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Sick of Packing Lunch? 12 Quick Fixes From Trader Joe’s

Simple snacks to bulk up your kid’s lunch box

Author Kari Hanson

Published on: April 16, 2024

Girl putting lunch box into her back pack Trader Joe's lunch

I don’t know about you, but I ran out of gas for creating the perfectly balanced school lunch sometime back around November. As spring break winds down, I can see the end of the school year on the horizon and the glorious moment when I can stop thinking about school lunches. But that freedom is quickly followed by the need to pack lunches for camp — will it ever end?!

To make it through these last crazy months of the school year, I’ve come to rely on healthy(ish) snacks from my favorite grocery store, Trader Joe’s. These snacks/lunch items can bulk up that lunch box and require zero work, which is about the level I am able to give when it come to lunch these days. Read on for some of my favorite finds for easy and tasty lunch box solutions. 


Cheddar cheese sticks

Let’s start with a basic. My kids were never fans of string cheese. Apparently, it is the wrong consistency and cannot be eaten. But, these cheddar cheese sticks are accepted every time! Nothing is easier than tossing one into a lunch bag or box, and I know it will get chomped down. 

"cheddar cheese sticks trader joes lunch"
Cheddar cheese sticks are always a win. Photo credit: Kari Hanson

Chomps meat sicks

If you are packing for a carnivore, these Chomps meat sticks are another super easy way to add some protein to a lunch. Located right next to the checkout counter at my Trader Joe’s, I find myself grabbing a handful as I put my groceries on the counter. Choose from turkey or beef, spicy or original. 

"Chomp beef sticks trader joes lunch"
Grab a handful as you check out at Trader Joe’s. Photo credit: Kari Hanson

Frooze balls

If you’ve got a peanut butter and jelly fan, but sandwiches have lost their allure, you’ve got to give these a try. These plant-powered balls are filled with creamy peanut butter and jelly, and all you have to do is toss them in a lunch bag. Easy, and just weird enough to be intriguing at lunchtime.   

"Frooze balls Trader Joe’s lunch"
It’s a sandwich and a ball, what more could you ask for! Photo credit: Kari Hanson 


The challenge for my family with guacamole is that we never seem to eat it before it turns brown. These individual guacamole to-go packets solve that problem and are super portable. I toss them in a lunch bag with some pita chips, pretzels, or whatever kind of crunchy chips we’ve got and presto — happy and full kiddo. Pro-tip the larger size works great for an after-school snack! 

"Guacamole to Go lunch at Trader Joe's"
Individual guacamole packets are an easy and filling lunch addition. Photo credit: Kari Hanson 

Protein packs

Sometimes I need more help than a cheese stick can offer — I need a full protein package. These options are great for kids to take in their backpacks as an after-school snack, especially if they head straight to clubs or sports before coming home.

"Protein packet Trader Joe's lunch"
These packs are full of protein and are a great after-school snack before kids head to sports or clubs. Photo credit: Kari Hanson


My sons are 15- and 14 years old, and they still love these yogurt sticks (of course, they now eat three at a time). I keep these in the freezer and put them in their lunch frozen, resulting in some nice cool yogurt at lunchtime. These also make a great after-school snack, frozen or just chilled in the fridge. 

"Squishers yogurt Trader Joe's lunches"
Popular with kids of all ages, Squishers yogurts are a fun quick lunch addition. Photo credit: Kari Hanson

Beyond apple slices and carrot sticks 

Dried fruit

At this point in the school year, my kids are over apple slices — our go-to fruit lunch item. Trader Joe’s has tons of different dried fruit options, with and without added sugar. We are big fans of the dried mango in our house, and my youngest son particularly enjoys the spicy variety. 

"Dried mango options Trader Joe's lunch"
Trader Joe’s offers tons of dried fruit options, find your favorite! Photo credit: Kari Hanson 

Freeze-dried fruit

Who doesn’t want to eat like an astronaut? Freeze-dried fruit is a fun and healthy way to pack fruit that might otherwise end up squished in a lunch box. It crunches like a chip but is just fruit. The only downside is that these bags are pretty small and they go very quickly in my house with teens. 

"Freeze dried fruit Trader Joe's lunch"
Watch out, these will go fast! Photo credit: Kari Hanson


I usually find edamame in the frozen or fresh sections of Trader Joe’s, both of which require some prep time. But now this healthy source of fiber and protein is available shelled and ready to eat! This is a great thing to fill up a Ziploc baggy or lunch box section for an easy, unique and filling food my kids can scoop up and pop in their mouths. 

"Edamame from Trader Joe's lunch"
This ready-to-eat edamame is a quick and easy lunch addition. Photo credit: Kari Hanson

Easy treats

Blueberry lemon hand pie

While I’m trying to keep this list healthy, sometimes I just want to throw in an easy treat on a Friday. These small hand pies are sweet, buttery, compact and feel like a special treat. 

"Blueberry and Lemon Hand Pie Trader Joe's lunch"
Add a sweet hand pie to lunch for a special treat. Photo credit: Kari Hanson

Protein chocolate muffin 

If you have an older child with access to a microwave at school (like my middle schooler) these are going to be popular in your house. Kids who know how to make ramen will have no problem making this quick chocolate muffin packed with 12 grams of protein. Pop this in your kid’s backpack and they will be the envy of their friends when they make a hot, chocolatey dessert at school. If a microwave is not available at school, keep these on hand for a quick after-school snack or after-dinner treat. 

"Chocolate muffin Trader Joe's lunch"
Cooks in the microwave like ramen, but it’s a chocolate muffin! Photo credit: Kari Hanson 

Don’t forget the drinks

Coconut water and spring water

Yes, reusable water bottles are always the best choice and we do have many. But at this point in the school year, most of them have been lost at parks, schools or are generally scattered across the city of Seattle. For days when I just cannot find a reusable bottle with a functional lid, these mini bottles of coconut water and spring water are life savers. 

"Coconut water and spring water Trader Joe's lunch"
These small, inexpensive, healthy drinks are a great lunch box option in a pinch. Photo credit: Kari Hanson 

More lunch ideas

Editor’s note: This article was first published several years ago and was most recently updated with new lunch items in April 2024. 

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