Trader Joe's 6 best items for easy school lunches

With so many delicious options, it's hard to know where to start. Here's some helpful advice, courtesy of Reddit

By Joy Saha

Staff Writer

Published August 28, 2022 4:30PM (EDT)

Trader Joe's Entrance (Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Trader Joe's Entrance (Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Back-to-school season is officially here, meaning it's time to say goodbye to summer and welcome the return of endless piles of homework.

Whether it's spending hours shopping for new school supplies or preparing for early morning alarms, the start of a new school year is undoubtedly stressful. Luckily, packing school lunches doesn't have to be, thanks to Trader Joe's wide selection of delicious lunch foods and snacks.

From fresh fruits to frozen meals and hearty spreads, here are the top 6 items to pack for school lunches, according to a handful of Redditors — who are also regular shoppers at the California-based retailer.

This list adds to Salon Food's growing library of supermarket guides. If you're looking to satisfy your sweet tooth, check out the 7 best baked goods at Trader Joe's right now.

Uncured Salame di Parma Mild Salami
Trader Joe's Salame di Parma Mild SalamiTrader Joe's Salame di Parma Mild Salami (Photo courtesy of Ashlie D. Stevens)
Imported from Parma, Italy, Trader Joe's Uncured Salame is pre-sliced and perfect in sandwiches, salads or miniature charcuterie boards. Per user u/eveningtrain, the salami pairs well with cheese — like individual Brie bites — and crackers, like Trader Joe's creamy tomato soup-seasoned crackers, to make a homemade rendition of classic Lunchables.
"I also often include a few olives (pitted to not annoy myself with stuff to throw away while on lunch) and small dill pickles, but I recommend putting them into a bowl lined with paper towel to dry them off when packing lunch because the brine does get on other things (I usually pack them next to meat which tastes good if it gets a little brine)," u/eveningtrain continued.
They also recommend adding dried fruits, such as pure mango, dried cherries or dried tangerines, or fresh berries to the mix for added sweetness.
Raspberries & Cream, Meyer Lemon & Cream Yogurt Cups
Raspberries Cream Meyer Lemon Cream YogurtsRaspberries Cream Meyer Lemon Cream Yogurts (Photo courtesy of Ashlie D. Stevens)
These personal-sized yogurt cups can be enjoyed on their own or as a parfait topped with fresh fruit, granola, cinnamon and a drizzle of honey. They can also be enjoyed alongside cereal or snack bars, like Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate, Nuts and Sea Salt Bar.
For a complete meal, user u/Smile_Anyway_9988 suggests packing the yogurt cups with pinwheel sandwiches — which include rolled & cut spinach tortilla stuffed with lunch meat, cheese and a thin layer of mayo or pesto sauce — and cut up veggies.
In addition to the raspberry and Meyer lemon flavors, the yogurt cups are available in both strawberry and banana cream flavors. 
Sunflower Seed Spread
Sunflower Seed SpreadSunflower Seed Spread (Photo courtesy of Ashlie D. Stevens)

A satisfying alternative to peanut butter — and other nut butters that may be banned from school cafeterias — sunflower seed butter is the perfect spread to include in both sweet and savory sandwiches. 


User u/Nhadalie recommends making sunflower seed sandwiches with chopped bananas, cinnamon and honey. Similarly, u/ronnysmom suggests spreading the butter on sprouted bread and pairing it with a cup of yogurt and cut up Persian cucumbers, strawberries and mandarin oranges.


"This was [a] daily lunch for my son for years and years," they added. "[His school was] a non-peanut facility but once I explained that this was Sunflower seed butter, not only did they OK it, their director went and bought Sunflower Seed butter from TJ's and added it to the school's snack offerings!"

Garlic Indian Style Flatbread
Garlic Flavored Indian Style FlatbreadGarlic Indian Style Flatbread (Photo courtesy of Ashlie D. Stevens)
Trader Joe's Garlic Flatbread, akin to Garlic naan, pairs well with frozen curries — like TJ's cult-favorite Paneer Tikka Masala with Spinach Basmati Rice. It can also be used as a base for individual pizzas, adorned with cheese, sauce, onions, veggies and other toppings of your choice!
Another great way to enjoy TJ's flatbread is to make them into naan crackers. Simply slice the flatbread into small squares, lay them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, brush the breads with olive oil and bake them in the oven for approximately 15 minutes. The crackers can then be paired with cheese, olives and the ever-popular Trader Joe's variety of champagne grapes.  
Champagne Grapes
Champagne GrapesChampagne Grapes (Photo courtesy of Ashlie D. Stevens)

Speaking of champagne grapes, these small & seedless grape varieties are a must-have in school lunches! The grapes can be added into salads, like a Greek-inspired grape and feta salad. Simply whisk together extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt and pepper in one large mixing bowl. Then add in the grapes, mixed greens and halved cherry tomatoes and finish it off with a spoonful of crumbled feta.


Champagne grapes are also great in cheese and charcuterie boards or with a medley of fresh berries. They can also be eaten on their own or with a generous sprinkle of sugar!

Cheese & Green Chile Tamales
Cheese Green Chile TamalesCheese Green Chile Tamales (Photo courtesy of Ashlie D. Stevens)

Frozen foods, like Trader Joe's Cheese & Green Chile Tamales, are a quick & easy meal option for school lunches. Many Redditors recommend the tamales because they are tasty, filling and incredibly easy to prepare — just pop them in the microwave for 3 to 4 minutes, then pop them in your lunchbox and you're all set.


According to TJ's, the tamales are "an easily portable food…fit for the gods" because they are so darn tasty! Each tamale contains Monterey Jack cheese, spicy green chiles, and red chile purée, all stuffed inside corn masa and hand-wrapped in corn husks." 

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By Joy Saha

Joy Saha is a staff writer at Salon. She writes about food news and trends and their intersection with culture. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.


Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Food List Reddit School Lunches Supermarkets Trader Joe's