If you need lunch ideas for school field trips then you’ve probably been told you need to send in a brown bag lunch that doesn’t need to be refrigerated in a paper bag or you’re just not used to making kid’s school lunches. either way… This list is a lifesaver.
I categorized all of our easy lunch ideas for field trips in one spot below…
Field Trip Lunch Type # 1: Fully Disposable Lunches That Do Not Require Disposable Ice Packs:
These are often called “Brown Bag Lunches” because they’re just paper lunch bags filled with items that can all be thrown out. You aren’t supposed to use any reusable containers. The idea is that the kids eat their lunch and the entire bag is thrown right into the trash. Nothing is taken back home.
I know these are frustrating, especially for kids who are picky eaters. But as a field trip volunteer- I can tell you they’re necessary. Our school’s field trips usually involve the teacher, me, and 17 kids.
Lugging a large box of 17 paper bags to the picnic tables at the aquarium is hard but necessary. The teacher can stay with the kids and I can grab the box of lunches and bring it to the table where they’ll eat. But if they were each in a lunch box with an ice pack, those 17 lunches would take up 4 boxes of the same size and it would be impossible to manage while also carting around our own stuff, managing the kids, bathroom trips, and trying to teach.
So these are a pain, but important.
Important note: Often the school will provide an option where they’ll pack a brown bag lunch for your child for a cost. Check with your kid’s teacher if you’re not sure.
Room Temperature Disposable “Brown Bag” Lunch Ideas:
Choose a few items from this list:
- Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches (Or almond butter if your school has a “no peanut butter rule” due to severe food allergies.
- Nutella Sandwiches.
- Frozen uncrustables (they’ll thaw in the bag by lunchtime).
- Beef jerky.
- Tuna pouches.
- Chicken salad kits or tuna salad kits.
- Protein bar.
- Bagel or mini bagel.
- Black beans.
- Hawaiian rolls.
- Apple chips.
- Fruit- like apples, clementines (only if they can peel them themselves!), grapes, pomegranate seeds, blueberries, bananas, etc.
- Veggies- like baby carrots, grape tomatoes, sugar snap peas, celery, and cucumber slices.
- Shelf stable ranch cups. (Hidden valley makes my favorite one- they’ll be in the salad dressing aisle).
- Gogurt Yogurt (freeze the tubes the night before and they’ll thaw by lunch) (Technically this isn’t totally safe… but most of the moms in my school do this).
- Nuts (check to make sure your school allows peanuts).
- Trail mix.
- Dried fruits like pineapple.
- Granola bar.
- Sealed fruit cup.
- Juice boxes.
- Shelf stable milk (make sure they like drinking it at room temperature).
- Popcorn (We use our popcorn machine to make popcorn every day).
- Little bites mini muffins.
- Disposable water bottle.
- Technically some hard cheeses don’t require refrigeration… but if your 2nd grader is munching on a parmesan block at lunch… they’re clearly more sophisticated than I am.
Usually, when you have these requirements for lunch- they don’t want you to pack their own reusable water bottles. They want you to come in with a disposable water bottle clearly labeled with their name (bonus points if you initial the cap too). That way after lunchtime, they can take the entire bag and water bottle and dump everything in the trash and not have to organize or cart anything back to school at the end of the trip.
Hint: If you keep a box of uncrustables, a box of Gogurts, and a few bottles of water (open the seal to let some of the water out first to leave room for the water to expand) then you’ll never be caught unprepared for a field trip.
Field Tip Lunch Type #2: Cold Lunch Ideas:
If you can have a cooler pack in your lunch box- you can add any of the following along with an ice pack (if you need ice packs- you can get them for about $1 at Walmart or you can get the adorable unicorn ice packs above with 5 stars over 12k reviews on Amazon here):
Cold Lunch Ideas:
- Bagel and cream cheese.
- Bagel and butter.
- Deli meat sandwiches- BLT, Turkey, Ham, Roast Beef.
- Chicken or tuna salad sandwich.
- Cheese sticks.
- Greek yogurt.
- Cheese roll-ups (these work so well with tortillas and you can add deli meat or pepperoni).
