Deena was mainly interested in ideas for different kinds of food to pack. You guys probably have some good ideas to share as well. Here's a list of the stuff I typically buy/pack for my kids. I try to choose something from every group (except treats), and I try to rotate things so the kids don't get bored with their choices.
Peanut butter & jelly (or honey) Thankfully we're not a nut-free school.
Roasted pumpkin seeds (I buy these at the health food store).
Hot dogs - we like this brand
My kids don't like ham or bologna (bologna, blech!) or most any other lunch meat. They don't even really like sandwiches that much. Most of the time, I just put a few slices of turkey or salami in their lunch.
Yogurt-I stock up when these are on sale.
My kids are not big on dairy products! Pudding is probably more of a treat than a dairy product, but my kids eat so little dairy that I'm okay with it. It's hard for them to get all their daily servings in.
popcorn (I have one of these poppers and I buy my kernels in bulk. SO much cheaper--around .75/lb--and did you know popcorn is a whole grain?)
Z-bars (my kids like chocolate chip and blueberry)
granola bars (The girls like this brand)
cheese crackers (CheezIts or Goldfish)
whole grain crackers/regular crackers
Sarah begs me to make these bars all the time!
Sugar snap peas
Veggie chips (used to buy some in a blue bag at Walmart but can't find them there anymore)
I just bought these potato snacks. They were very good. But I consider potatoes a carb instead of a veggie.
Hummus (only one of my kids will eat it though)
I think veggies are hard. Sometimes it helps to have a side of ranch for dipping.
The stuff above is what I pack week after week. However, I have one child who LOVES veggies and will ask to take leftover broccoli or green beans or asparagus or edamame or spinach in her lunch. I KNOW! She's the exception to the rule...and a nutritionist's dream child. My other two are pretty anti-vegetable.
Fresh fruit in season
Pineapple cups. The only fruit cups I will buy (other than applesauce) is pineapple because it's the only one I can find that doesn't have HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) added to it.
This one is EASY for my kids. They love fruit, and I bet yours do too.
However, these are some things I like to keep on hand for when I don't have something fresh on hand, or for the winter months when my kids are tired of apples/oranges.
I really only buy juice boxes when they're on sale and I have a great coupon. I make them drink lots of water (the mean mom!) However, lately I have been buying Gatorade for my older kids...I think it helps them rehydrate after PE. It's super sugary though.
If I DO pack a juice box, I count that as their fruit serving for lunch.
Rice krispie treats
Sweet breads (banana, zucchini, pumpkin)
Oatmeal creme pies (mmmmm...)
Treats are just that...a TREAT...and not an everyday addition to their lunchboxes.
My middle-schoolers can use a microwave to heat up their lunch. Will sometimes takes a hot pocket or some frozen taquitos, but the girls never want to. They prefer a cold lunch. I've never packed soup or leftovers. They just aren't that interested, unless it's pizza, and then they fight over the leftovers. They like it cold though. Weird.
As far as lunchboxes go, everyone has a soft, insulated one. I think that the BentoBox is so cool (and eco-friendly), but a bit too pricey for me. I feel like we're pretty "green" but I definitely use WAY too many plastic bags...because it's just easier.
I very rarely buy individually packaged snacks (bars and cheese sticks are exceptions) because it's just so much cheaper to do it myself. I'll often take a bag of baby carrots and divide it up into smaller bags when I get home from the store. Same with grapes and pretzels and nuts/seeds and crackers. Then I can just grab and go when I'm packing lunches in the mornings.
I tend to pack lunches before school each morning, but if I know I'm going to be rushed I do it the night before.
I take nutrition pretty seriously, and that's why you don't see lots of junk food on my lists. I do buy junk food (Doritos are my weakness) but I try to limit it. I also try to avoid sugar, but I should confess that haven't been very diligent about it for awhile now.
I'm obviously no expert, but just like many of you I have been packing lunches for years! Please, please, please feel free to help me out of my rut and share your great ideas!!! I'm always on the lookout for new and healthy (or semi-healthy) ideas.