Want to start the school year off with a bang and make your child’s lunches healthier, more efficient and more fun? Of course you do! There are TONS of ideas out there, and the latest ones are coming to us from Passion For Savings, who combines smart tricks with frugality. We’ve got twelve of our favorites here, and we’re sure at least one of them will make your kids smile! This year, why don’t you:

  1. Write a hidden banana message.
    BananaMessagePassion for Savings

    This idea is so cool! Instead of leaving your child a note on boring old paper, scratch it into the skin of a banana with a toothpick. As the banana browns, the message will become clear. Your kid will feel like a super secret agent!
  2. Pack lunches ahead of time in Bento boxes.
    BentoBoxMelissa via Flickr

    Have you heard of Bento boxes? Popular in Asia, they’ve made their way stateside and are making parents’ lives so much easier. The safe plastic boxes keep foods safe, fresh and secure, allowing you to pack a healthier variety of foods way ahead of time. Plus, many come in stackable versions with separate compartments, so you can make a bunch of foods and snacks at the start of the week and let your kid grab, mix, match and go in five minutes or less each morning!
  3. Separate items with silicone muffin liners.
    SiliconeMuffinMoldsDidriks via Flickr

    Whether you want to create even more compartments in your Bento boxes or make some divisions in an old-fashioned lunch box, silicone muffin liners will help you do it. Plus, they’ll add some fun color to your child’s lunch!
  4. Make your own trail mix.
    TrailMixSteven Depolo via Flickr

    Making your own allows you to filter out unhealthy things – like candy! – and anything to which your child might have an allergy. Make a bunch ahead of time and separate into your own “snack size” plastic bags for easy grab-and-go lunching and snacking.
  5. Wrap plastic wrap around sliced apples.
    SaranWrapApplesPassion for Savings

    Sliced apples don’t have to brown! After you’ve sliced and cored your apple, don’t throw the core away. Instead, reassemble the pieces into the original apple shape and wrap it in plastic wrap to pack. This way, the apple skin will be exposed to much less air and will stay fresh and crisp until lunch time.
  6. Reuse Mio bottles for condiments.
    MioBottlestheimpulsivebuy via Flickr

    Do you have a ton of those tiny little water-flavoring bottles hanging around your home? Rather than tossing them, reuse them to pack ketchup, mayonnaise and the like in your child’s lunch. He’ll have more control over how much he uses, and it will cut down on the mess.
  7. Turn sponges into DIY ice packs.
    IcePackSpongesPassion for Savings

    Why should you buy ice packs when they’re so easy to make on your own? All you need to do is soak a sponge with water and freeze it. When it comes time to pack lunch, stick one in a plastic baggie and slide it in next to the food. Easy!
  8. Keep chicken nuggets warm.
    Thermosesgarloon via Deposit Photos

    Thermoses aren’t just for keeping drinks warm. Let your kid enjoy nice, warm chicken nuggets by cooking them and then immediately storing them in a thermos. Put a paper towel at the bottom to absorb any moisture or grease.
  9. Turn lunch into a birthday gift.
    PresentLunchPassion for Savings

    How much fun would this be for your child’s birthday? Use wrapping paper, ribbons and bows to wrap up the items in her lunch. Each sandwich and bag of chips will feel like an extra festive present!
  10. Celebrate the seasons with cookie cutters.
    CookieCutterHelloKittySandwichMelissa via Flickr

    Cookie cutters aren’t just for cookies! Whether it’s Christmas trees, Halloween jack-o’-lanterns, or your kid’s favorite cartoon friend, lunch will be extra fun when the sandwiches take on super exciting shapes. Just press the cookie cutter through the sandwich for an easy bit of fun.
  11. Make DIY mac ‘n’ cheese cups.
    MacandCheeseCupsPassion for Savings

    This one works if your child has access to a microwave and somebody to help him. When you pack it, put half of a box of macaroni and cheese in a microwave safe container, half the cheese powder in a baggie and half the powdered milk in the other. At school, your child will just have to get help from an adult to add some water and microwave everything for some delicious mac ‘n’ cheese. Much thriftier and enjoyable than the wasteful store-bought mac ‘n’ cheese cups.
  12. Make mini pizzas with bagel thins.
    MiniBagelPizzasstar5112 via Flickr

    Take bagel pizzas to an even more miniature level. Use bagel thins to make creative pizza combinations ahead of time and freeze once they’re baked. Wrap them in tin foil to pack in lunches. They’re the perfect size not to be too filling!

Want even more ideas for super school time lunches? Then check out Passion For Savings’ list which has TRIPLE the ideas. Which idea is your favorite? How do you like to make your children’s lunches fun?