bug’s lunch

I send Margot away from me a few days a week and she takes a little piece of me in her hot pink butterfly lunchbox. It is a tangible way I get to participate in her day. I love making school lunch.

My mom packed me amazing lunches, with a handwritten note every single day, through high school.  This, I am sure, influenced my doing the same for my daughters. Thanks, mama. A few months ago, I started posting some of bug’s lunches on instagram (#bugslunch) and have loved the conversation they’ve generated about making lunch in the busy morning hustle of getting out the effing door on a school day.

A few things:

  • I don’t experiment with new foods in school lunches. I want Margot to eat well during her active day and I don’t risk her not liking something. I make safe choices using foods I know she loves.
  • I find it to be very easy to pack without waste. We use a variety of containers, mostly jelly jars and reusable snack bags (I like Snack Taxi). This year, we invested in a Thermos and it is such a game changer to be able to pack hot items! (edited to add: we also use ice packs for the yogurt etc.)
  • One of my most frequently asked questions: How do you get your kids to eat that? It’s true our kids happily and willingly eat most anything. I don’t have a formula for making this happen (or know if it’s anything we did or didn’t do) but I can share our approach. I wrote a post here: kids and food bravery.
  • Laying out the food for photos has helped inspire me in lunch-packing! It’s fun to curate a little pile of healthy, beautiful food for my daughter.
  • My kids find it irresistible that I arrange the food before packing (even when I don’t photograph) and this has created a new practice in our home: I set out snacks on the counter after breakfast every morning and my kids help themselves throughout the day. This! Has been so awesome.


  1. tofu, maple roasted vegetables (leftover from dinner), tortilla chips, apple
  2. egg noodles with olive oil and parm, raisins, beets, almonds
  3. crackers with peanut butter, sharp cheddar cheese, corn, plain yogurt with peaches and honey
  4. pizza (leftover from dinner), cherry tomatoes, dried seaweed, plain yogurt with maple syrup, corn
  5. quesadilla (cheddar and cucumber yogurt spread), spinach, cottage cheese, peanuts & raisins, fish gummis
  6. tofu, hard boiled egg, carrots, apple, ants on a log (celery almond butter & raisins), lemon wafer cookies
  7. beets, green zebra tomato slices, blueberry kefir, raisins & peanuts, oatmeal with apples, cinnamon, maple syrup & rice milk
  8. peanut butter & plum jam sandwich, salad (spinach & carrots, salad dressing on side), lentil soup (leftover from dinner)
  9. yams, carrots & cucs with balsamic vinaigrette, plain yogurt with apricot jam, apple, chocolate pretzels
  10. tuna sandwich, pickles, avocado with olive oil, peaches, plain yogurt
  11. cheddar cheese quesadilla, beets, apple, avocado, plain yogurt with honey
  12. almond butter & peach butter sandwich, carrots, fruit leather, beet carrot soup, dried seaweed
  13. corn chowder (leftover from dinner), pumpkin cranberry rolls, pistachios, dried seaweed, banana
  14. yam coconut rice (leftover from dinner), salad (dressing on side), carrots & celery, plain yogurt, kisses
  15. cheddar cheese, peanut butter & apricot jam sandwich, almonds, fruit leathers, yogurt with maple syrup
  16. corn chowder (leftover from dinner), sourdough pretzels, tofu, beets, yogurt with peach butter
  17. quesadilla (manchego cheese and lentil soup), beet carrot soup, peaches, pistachios
  18. cheese quesadilla,  salad (spinach, bean spouts & carrots; dressing on side), dried cranberries, almonds & chocolate chips


