13 Ideas for Non-Sandwich School Lunches

CC BY 2.0. Melissa

Sick of the same old bread-and-filling combo? You're not alone.

May I confess something? I hate sandwiches. I’ve always hated sandwiches. The combination of sliced bread, deli meat, sweaty cheese, and limp greens never made any sense to me. Each ingredient on their own might have been passable (which is why I tried to deconstruct them), but squished all together? No, thanks.

Now that my kids take lunches to school each day, I can’t help but want to stay away from sandwiches. I don’t mention it explicitly, since I don’t want to pass on my anti-sandwich complex, but I’m always on the lookout for ideas that deviate from the boring bread-and-filling norm.

Whether you’re a sandwich-hater like me, or you just know your kids will be sick of sandwiches within a few weeks’ time, here is a list of non-sandwich lunch ideas, inspired in part by this one made by Produce for Kids.

Please note: My children are not picky eaters, which is why this list might seem a bit extraordinary to some parents; but I swear they would eat everything here. Also, I’m a big fan of repurposing leftovers whenever possible.

1. Wraps: OK, you might argue that this is a sandwich of sorts, but I disagree. A tortilla or pita is significantly tastier than conventional sandwich loaf slices, and because of its shape can hold a variety of wetter, more flavorful fillings, such as potato curry, refried beans, scrambled tofu, and falafel.

2. Pinwheels: A classic variation on the wrap, spread a pita with hummus or cream cheese, roll and slice.

3. Soups: Buy a small thermos, send along a spoon, and fill it with delicious homemade soup. Add a slice of bread or crackers on the side.

4. Pasta: It’s almost easier to boil some noodles and toss them with sauce than to assemble a sandwich. This is the time of year to make big batches of sauce, either basil pesto or tomato. A jar will keep in the fridge for a few weeks. Send in a thermos.

5. Pizza Kebabs: You might want to check with the school about their policy on pointy stick-like materials, but this is a fun idea. Skewer pieces of green pepper, mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, and salami onto a stick.

6. Chips: Pack tortilla chips with salsa, guacamole, and/or pinto bean dip. Make veggie chips from thinly sliced sweet potatoes or kale.

7. Waffles: Make an extra-big batch of waffles on the weekend and stash in the freezer. Spread with peanut or almond butter and jam for a yummy lunch.

8. Dip: One of our favorites is a pack of cream cheese blended with feta. Add water to desired consistency. It’s wonderful for dipping veggies, crackers, and chips.

9. Salad: Perhaps you have a green-phobic child, but there are other salad options. Greek, Caesar, pasta, and taco salads tend to be big hits; or check out this Caprese Zoodle Salad.

10. Handheld: Samosas, calzones, empanadas, Brazilian pão de queijo, knishes, and Jamaican patties are all great options that will fill those kiddos up.

11. Popcorn: Maybe not a great long-term lunch staple, but good once in a while. Toss with nutritional yeast for added flavor and a boost of vitamin B12.

12. Muffins: Muffins don’t have to be sweet. Turn them into a main course with savory ingredients, such as cheddar, broccoli, zucchini, mushrooms, herbs, and cornmeal.

13. Eggs: You non-vegans out there can do a lot with eggs. Make a quiche that will give you a week's worth of lunches, or boil eggs for an easy handheld snack. Mix beaten eggs into hot fried rice with stir-fried vegetables.

What are your favorite non-sandwich lunch ideas?