pretty awesome to me—I can do grapes. I should do more real fruit more often. I think I am just lazy with pregnancy. I know I’ll do better after baby comes and sleeps and I get my act together….maybe?!!?

  • Mama Wants This

    I feel kinda comforted by the fact that you’re not one of those lunchbox whizzes. Phew. Who has time to cut sandwiches into animal shapes?

    • Anonymous

      Mama Wants this,

      Confession: I RARELY use cookie cutters to shape regular PB sammies into cute things. That is as close to these bento things as I’ll ever get!!! LOL!

  • Galit Breen

    Hee! I think I love you more because of the squeezies and goldfish than I would have for the first pictured lunch! XO

    • Anonymous

      Thanks, Galit! ps. read and commented on your diet post this morning. I’m late to the party. But you are awesome and I think you are handling things just right! I’m the one who needs to take lessons from you. I am going a bit easy on myself right now since I’m pregnant, but I need to set better examples for my girls…. xoxoxoxo

  • Anita

    Oh, so familar! When mine were younger, that’s what they got. Now in middle and high school, they’ve stepped up to breakfast bars, i.e. Fiber One and Nutri-Grain. They “might” take a deli turkey sandwich. My oldest spreads fake butter on cinnamon raisin bread to make a sandwich. One of those Babybel cheese globs gets thrown in, too. The two younger kids have to have cheetos or a York Peppermint Pattie.

    Getting the picture?

    No matter how many bananas and oranges we have in the fruit bowl, these items don’t make it into the lunch box.They eat them at home; why not school? And why don’t they fill a container with some delicious leftovers so that I don’t have to have it for my lunch?

    One good thing: they’ve all given up the syrupy drinks in favor or water.

    Hope this is readable. I’m tired and babbling. :)

    • Anonymous


      So funny b/c mine are better about eating healthier things at home, too. Wonder if there is peer pressure at school—or if it’s not “cool” to have certain things in lunches…we literally just started a few weeks ago, so I am new to this. And also making things easier on myself since I am preggo.

  • Colleen

    I am still a complete food nazi when it comes to Punky’s lunch – except I almost never pack it.  MacGyver is a little more convenience focused . . .

    • Anonymous


      I know you and probably many others cringed when they saw this…but with the pregnancy I am giving myself a pass for a bit. After baby is a few months old I am vowing to do better. And trying to console myself by the knowledge that there could be many worse things in their lunches! LOL!

  • Angela

    I LOVE this.  I have a friend who is really into cooking.  She rocks, but seriously, she makes those bento boxes…sandwiches cut like owls with olives for eyes, perched on a carrot stick branch, etc.
    My kids don’t have lunch boxes, but when we do things like trips to the zoo, we regularly use the squeezy applesauce, string cheeses (or the Land O Lakes cheddar squares), packets of pretzels, etc.  

    • Anonymous


      Hopefully my kids won’t wind up in therapy b/c I didn’t make them cute/fun/healthy lunches. LOL! ;-)

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Taminginsanity

    I say this with absolute honesty: I see nothing wrong with their lunches. I’d eat all that stuff.

    • Anonymous


      I can and DO eat all that stuff, too! LOL. I just know I could do better. Like, send an actual apple instead of the applesauce tube. But they think the tubes are cool and chances are a real apple will come home uneaten (and beaten up) at the end of the day. SO I’d rather they have something somewhat healthy however I can get them to eat it. Same for yogurt tubes! xoxox

  • shellthings

    Love this!!!!

    My kindergartener has requirements for his lunch- must have milk, a protein, bread(or bread substitute), two veggies or one veggie and a fruit. He buys milk at school, has a pb&j every day, then some sort of fruit and a thermos of fruit and veggie juice… which is usually doesn’t even drink, but it’s there as his veggie.

    My oldest didn’t have those requirements last year in kindergarten. Sometimes I threw some cereal, a banana, crackers, and some water in his… b/c that is what we happened to have on hand.

    I’ve had to be more prepared this year with the requirements. But I’m still not doing the fancy lunches!

    • Anonymous


      Requirements? Holy crap!! We don’t have those and what will I do if they suddenly decide to enforce them? OY! I’m in trouble!

  • Carrie

    Hey…did you sneak in my house and photograph the stuff I put in MY kid’s lunch??

