Here are a few of my kids favorites:
- Homemade lunchables -- crackers, cheese slives, and slices of ham, salami, or turkey, all stacked together in a reusable container. Sometimes, I cut bread into fun shapes with cookie cutters and use that instead of crackers.
- Wheat thins and flavored creamcheese. You can mix herbs, finely chopped veggies, or finely chopped lunch meats into the creamcheese.
- Peanut butter and Jelly roll-ups (or, if your school is nut-free -- my 3-year-old's preschool is -- you can use sunflowerseed butter from Trader Joes's). Take a flour tortilla, spread it with jam or jelly and peanutbutter, roll it up tightly (a little peanut butter on the edge will help it stay closed) and cut into slices so it looks like pinwheels.
- Any other types of rollups. My 3-year-old doesn't care for sandwiches usually, but will happily eat pretty much any type of sandwich filling if it's rolled up in a flour tortilla. Don't know why..
- Chunks of lunchmeat and chunks of cheese, mixed together to make "sandwich salad." My 3 year old loves this. The bigger kids will eat chunks of beef salami or summer sausage if I include packets of mustard for dipping. Add a croissant or a roll to eat on the side.
- Pasta salads. Use an oil-and- vinager base for the dressing if the school doesn't refrigerate the lunches. Non-creamy italian dressing or balsamic vinager dressing works well for this! Add strips of lunch meat or leftover meat from dinner, shredded cheese, chopped veggies.
- Chicken nuggets (they taste fine at room temp) with sauce on the side for dipping.
- Biscuits with jam or cheese
- Mini bagles spread with cream cheese.
- Cold pizza (My kids scarf this up. So does my husband. shudder. But hey, it's not that bad, nutritionally speaking).
- Veggies and cut-up pita bread with hummus for dipping
- Baby carrots, apple slices, and celery sticks with peanut butter (or sunflowerseed butter) for dipping.
- "Nacho lunch": tortilla chips with small containers of salsa, refried beans, and guacamole for scooping.
- pot stickers (trader joe's carries some). They taste fine at room temperature, though they're not that great if they're cold).
- Homemade pocket sandwiches: store bought or frozen pizza dough rolled out and filled with whatever leftovers you have in the fridge (roast chicken and cheese was a favorite with my kids, so was thinly sliced roast beef from the deli and cheese with sauteed onions. Come to think of it, leftover meatloaf with mozarella and a dab of marinara sauce was good, too). Then fold the dough over the filling, pinch the edges closed so it looks like a small calzone, and bake. They taste fine at room temperature.
- My oldest was on a chicken-salad bender for a while; she'd happily eat that with crackers for lunch.
- BBQ chicken wings (the younger kids got a kick out of the tiny drumsticks. Messy, but good). Add some celery sticks on the side.
I've never had any luck with packing thermoses of soup or stews -- my kids never ate them and sometimes would lose the thermos as well.
Hope this helps!