I just responded on a list and decided I'd throw this on here also.
One of the biggest things we've figured out is that equipment really helps. As
long as we have a thermos or an insulating lunchbox we can pack just about
anything, hot or cold. It took a while to get it down to what we really liked
and learning how to keep the foods hot or cold.
My favorite equipment is a short stainless thermos. If
we pair the hot thermos food with normal temp foods in an insulating lunchbox it
stays perfectly hot till lunchtime. If it's more of a casserole type food that
can taste ok just warm I like my lock n lock glass containers in an insulating
If we have a cold drink or salad at the same time, I send it in a different
container than the lunchbox with the hot stuff or I just send it with other cool
We've found that a hot thermos of soup along with a cool smoothie and jello
don't mix well in the lunchbox.
Some other favorites that make it easy...
Make lots of sandwiches (minus lettuce and veggies) and freeze them. They'll
thaw for lunch. If you do tuna or other soggy fillings butter the bread first.
I actually LOVE soggy bread when stuff like that thaws.
Make super healthy muffins loaded with flax, oatmeal, whole grains, veggies,
etc. Freeze a couple in a baggie and pop these in instead of a sandwich. I'll
make a quadruple batch at a time.
Hummus freezes well if your kids will eat it with a bread, chips, or veggies
Use the bento box idea and put dinner leftovers in the freezer to space out in
boxes later or just pack it into the lunchbox and stick it in the fridge.
Learn what dinner tastes good cold later if you don't want to heat...spaghetti
and rice taste great with a bit of dressing or sauce on top to refresh it.
Salad with dressing on the side. Any dessert. Even ice cream in a thermos can
work if they're ok with a milkshake by lunch.