    I’m new to this whole lunch thing too. I hope that eventually I’ll be able to branch out and get more interesting but…my kid is also picky. And likes to eat the same thing day in day out. So I guess unless she complains I can keep doing what I’m doing :)

    • Anonymous


      Mine are a little picky, too, and it doesn’t help that I’m being lazy due to the pregnancy. Giving myself a pass for a few months, but in the spring I hope to really shop for healthier things and get them on the right track. They eat better at home, but when I am packing the lunches? I confess it’s my fault for resorting to easy, not-always-healthy things.

  • Missy | Literal Mom

    Child 1 – cheese, capri sun, chips, fruit gushers.
    Child 2 – yogurt, strawberries, goldfish, cheezits

    Mom of the year here.  ;)

    • Anonymous


      We are on the same page dear, so have no fear!!! LOVE IT! ;-) Thanks for stopping by!

  • Ally

    My kid is 17 and virtually taking the exact same lunch he’s been taking since 6th grade. 1- peanut butter and honey sandwich (natural peanut butter on wheat bread – no sugar or corn syrup)  2 – fruit – preferably cantaloupe slices but sometimes we gotta substitute  3 – two bars (he’s a hungry boy!): one Cliff Z Bar and one fruit filled bar (and yes, the fruit bar is fruit juice sweetened with no added sugar)  4 – almond chocolate squares (cut up into bite size pieces because he can’t bite them with his braces). And just in case you think I’m over the top with the health food – he also has a baggie (that we reuse) of chips – preferably SunChips or Cheetos, though I sometimes get away with the “natural” puffed Cheetos. 

    BUT – all those things you pictured? They’ve all been in my son’s lunch when he was in elementary school. Every last one. Okay, maybe the fruit snacks were Toy Story instead of princesses…


    • Anonymous


      We are better about some snacks when we’re at home. But when I am packing lunches, it’s been all about convenience for me—I hope to get better a few months after baby arrives, but we’ll see. Izzy loves carrot sticks and real apples, Abby not so much. But I figure an applesauce tube has got to be better than lots of other things that could be in there, right? And the ones I pack have no artifical stuff in them, just apples and water…Excuses, excuses, I know…but I strive to do better in a few months! Giving myself a pass for a while. Your son’s lunch sounds AMAZING! good for you and for him!

  • Random Blogette

    This is almost exactly what is in my kids’ lunch boxes too, but I am even worse and let them have chips! So mine have either a pb & j or a turkey sandwich, cinnamon applesauce, string cheese, fruit snacks and usually some chips. They also have the Capri Suns Roaring Waters. I can’t do the bento boxes. Too much time and patience. Plus, usually my oldest packs the lunches because I am always running behind.

    • Anonymous


      Same here! We do water sometimes, or milk, but most often it’s juice b/c it’s easiest. Until now, we didn’t do a lot of juice. But honestly? It’s just easier on me. We have chips sometimes, too, but I try to stick to pretzels and Goldfish mostly…but believe me there’s plenty of other crap lurking in our pantry!

  • Juliecgardner

    My 14-year-old son will eat whatever I pack him (and also half of all his friends’ lunches). My 12-year-old girl? She finds something she likes then wants it every day. Until I go to Costco and buy it in bulk. At which point she says, “Just to tell you, I’m kind of sick of ______.”

    Shoot me. Now.

    • Anonymous


      Your son sounds awesome. Your daughter sounds awesome, too—at least she she’s predictable and then will let you know when she’s ready for the next thing?!?!

      love you!!! xoxoxox

  • Helene1108

    Ugh, I hate packing lunches but I have to admit that I see pics like that very first one and I get inspired to be creative.  I don’t go all out like that pic but sometimes I’ll make them a whole wheat wrap with cream cheese, turkey and spinach.  But yeah…that’s about as creative as it gets!

    • Anonymous


      I should try the wraps….but I think those will have to wait til after baby comes. I am way too worn out right now and can’t deal. Plus only Abby likes cream cheese. but maybe I could try some of that spreadable laughing cow cheese instead? Hmmmm….you just gave me an idea! xoxoxoxo

  • teenbento

    Hi Erin, I saw your post on Twitter. I’m 13 and try to make fun, healthy bento lunches for me and my 4 year old brother. It doesn’t have to be that crazy…I cut sandwiches with cookie cutters to make them into fun shapes and then add healthy snacks like fruit, nuts, cheese, raw veggies, etc.  I know most of the bento sites get really crazy, but you don’t have to spend too much time making a fun, healthy lunch! 