- Cheese sandwiches- grilling it and eating it cold is also apparently a thing that moms (who are not me) do.
- Hummus for veggies.
- Hard-boiled eggs.
- Cubed chicken.
- Cold pizza.
Field Trip Lunch Type #3: Thermos Hot Lunch Ideas:
Don’t forget that if you’re allowed to pack an actual lunch box- then you can also pack hot lunch items in a Thermos. I mostly do this when we have leftovers (because seriously… who has time to make mac n cheese in the morning for your kids’ lunch)… but you can buy one of these thermoses, fill it with boiling water, and put the top on. Let it sit for several minutes. Then fill it with hot food. The food will stay warm in the Thermos for 6 hours.
You can buy a Thermos at Walmart, Target, or they have off-brand but much cuter options on Amazon like this one (pictured above) with the computer kitten, which is leakproof, heat rated, has a folding spoon that fits in the lid, and has an overall 5-star rating.
Fun fact: You can stick your Thermos in your cold lunch cooler bag along with other cold food like yogurt or cheese sticks because it’s double insulated.
Thermos Hot Lunch Ideas:
- Macaroni and cheese.
- Leftover chicken, steak, pork, or chicken wings.
- Chicken nuggets (I microwave them with a paper towel following package directions and pack them like this all the time.)
- Spaghetti and meatballs.
- Broccoli cheddar soup.
- Hot dogs.
- Buttered pasta.
- Pizza rolls.
- Bagel bites.
- Mashed potatoes with toppings.
- French toast sticks.
- Scrambled eggs.
- Taco meat, pulled pork, or chicken (add a bun or tortillas).
- Pork fried rice.
- Chicken casseroles.
- Any leftovers that need to be warm.
Field Trip Lunch Type #4: Healthy school lunch ideas:
If you’re looking for only healthy school lunch ideas, then pack lunches “bento box style”. That means that you pack a serving of several whole foods together in one container (these bento boxes (pictured above) are the ones we use- they have separate compartments for everything including dips or dressing). That might look like a container filled with a hard-boiled egg, apple slices, cubed chicken, carrots, and blueberries in one container. This makes clean-up easier because it’s just one container and cuts down on the plastic bag waste and fewer dishes to wash than using multiple reusable containers.
Healthy School Lunch Ideas:
Just choose one item from the following categories to stick into a bento box:
- Cheese stick.
- Hard-boiled egg.
- Almond butter or peanut butter.
- Greek yogurt.
- Beef jerky.
- Chicken breast cubes.
- Snap peas.
- Grape tomatoes.
- Pomegranate seeds.
- Whole grain pretzels.
- Whole grain crackers.
- Whole grain pasta.
- Pita bread.
Other things you should know for field trip lunches:
Don’t forget a water bottle for the field trip!
It makes life a million times easier and saves us lots of water fountain trips. If it’s a “disposable lunch only” then they need a water bottle that can be thrown out at the end of the field trip. If they can bring a lunchbox, then you can bring a reusable water bottle.
That includes coats, lunch bags, and water bottles. On field trips, everything is usually left on the bus and someone is tasked with grabbing those items later. Trying to figure out whose bag is whose can be chaotic with everyone trying to eat, especially with things like allergens. You can pack lunch in either paper lunch bags or in a ziplock bag and just label them with a pen or a sharpie. For jackets, you can write their names on the tag in sharpie or you can grab a set of these semi-permanent labels that stick to lunch containers and clothing that can be washed without falling off to label everything from your bento boxes, water bottles, to your sweaters and jackets.
Bonus points for cute lunch notes.
At least for the field trips I’ve volunteered on (K-4th grade), lunch notes from parents seem to be a status symbol that gets noticed. Not that I’m trying to add anything to your already hectic day… just mentioning that if you have the time and want to surprise your elementary school kid, it goes a long way. Here’s some ideas if you’re not sure what to say.
You can actually buy cute printed cards with blank backs to write your notes on now, but post-it notes or even scrap paper have the same effect.
If you have any ideas I missed- can you let me know in the comments below so I can add them later?