tofu: our three favorite brands: Totally Organic (made in Montana), Surata and Wild Wood (purchased at out local grocer)
egg noodles: Country Pasta (made in Montana, purchased at Costco)
tortilla chips: Casa Pablos (made in Montana, purchased at out local grocer)
honey: varies, easy to get locally produced sweetness (purchased at out local grocer)
peanut butter: our two favorite brands: Adams and Maranatha (purchased at Costco)
almond butter: Maranatha (purchased at Costco)
bread: Birdman (made in Montana, purchased at out local grocer) or Dave’s Killer Bread (purchased at Costco) or we make it (breadmaker recipe links on recipe page)
tortilla: Indian Life or Trevino’s (made in Montana, purchased at out local grocer)
dried seaweed: my kids LOVE this (me? notsomuch). I bought it at Costco but the packaging is insane. We now buy in big sheets from our local grocer.
beets, peaches and corn: from our home preservation stash
yogurt: Nancy’s plain whole milk yogurt (purchased at out local grocer; really want to make our own! we eat so much yogurt)
kefir: Nancy’s (purchased at out local grocer)
cheese: our favorites: Tillamook Sharp Cheddar, Manchego (all purchased at Costco), Montzarella (made in Montana, purchased at our local grocer).


winter lentil soup (I used that recipe, adding garlic and vegetable stock. I puréed a batch for the kids as they didn’t like the chunks. I hugely recommend the recipe.)
maple roasted vegetables
beet and carrot soup
peanut butter yammy coconut rice
pumpkin cranberry biscuits
fig bars (not shown in the lunches above but is a favorite around here)

Whew, that was a lot of hyperlinking. What do your kids eat for lunch? Please share your ideas and recipes in the comments. I’m always looking for foodie inspiration (a wonderful website my friend keeps: Made Your Lunch.) These two hungry, colorful kids say thanks in advance.

Margot: drawing, “Mom, I’m feeling concerned I don’t have enough red.”
Ruby: from the other room, “Mom, it’s ok I put on some of your lipstick?”

57 Responses to bug’s lunch

  1. Melissa says:

    Ugh, not looking forward to making lunch every day next year when my oldest starts Kindergarten. I am so not creative. This year, lunch is optional at preschool and since I have to make lunch for myself and my other daughter I have only let her stay three times so far this year. Every time I pack peanut butter and jelly, apple slices and a veggie. I am concerned about other options spoiling in her lunch box during the morning, perhaps a little too much. I don’t let anyone else prep raw meat or chicken in my kitchen for fear of contaminating surfaces and making us all sick.
    Thanks for the great pics and inspiration! Sorry I don’t have anything great to share. :)

  2. MT Lee says:

    I struggle with making lunches. My son wants PB&J every-single-day… if I would allow him to sustain himself on nutella, peanut butter, jelly, and honey, he would be perfectly happy. My only rad lunch discovery is that my kids like V8 and costco sells mini cans of V8… voila, veggies!

  3. Jillian22 says:

    I have always been of the opinion that food is beautiful and artsy. My husband thinks I’m nuts after I take photos of my zillionth loaf of bread, but it’s so gosh darn pretty! Nici, can you also post the corn chowder recipe?? Thanks!!

  4. Jen says:

    I try my best to shop locally & would love to buy more Montana brands! Do you find them at the Good Food Store or a local chain? We try to stock up when we’re in Misspula but can’t seem to find many Montana brands where we are. As a 21 year old with food allergies, I’m always packing lunches & totally agree on presentation! In fact, one of your instagram with beets reminded me just how much I love them! I tracked some down my next time shopping! Yum!

    • dig dig says:

      Between Orange Street Food Farm and the Good Food Store is where we shop. The yogurt (bug tub) and tofu are only at GFS and the tortillas and chips only at Orange Street. I think all else is both places! Also at both places: Wheat Montana flours and breads.

  5. Kellyn says:

    I’ve been meaning to make my own yogurt too – but haven’t quite done it yet. When I do – I’ll use this recipe: http://www.annies-eats.com/2012/03/08/diy-greek-yogurt/

    (It’s not my blog – just one I use for a lot of baking and a few yummy vegetarian recipes).

  6. Lisa says:

    Totally pinning this. Thank you so much!! I always love the lunches you post on IG!

  7. Kristianna says:

    We love Laptop Lunches for older kids… I’ve been using the same box since my 5th grader was in 1st grade and now I have two kids using them. It’s a worthy investment (and the ladies who run it are just down the street from where I used to live, so I always want to spread the word on their awesome lunches). I like how they can pop it all open, assess what they have to eat, between snack and lunch, and nothing gets lost in the bottom of a sack. We love their lunch jars (thermos), too.

