10 Sandwich-Free Lunchbox Ideas For Back-To-School


Ladies, this is not a drill. Get those lunchboxes ready.

In T-minus however many days, my favorite holiday of the year will be here! Christmas? No. Mother’s Day? Nah. It’s Back to School Day!!! Sing it with me now, “IT’S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR!” 

No more toys strewn all over the house, no more kids asking for snacks from dawn to dusk, no more 27 pairs of lost goggles and “watch me do a handstand in the shallow end for the nine millionth time.” Clearly, I am over summer break. 

Of course, back-to-school time doesn’t come without its drawbacks. The early morning wake up call, the stinging pocketbook after school supply shopping, and, of course, in our house, the yearly school lunch battle. If you are one of the lucky ones with a school lunch program that isn’t cost-prohibitive and that your child will actually eat, consider yourself lucky.

We, on the other hand, are not one of those families. While I wouldn’t go so far as to call my children adventurous eaters, they aren’t particularly picky. They eat fruit, meats, and even the occasional green veggies (okay, only one of them does, and it has to be slathered in cheese sauce, but you get my point). However, there is one caveat. My oldest daughter REFUSES to eat sandwiches in her lunchbox. No PB&J, no grilled cheese, not even the ever-popular after-Thanksgiving turkey and potato chip combo… Admit it, we’ve all tried that one. It’s delicious.

Why no sandwiches?

I push my kids to do a lot of things. Manners are non-negotiable in our house. Safety is a must. But I don’t really push them to eat foods they have tried numerous times and just don’t like. We are all entitled to like and dislike certain foods. For example, I despise liver. My husband can’t do mayonnaise. Want to incite mob violence? Put an onion anywhere NEAR my younger daughter’s plate. Research has shown that: a) kids get MORE than enough carbohydrates from other sources and b) forcing kids to eat foods they don’t like can have some really negative effects  

After some trial and error, we have found plenty of non-sandwich lunchbox variations that are healthy, wholesome, and guaranteed to keep even the pickiest eaters happy. Side note: These are nut-free as well, in accordance with many schools’ allergen policies. 

So, without further adieu, I present to you, 10 non-sandwich lunchbox ideas for kids AND parents alike:

  1. Quesadillas – Delicious hot or cold, these can be stuffed with cheese, chicken, avocado, shredded pineapple, or just about anything your little eater will gobble down.                                        
  2. Pitas – Served with hummus and/or sun butter. Pair with some cucumber slices and watermelon. My kids love this and they are super easy to prep ahead of time.
  3. Breakfast – Waffles with jam, hard-boiled eggs, sausage on a stick, pancakes with Nutella, etc. Pair with a fruit salad and BOOM, a fun lunch kids will be sure to gobble down. My independent research has found that approximately 900% of kids love breakfast for lunch.              
  4. Crispy Chicken Legs – If it’s perfect for a picnic, it makes an even better school lunch. Throw in some coleslaw and fresh peach slices and you’ve got yourself a slam-dunk combo.                      
  5. DIY Pizza Roll-Ups – What kid will say no to pizza? Pack soft, whole wheat Tortillas, shredded mozzarella, pepperoni slices and some pizza sauce. Pair it with a salad and you’ve got a runaway hit!
  6. Crackers, Meat, and Cheese – An especially big hit with my preschooler, I throw in some soup in a thermos and some yogurt and grapes for a complete meal.
  7. Kabobs – What kid doesn’t like food on a stick?! I start with salami, ham, and cheese cubes. Depending on the child, I add cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers, pineapple, etc. Actually, I usually just use any leftovers I have in the house.
  8. Mini Bagels – You can really tailor this one to meet each child’s individual likes and dislikes. I have one child who loves mini bagels with ham and melted cheese. Another child prefers her bagels with smoked turkey and cream cheese. Admittedly, this is fairly close to a sandwich, but for my non-bread eaters, it fits the bill nicely.
  9. Tuna or Chicken Salad – Served with crackers or sweet potato chips or even zucchini slices, this is a healthy and convenient lunch that requires very few ingredients. Serve with a little salsa for a zesty spin on a traditional lunch.
  10. Mac and Cheese – Whenever I make mac and cheese, I make a little extra for the school thermos. I occasionally throw in some chicken or even hide some veggies in there. My kids love noodles with any meal, and this has become a fan-favorite in our house.

Hopefully, this list will inspire you to “think outside the lunchbox” and make fun, yummy lunches that don’t take a ton of time or energy. Now that my daughters are a little older, they have graduated to prepping/packing most of their own meals. I have found that giving them a say in what they pack makes them much more likely to actually eat it! Having a non-sandwich eating child can make life interesting, but their lunches don’t have to be boring. Keep those bellies full so they are ready to learn!

What are YOUR favorite quick and easy non-sandwich lunchbox ideas?


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