Coming up with kid-friendly lunch ideas has got to be one of my most dreaded tasks. I tend to count on having leftovers, but sometimes the fridge is bare. And I worry that I’m giving my kids too much bread because that’s the go-to when we’re scrambling for ideas. But I’ve been testing out some new ideas and I’ve come across a few winners for last minute lunch ideas!
This post contains affiliate links. Read more.
The main problem with lunch is that we’re either rushing home or rushing out the door at that time of day and I need a quick solution before we start getting cranky. There’s no time to make something fancy, we’re going for tasty & satisfying in a hurry.
Plus there’s the age old question: “What can I make for lunch at home with nothing?” Even if the fridge is practically bare, there are always options. My go to’s when I have absolutely nothing else are:
- Eggs. With toast and tomatoes
- Veggies + protein (leftover meat or sandwich meat)
- Tuna sandwich
- Picky plates. A mini buffet of sorts. Basically a handful each of nuts, fruit, veggies, cheese, protein etc. Whatever you’ve got!
But here are some quick and easy lunch ideas for when the cupboards aren’t totally empty.
Family Friendly Last Minute Lunch Ideas
All of these lunch ideas are based on the assumption that we have these staple ingredients on hand. They are mostly very common ingredients, but some of these lunches may require a little planning ahead.
Ham & Cheese Crescents:
Wrap up a slice of ham and slice of cheese in pillsbury crescent dough and bake. Delish.
PB & Banana Wrap:
Spread peanut butter (or other kind of nut butter) on a tortilla and wrap it around a banana. We call this a ‘banana burrito’, you could also slice it up for a different approach. So quick and easy you can make this in 5 minutes or less!
My kids will gobble up oatmeal like it’s their last meal. I don’t know what that’s all about but I’m certainly not going to argue! I usually add an apple or some berries and sprinkle the top with brown sugar.
Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup:
Yes this is a staple of any lunch recipe repertoire but you can mix it up a little. Sometimes I’ll add a fried egg or slice of deli meat to the grilled cheese. The tomato soup can be canned or homemade.
We often had mini pizzas as kids which was just a slice of bread with pizza sauce and cheese on top, broiled for a minute. I like to do these on an english muffin or naan bread and you can add some leftover meat or veggies. We always have a bottle of pizza sauce in the fridge, it’s very handy.
Quesadillas Stuffed with Leftovers:
Everything tastes better with melted cheese on top of it. Or just do cheese for the picky eaters.
Whenever I see a good sale on french bread or other long loaf of bread, I’ll pick up a couple and slice them all up to freeze. Then we have the perfect bread slices ready to go for french toast.
We always keep a couple cans of tuna in the cupboard for a quick lunch solution.
Use applesauce instead of butter to feel extra good about yourself!
These are such a comfort food for me. I love them topped with peanut butter! I just follow the recipe on the cornmeal bag but I use butter instead of oil. 🙂
Ham & Cheese Egg Muffins:
Mix it all up like an omelet then pour into a muffin tin and bake. Easy for little ones to eat with their hands.
Healthy Lunch Ideas for Kids
Another super quick lunch you can make in under 5 minutes. My little guys don’t care for avocado unfortunately, but this is a great option for a filling and nutritious lunch.
Mac & Cheese with Cauliflower or Sweet Potato:
There are lots of recipes out there for adding sneaky veggies into mac and cheese. This dish would take a little extra time to prepare though.
Mashed Potato Tuna Patties:
These are great if you have any leftover mashed potatoes. I never know what to do with leftover mashed potatoes because they don’t reheat all that well. I always forget about fish cake type dishes!
Quick Corn Chowder:
For a cold fall day. Use canned corn or any leftover veggies hanging out in the fridge. If you’ve got time, you can whip up some cheesy biscuits to go with it.
I know this one is more of a gamble, not many kids like broccoli. But if you cover it in bacon bits and cheese they might go for it! Surprisingly my kids do alright with raw broccoli pieces, we call them trees and make a whole game out of eating them.
What Can I Make for Lunch When I Have Guests?
Guests for us usually means a playdate ran into lunchtime. So figuring out what another set of kiddos and their mom might want to eat can be stressful. Here are a couple of ideas:
1. Pasta Salad:
Great for feeding a crowd and can be served warm so it only needs to take as long as the pasta needs to boil to prepare. Chop up some raw veggies, protein like cheese, eggs or deli meat, toss it all with some salad dressing or a little olive oil, lemon juice and oregano. And definitely leave some noodles plain for the picky eaters. Another alternative would be a potato salad.
Muffins are ideal for sneaking healthy ingredients into picky eaters. I always add some ground flax seeds to mine. Sometimes ground almonds or grated zucchini if I have them. Use whatever you have on hand to dress them up a little, dried cranberries, blueberries, chocolate chips, walnuts, grated apple or carrots with raisin.
3. Sandwich Bar:
Gather up anything and everything you’ve got that could potentially go in a sandwich. Set it all out and let everyone build their own sandwich. This idea works great if you don’t happen to have enough of one thing to feed everybody. 3 tortillas won’t feed 8 people but if you set them out along with the half loaf of bread and 2 leftover dinner rolls, everyone will get something!
Again, let everyone choose their own toppings. A small quantity of veggies and meats will stretch a long way when they’re chopped up small! Serve with toast or crackers.
What are some of your last minute lunch ideas? Share in the comments!
Katie | Hospitable Homemaker says
Thank you for the ideas!! Grilled cheese and French toast are two of our quick favorites 🙂
You can’t go wrong with either!
All of these ideas sound so yummy! And also affordable! Not just great for kids, great for college students too!
Emily @ Pizza & Pull-Ups says
Saving this for when we need some lunch inspiration over here, thanks!
You’re so welcome!
My kids love good ol’ pb&j and quesadillas. I like leftovers and soup. I love the idea of sneaking in more veggies for my picky eater!
I live for leftovers! Lol 🙂
OMG love these lunches! I love them at school I’m only in grade 8 peps.
Pinning this for summer lunch boredom!
Oooh, yeah, summer lunches will be a whole other struggle! I may need more ideas!
Bookmarking this!! Lunch ideas can be so stressful, and I’m always excited for new ones 🙂
I get super stressed by lunches! Glad you found the list helpful!