Well, here were are, four months into being a schooling family, and I am still working out the concept of packed lunches. Of course I did make packed lunches before, on the odd occasion, but they were often for a whole family, and the whole idea was a novelty. It happened a maximum of twice a week, and more often it only happened about once a month.
Now... I pack a lunch five days a week. For a son who is not only allergic to gluten, soy, eggs, beans, and various other grains, but who is also PICKY. And who is as skinny as a rake, and not particularly interested in eating.
From conversations with other parents, I know I'm not alone in this. We go through the good times, like when I discovered that he simply loved plain canned wild salmon, and would happily eat a can of it with some veggies and crackers for lunch twice a week. Then the not-so-good times when he decided he was tired of the canned salmon (even in various enticing incarnations), or any fish for that matter, or bread of any kind, or pasta, popcorn, cookies, anything with coconut, nuts, spicy food, or fruit. There were a few weeks back there where my lovely dear son was only willing to consume pre-cooked, thermosed instant Biryani, changed up only with an occasional Paneer Tikka Masala, by the same company. But only if I added peas. Oh and sausages. He is always willing to eat sausages.
There is a kitchen at school, so I asked him if he'd like to cook it for himself (you know - independent-like...). He delightedly said 'yes', did it once, but then the next time I sent him with a microwavable meal including cheesy pasta and sausages, he was busy at lunch and didn't eat anything until he got home... and ate it cold.
Then I decided if he packed his lunches himself, maybe he would eat them. I took him shopping and bought him all kinds of foods he wanted. His lunches were about one third the size of the lunches I'd been packing! We're talking 12 rice crackers, 1/4 cup of hummus, and a chocolate Larabar. For 6 hours of school plus Ultimate practice. I tried adding foods, but he resisted, and it wasn't until he became tired of making his own lunches (only a few days later) that I was able to start packing again.
So, variety seems to be the spice of lunch, no matter how much he tells me he wants the same thing every day. If I let him have it, he'll get sick of it, and then I'll be stuck with the remaining portions until a month or two later when he's willing eat it again (after 2 months, he's still off the canned salmon...).
At this point, our standbys are the following:
cheese and lettuce sandwiches (he still loves lettuce to a maximum of 2ce/week)
meat, mustard and lettuce sandwiches
prepared Gits Indian meals
cut veggies, crackers, and hummus (but it's still hit and miss, although he requests it)
rice, lentil or corn pasta with salt, nutritional yeast and cheese or herbs
leftover dinner, if he loved it
sausages added to anything.
McClean's nitrite-free pepperoni
a plain carrot!
home-made muffins with applesauce to dip them in
rice or nut crackers with guacamole
spicy Indian snacks (processed; not so healthy)
nuts with candied ginger (without the candied ginger he won't eat the nuts)
So... that's my son. I imagine school lunches are entirely individual, but this sure has been a long and bumpy journey for us! My daughter, who is still unschooling, nearly never has to have a packed lunch, but when she does she delights in planning and packing it for herself, and usually packs and eats a large healthy meal. As I write this she is eagerly finishing her morning-long project of making lentil-burgers for our family lunch. Yum. Maybe there will be some leftovers for when her brother gets home from school.