Trader Joe's is my oasis. I can peruse the aisles for hours, scoping out all the new goodies while picking up all of my old favorites. When it comes to feeding my kids, Trader Joe's is absolutely essential. Whether I'm making sure that I'm stocked up on their favorite Sriracha ranch dressing, or buying applesauce pouches by the truckload, I can always depend on Trader Joe's to have reliably good food that my kids love. During the school year, I find myself constantly tossing these 25 Trader Joe's school lunch ideas in their lunch boxes day after day.
Some days I go all out, making sure that my children's bento boxes are full of interesting and fun foods that they will enjoy eating, and some days I just throw a whole bunch of foods in a brown sack that I know they will eat. Oddly enough, foods from both of these categories come from my beloved Hawaiian-themed specialty grocer. They quite literally have everything you need for your kids' lunches. The only thing I don't buy there, that I know others do buy, is their deli meat, but that's honestly only because my kids won't eat it. I'm sure it's spectacular.
1. Juice Boxes
Trader Joe's has a plethora of beverages to choose from. My son starts middle school this year, so he's allowed to bring seltzer and other canned drinks. My daughter can only bring water bottles and juice boxes. Fortunately for everyone, all of those are available at Trader Joe's for around $3.50.
2. Pan Au Lait
These are so delicious. I slice them open and spread cream cheese on one side, natural jam on the other, and call it good. I also eat one as I'm packing my kids' lunches. It happens. It's called the Mom Tax.
3. Cheese Sticks
All of the cheese sticks and string cheese. None of them are more than $5, which is good because my children like to eat a bunch in one sitting. They are easy to open for little hands, and they're not sodium bombs.
There is never a shortage of delicious corn and potato chips at TJ's, but these dippers are my favorite. They're great for salsa or hummus, and make a darn fine "frito" pie. For $2, the organic chips are a steal.
5. Granola Bars
The granola bars at Trader Joe's are some of my favorites, and these fiber bars are perfect for kids who are in a stage where they only eat beige foods.
6. Shelf-Stable Carrot Sticks
These are addictive, and my kids love them. Dehydrated carrot sticks might not sound appetizing, but I assure you, they're so delicious they border on the absurd. For $3, they're great for kids who aren't big veggie eaters.
7. Aloo Chaat
Aloo Chaat is delicious, even at room temperature. It's like a savory pop tart, and my kids can often be seen running around with one in their hands. Pop it in the toaster oven just before putting it in the lunch box, and you're done.
Meatballs are basically the easiest lunch on the planet. Cook them the night before, and you're good. They are great even if they're a little bit on the cool side. I add dipping sauce like ketchup or mustard.
9. Fruit Bars
Fruit bars are to our kids what fruit roll-ups were to us, because they don't know any better. These are arguably way better for them, I suppose. My kids love them.
10. Pre-Chopped Veggies
I am, overall, a lazy creature. That's why I have so many bags of pre-chopped veggies on hand at all times. They are great with some containers of hummus or ranch.
Trader Joe's is never in want of a variety of treats, but right now these Snickerdoodles are my (and my kids') favorite treat. Their cookies are generally about $3.
Have you had the pretzel bagels? They are good with cream cheese, peanut butter, regular butter, all on their own, anything. They're so stinking delightful, and my kids are in love with their chewy goodness.
14. Roasted Seaweed
Roasted seaweed is one of my kids' favorite snacks. At home, they wrap the slices around bites of rice. At school, they eat them as-is. They're full of vitamins and taste of the sea.
15. Freeze Dried Fruit
The freeze dried berries at Trader Joe's are fab on their own, but also great stirred up in yogurt. My daughter puts them in her chocolate pudding, but she also dips her pizza in butter, so maybe don't take her word on it.
Hummus makes great sandwiches, it's wonderful as a dip, and it's absolute heaven on some veggies. My kids like the spicy hummus, but the plain is pretty darned good, too.
17. Seed & Nut Butters
If your kids' school is nut-free, you will want this sunflower seed butter for $4.99. If not, the almond, peanut, and cashew butters are on-point.
My kids adore Trader Joe's falafel, and I'll give you a hint: if you spray it with cooking spray before you bake it, it gets way crispier and stays pretty crispy, even in a lunch box. For $4, it's a cheap and cheerful option.
Just open an account and keep buying these for the rest of forever once you become a parent.
Naan bread makes great wraps, and if you slice it up, it's perfect for dipping into hummus.
21. Applesauce Pouches
This is right up there with the bananas. Just keep buying.
22. Macaroni & Cheese
Soup makes a mess in the thermos, but you know what stays in place? Trader Joe's mac and cheese. The pizza mac and cheese will make you slap your mother it's so good.
23. PB&J Bars
These are one of my favorites for my kids' lunches and snack boxes, but also for after my run. I keep these in my purse at all times.
If I put three of these Trader Joe's burritos in my son's lunch box, he'll eat three. I wrap them in waxed paper so that they don't make a mess.
25. Mango Slices
If you haven't forgotten something when you're on the checkout line at Trader Joe's, you haven't shopped there. I always buy these, and always forget them. Thanks, TJ's.