    • Anonymous

      Hey Teenbento!
      Thanks so much for stopping by to read & comment! I do actually cut their sandwiches with cookie cutters sometimes, and bought some of the whole wheat goldfish -shaped bread, too. I totally dissed myself in this post, but I do strike a balance of heathy things at home more. It is just hard when I have to pack it in a lunch, you know? ;-)

  • A Mother’s Thoughts

    These items are awesome!!  I HATE thinking about lunch time!!  I always hope that she will respectfully except my idea of taking left over supper!!  lol  Sometimes it works and others it does not!  I am an apple, raisins, carrot stick kind of mom (it usually comes back in her lunch bag with an excuse of she was SO full from her sandwich.)  So really when I say that I am an apple, raison, carrot kind of mom, it means I am eating it when she gets home because I don’t want it to go to waste.  haha
    Your lunch box art is beautiful though!

    • Anonymous

      A mother’s thoughts—

      Hey, then you are awesome & healthy for eating her leftovers! My kids can’t take leftover dinner b/c they don’t have access to a microwave. I am trying not to stress about it all to much and remind myself there are far worse things they could be eating….right?!?!

  • amandamagee

    We’re a pretty clean eating family, but I try to balance things a bit so my kids get a normal experience. They get fruit snacks, and granola bars, but they also get cucumber slices and carrot sticks. The best thing about the way we do things is when I put a cookie or mini chocolate bar in it’s totally memorable.

    • Anonymous


      I admire your style, and I aim to go that direction after baby arrives and I have some time to adjust. Fortunately one of my girls LOVES her veggies and regularly asks for carrot sticks in her lunch…I just need to work on the other one some more!!

  • Daleweir

    my son is now in his 30′s. Cheese sticks were just coming out when he was in school and he kept asking for MORE – turned out he was selling them to the other kids cause I was the only Mom using them

    • Anonymous


      OMG, selling them? What a riot! Now THAT is pure genius. I’d have just given away the things I didn’t like instead of charging for them! Love it!

  • Terri Sonoda

    Hey you did OK.  Isn’t peanut butter one of the four food groups….for kids anyways. I used to put Capri Sun in my kids’s lunch boxes way back in the stone ages.  Glad to see there’s something familiar, still.  LOL

    • Anonymous


      You are my hero. OF COURSE pb is a food group—-or it is now! XOXOXOXOXOXO

  • Anonymous

    My kid eats the same thing daily when she takes lunch: turkey, cheese on a tortilla or bread.  She can’t take peanut butter to school.  She has juice and she has some rice cakes or Pirate’s Booty.  She won’t eat the veggies I send (so sometimes I really prefer she buy lunch because the school veggies and fruit is for some reason better than ours. Whatever).  It’s probably embarrassing, but whatever. She eats and I can’t be worrying about all the other parents judging.  At this point, food is food.  Do I try to get her to eat other things? Sure, but I’m not gonna have her starve at school because she won’t eat to make my point. 

    • Anonymous


      We are so on the same wavelength. We can take peanut butter to school, but can’t sit by the kids who are allergic. Posting this was so cathartic—knowing I’m not alone and not every mom is perfect. Hooray!!

  • Lady Jennie

    In France my friends and I would say you were an unworthy mother (mere indigne), and then laugh at our own joke before digging back into our bag of potato chips and fighting the kids for a sip of our diet coke when they come over to beg.

    How the mighty have fallen, eh?

    • Anonymous


      Really? Even French woman wouldn’t judge me??? I think you just made my day. Or my year. xoxoxoxo

  • Milissa77

    It is not at hard as it looks.  I don’t get super fancy on the lunches I pack for my son.  I have noticed since I have starting packing Bento boxes, he eats so much more (including carrots). 

    I think the longest I have spent on a box is 10 mins.  I now have it down to about 5.  Mind you I don’t cut fancy rabbit animals, I just pack everything in separate containers.