  8. Mumofsix says:

    What a fantastic collage all those lunches make! I so enjoy seeing on IG what Margot is having for lunch. I always used to put notes in my kids boxes but haven’t for ages. Must start again. I have definitely lost my enthusiasm for packed lunches over the years. I have 5 school aged children and a husband for whom I also make lunch every day. Another reason to love the school holidays, no lunches to pack! Husband has to fend for himself then.

    Can I ask you, does Margot get any grief from other kids for her lunch? Mine have been told they have smelly breath if I give them houmous! My 6 year old has a container of chopped mushrooms and cucumber for his veg tomorrow and as I was packing it I wondered if he might get a few remarks. I’d love to know what Margot would say. I’m sure she’d come back with a very smart remark! Sarah x

    • Colleen says:

      My 4th grade son got a little grief for his “poopy” looking lentil soup once. He has asked me not to pack it anymore. =(

  9. Jen W. says:

    My husband being Japanese, we always have seaweed around and have been feeding it to our daughter since she was about 9 or 10 months old I think. She loves it, too! It does have a lot of minerals and the Japanese say it’s good for your hair, and I may be crazy but I think her thin, spotty infant hair really filled in nicely after she started eating it!

    For you, mama, maybe try roasting some sheets in the oven or over the stove top, then brushing with sesame oil and a sprinkle of sea salt.

    Or just stick to sushi :)

  10. Inga Lily says:

    We live in Japan so my daughters’ lunches usually contain onigiri (rice “ball” with either tuna or salmon filling, wrapped in nori (seaweed)), freshly cut fruits and vegetables and then some senbi (unsweetened ricecrackers). They also get nori just to snack on and they love it. Once a week there is pizza day at school so they get pizza but I send them with fruits and vegetable as well. And then I’ve made cinnamon rolls (almost sugarfree), bananabread and something special like that on Fridays.

    Our mornings are quite hectic but after 3 years now, I’m getting pretty good at finishing everything before we need to go out the door at 8.10.

    Thank you for sharing your pictures, they are very inspiring

    • Jen W. says:

      Inga Lily, if you don’t mind my asking, how old are your daughters? I’m just curious which level of school you’re packing lunches for…for my own possible future reference :)

      • Inga Lily says:

        My daughters are now 4 and 7 but when we moved to Japan (alnost 3 years ago) they were around 18 months and just under 5. The younger one took to nori very fast and started asking for it as a snack just months after we moved here. Both ate onigiri very early on.

  11. Julie M says:

    Oh what a great post! So inspiring to see all of the wonderful, healthy lunches you make! I love the variety! I have a 23 month old baby girl and I make lunch for her for daycare every day- I am always on the prowl for new ideas. I often get “stuck in a rut” and run out of ideas so this post is fantastic!

    I always try to give her one veggie and one fruit at lunch (plus staples like pasta, sandwiches, etc.)
    Some of our favorites staples are below (lunch is usually a combination of these):

    -Sweet potato slices baked with a little olive oil and garlic powder (sounds weird but she loves it!)
    -Edamame/Peas or Lima Beans
    -Barilla Plus pasta with white bean tomato sauce
    -Butternut squash ravioli
    -Black bean and cheese quesadillas
    -Turkey and cheese sandwich on whole grain bread pressed on panini press
    -Almond butter sandwich
    -Beets (I love the brand Love Beets sold at Whole Foods- vinegar infused beets are a fave!)
    -Asparagus cooked with olive oil, lemon and some parm cheese
    -Honey roasted carrots
    -Cucumber slices and/or pretzels with hummus
    – Kind Bars- she especially loves the Apple Cinnamon kind
    -Gnocchi with swiss chard and tomato sauce (sautee the swiss chard with garlic, add tomatoes and sprinkle with parm cheese- one of her favorites. She loves the swiss chard).

    I have been really lucky in that she tends to be fairly adventurous with food. My secrets are garlic, olive oil, lemon and a sprinkle of parm cheese. She will eat any veggie if cooked with those ingredients! Tonight i cooked some raw spinach that way and she devoured it. :)

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  12. Tammy says:

    My daughter loves the dried seaweed as well. The lunch photos are great…I’m definitely going to pin this post, as inspiration for next year’s (kindergarten) lunches. Thinking we’ll make some of the pumpkin biscuits tomorrow…my fresh pumpkin puree needs using up and my kids LOVE biscuits. I’m jealous that you can leave snacks on the cupboard. My kid is such a hoarder..they’d be gone in an instant (guess she’d do well in a natural disaster :p ).

