All too often when you think of packing school lunches the ol’ ham sandwich comes to mind. While a sandwich can make for a good school lunch, they are not your only option.
Try some different kid friendly lunch ideas this school year and add some different flavors and nutrients to your kids lunchbox!
Soup/Chili and Sourdough
A fabulous combo that can be extremely healthy and still be filling. Especially, in the cooler months when a nice warm lunch can warm you up from the inside out.
With just a bit of prep at the beginning of the week you can have some hearty warm lunches for your older kiddos.
Choose a favorite vegetarian slow cooker or stove soup recipe and have it simmer and cook over Sunday afternoon.
I say vegetarian because then you have less concerns with reheating later in the week. After you let it cool you can divvy it up for a few days worth of lunches.
A few ideas on reheating, if you have a sturdy thermos you could reheat it in the morning and put it in the thermos to stay warm if no microwave is available at school. If there is a microwave at school you could put it in a bowl with a sealing lid and they can reheat it at lunch time. Depending on what you child’s school has available, make it work.
If there is a local bakery or your grocery store has a bakery section go grab some delicious sourdough bread to pair with the soup for each day. I know I certainly enjoy a few delicious pieces of bread with butter to go with my soup.
If you want to kick it up a notch, make grilled cheese sandwiches to go with tomato soup. I know, I know, I said beyond sandwiches….but come on, who doesn’t love a grilled cheese dipped in tomato soup?
- Vegetation Chili by Cookie + Kate
- Lunch Box Ramen by Tasty Kitchen
- Easy Minestrone Soup by My Fussy Eater
Meatballs & Pasta
Another nice warm option for the cooler part of the year. Meatballs with spaghetti sauce on pasta will be an easy hit during lunch. It can be leftovers from the night before or made ahead for multiple kiddos.
I say pasta, because let’s be honest…the spaghetti noodle is not the easiest type of noodle to eat. I recommend spiral, penne, or bow-tie as an alternative that will be easier for kids to ear during lunch.
Just remember to pack them a fork.
- Spaghetti & Meatball Muffin Bites by The Organised Housewife
- Cheesy Chicken Meatballs by Kidgredients
- Ikea Swedish Meatballs – pick them up in freezer section
Make your own version of lunchables with fresh ingredients and food you know your child will eat.
What does a lunchable contain? Meat, cheese, carb ,treat, and a juice. You can make that up easily with things already in your fridge, a perfect last minute lunch option you can throw together.
- Deli ham
- Deli Turkey
- Leftover roasted chicken
- Smoked Salmon (hey sometimes it’s on sale!)
- Alternative: Hard Boiled Egg
- Tofu Sliced into Squares
- Sliced into thin squares
- Mozzarella mini balls
- Cottage Cheese (to dip veggie sticks)
- Dinner roll
- Pita Chips
- Melba Toasts
- Carrot sticks
- Celery sticks
- Cucumber sticks
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Apple Slices
- Pear Slices
- Dried Fruit
- Orange/Mandarin slices (already peeled, as someone who used to work lunch duty, kids get lazy at lunch)
- Ranch dressing (not too much if you want to keep it healthy)
- Homemade oatmeal cookie
- Berry yogurt
Big Ol’ Salad for Lunch
A good hearty salad is an option on those hot summer school days when something lite is preferred. You will know your child’s preferences for what they will like on a salad, so go with what you know.
Begin with the lettuce greens, then add things like tomato, cucumber wedges, shredded carrot, bell pepper, croutons, and and other nuts and seeds they are willing to eat.
Top it with a source of protein like hard-boiled egg, cheese, or even some grilled beef/chicken strips.
Pour the dressing the in a small, separate container along with a utensils and a napkin. Boom, Lunch is Made!
You can assemble the salad the night before and store it in the fridge. Just be sure the ingredients are as dry as they can be, cherry tomatoes can be better than cut tomato for this reason.
Make sure to cut everything into small bite-sized pieces, especially lettuce…no one enjoys giant lettuce pieces that don’t fit easily into your mouth.
If it is easy to eat, you can be sure they will devour it come lunch time.
Mac N Cheese the Age ol Favorite
What can ya say, Everyone loves a good classic like Mac N Cheese for lunch. Filling and super easy for you to make a big batch of to last all week or to make for multiple kiddos.
- One Pot Mac’n’Cheese w/ Hidden Veg by My Fussy Eater
- Easy School Lunch Mac N Cheese by Food For My Family
- Macaroni & Cheese Lunchbox Muffins by My Fussy Eater
Shredded Meat & Veg
Having some shredded bbq pork, chicken, or beef for dinner? This is an easy dinner to make a bit extra of and put aside for lunchboxes the next day. Add a vegetable to the side with a dinner roll and you have a quick school lunch made for the next day.
Veggies for the Side
- Or a Mix of All the Above!
Important Safety Note
It is extremely important when dealing with food in any situation to be aware of safe food handling. The last thing we want to do is give our kids food poisoning. So, if you have never looked over any guidelines before the USDA has a Keeping “Bag” Lunches Safe page for advice on food handling while packing kids school lunches.
Creative School Lunch Box Alternatives to Sandwiches
So there you have it, there is more you can put into a lunchbox than just a sandwich. I know as a mom I sometimes get stuck into habit and do the same things, but everyone likes a bit of variety when it comes to what we eat.
With variety in food comes a wider variety of nutrients our kids are digesting to help them grow. I hope this inspires you to try a few new things to spice up your kids next lunch box meal!
That’s why I write, so I can help contribute and share knowledge with the great mom community.
If there are any other great ideas for school lunches that go beyond sandwiches that you love feel free to share with everyone in the comments!