New teachers, new hopes, new work, new supplies...and the never ending quest to find fresh ideas for school lunches - this is September. The first of these to get stale, for both parents and kids, is the lunchbox. Children, with few exceptions, do not want to eat the same foods every day, and parents are constantly trying to find inventive ways in which to keep the lunchbox new and interesting.

Eventually all parents hit the wall and simply run out of ideas for a time. The same old sandwich and apple lunchbox has become a bore to eat and a chore to writer's block, it may take a few days to overcome, but all parent's do. This list may help the school lunchbox "block" until the flash of inspiration does hit! (Note: For important sake of nutrition in children, these ideas are not for everyday lunches. They are simply for the occasional fun lunch or a quick idea when a parent is stumped for a fresh healthy lunch idea.)

  • Farmer's Lunch - This type of lunch is the original concept behind Lunchablesâ„¢. When the idea of a sandwich, regardless of how tasty, becomes "blah" it's a simple matter of disassembling the sandwich into a different form. This is truly a back to the basics school lunch as this type of meal has been eaten by European farmers for centuries, travelled to North America, and is still enjoyed by many people today. Fill the lunchbox with: chunks of bread, buns, crackers, favored cold-cuts such as salami, pepperoni, ham, turkey breast, sliced chicken, any variety of sliced or cubed cheese, pickles. Really, anything goes but the more rustic it is, the more fun the meal becomes.
  • Drumsticks Galore- Another back to the basics idea, chicken (especially drumsticks) has been beloved by picnic-goers and children everywhere. To keep it healthier, this does not refer to deep fried chicken, but healthier alternatives to a favored treat: teriyaki, barbequed, or even oven fried chicken offer a change from the usual. Handy and fun to eat, drumsticks can pack a punch in the lunch for children who enjoy cold chicken.
  • Popcorn - A hit snack at any time, popcorn in a lunchbox always bring a smile to a child's face; if airpopped rather than microwave prepackaged it can be good for them too. A new taste is only as far away as a reach into your spice collection (garlic powder or italian seasoning are great) or into the fridge to sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese. Kids with a preference for a stronger taste go wild for popcorn sprinkled with salt and vinegar.
  • The "Who Said Lunch Can't Be A Cookie" Cookie - These cookies, although containing sugar, are crammed full of goodness. They may not fill all essential food groups but with fruit and cut up veggies added to the lunch they are a good "occasional" lunch idea (recipe to follow at bottom of page).
  • The Burger Sale - One mother's favorite idea for the odd lunch is, when fast food restaurants have specials, to stock up on cheeseburgers for the next day's lunch. They might not be warm...but when it comes to a burger being a special treat for lunch, kids really don't mind!

There really is no limit to the fun food ideas that can go into lunchboxes for school. One way to not need suggestions like this is to sit down with a child and brainstorm all the ideas on what they think would constitute a fun lunch. Write each of their (feasible) ideas on a piece of paper and drop them all into a jar - when the parent is stumped, the child can reach in and the lunch idea is right there!

Lunch Cookies

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats (not instant)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 4 cups multigrain O-shaped breakfast cereal

Preheat oven to 375F. In a large bowl beat together sugar, butter, peanut butter, milk, vanilla, and egg until smooth and creamy. Add flour, oats, and baking soda, beating until well combined. Stir in the raisins and cereal. The mixture will be hard to stir; just keep at it until everything sticks together fairly well.

By hand, roll about 1/3 cup of mixture into balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Make sure the balls are firmly packed so they stick together well. Leave at least 2 inches between balls. Lightly press down to flatten each ball to about 1 inch thickness. Letting the mixture sit for about 5 minutes will make the forming a little easier. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottom. Let sit for 5 minutes before removing from the cookie sheet.