  13. Very good.Thank you very much

  14. Elizabeth says:

    Mucho, mucho thank you for this jolt of positive lunchbox inspiration! All your hyperlinking was very helpful and may have added some serious good karma to the virtual lunch you pack for all of us. Thanks!

  15. Trbholt says:

    I love the interaction on this new blog of yours! I loved packing your & Travis’ lunches~mainly because you both so appreciated them. I always thought that during lunch that a little bit of me would be there with you! xoxo, your mama

  16. Kelly Cach says:

    This is a test to see if I can leave a comment….tried before, but didn’t work.

  17. Emilie says:

    This is so great, thank you for posting recipes! I follow your pictures on IG and am inspired by your lunches! I also pack our girl’s lunches everyday and put a little note either in the lunchbox or I write on a container if they happen to have something disposable that day. We discovered thermoses this year too and LOVE them! It is so great to be able to send something hot for lunch.
    Some favorites are:
    -Veggies (typically carrots, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers -all colors, broccoli, cauliflower) and hummus are a favorite-Spaghetti (homemade sauce and, if we have them, homemade noodles.) Our sauce recipe is delic if anyone is looking for one!) and noodles
    -Chicken and couscous (sometimes I will make this with veggies if we need extra flavor or servings)
    -Little sandwiches cut into shapes
    -All fruit and I recently discovered a great dip – honey and peanut butter blended together, it’s a little sweet but oh, so creamy!

    Thanks for the post, it gave me some great ideas!

  18. Clancy Tice says:

    I’m going to ‘Favorite’ this one for good ideas for food! Thanks, Nici.

  19. ItsAmyTime says:

    I love this post so much.
    I dont need to pack lunches yet, but I truly can’t wait! I am so excited!
    But what we eat at home. Lots of chick peas and black beans. We put them in quesadillas, along side cut up veggies, in soup, into salads… if there is one thing my kids will always eat, its beans.
    We do plain yogurt mixed with frozen fruit that we thawed first, so the juices make it extra yummy. I love the idea of mixing jam and whatever else with yogurt.
    Fruit salads is always a crowd pleaser. Cut up a few pieces of fruit and voila!
    Again, love this post and love the comments. So great to get ideas from others!

  20. Sarah says:

    I wish you would pack my lunch every day!!! We are really, really boring and this makes me want to do better. I’m just so thankful my kids eat veggies, but you take it to a WHOLE NOTHER LEVEL, my dear. Not sure if someone mentioned this, but you can get guacamole in indiv packs so that is good with meat slices or veggies.

  21. Katie says:

    Sister, you just became my lunch packin’ guru! I’m taking notes. :) x

  22. Kris says:

    I love these and look forward to seeing them on IG. Your girls really do have a mature pallet.
    We started using the Planet Box this school year and my son loves it as much as I do. Packing his lunch is one of my favorite nighttime activities. And I feel just like your Mom did….. it’s my way of “being there” for part of his day.

  23. daniele says:

    My girls and I tried that seaweed at costco a few weeks ago. Eww www not a fan either 😉
    awesome lunches she eats.

  24. Missy says:

    We make this yogurt all the time, using our crockpot and whole milk. I love that it can be made in such a big batch and so easy!


  25. Jenn says:

    Thanks for the inspiration !!!

  26. Stacie/BB30 says:

    I wish you packed my lunches for me everyday.

  27. Laura says:

    So inspiring- thank you! What thermos are you using? I’ve had bad luck with leaking and cleaning my past two :( We love Kids Konserve containers- they are light, stainless steal and truly leak-free! We’ve had the same set for 3 years now and they are holding up great! I should try their thermos..

    • dig dig says:

      It’s a thermos brand thermos. I linked to it in the post! I find it easy to clean…I know exactly what you are talking about with all the nooks for food to stick! This one is really simple.

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