It all started with a trip to Disneyland. My husband had this brilliant idea to only eat one meal in the park every day to save money. I’m not being sarcastic. It really was a brilliant idea. Unfortunately, he didn’t share the idea with me until we were there, so I didn’t get to plan for it. We had some leftover sandwich stuff from the drive to Anaheim, so we ate ham sandwiches in our hotel room for dinner *every single day* for the whole week. We were so sick of ham sandwiches by the end of the week, it took ages to recover and be able to eat a ham sandwich again.
I know, I know… we sound incredibly spoiled. My kids are actually fabulous eaters. They’ll eat whatever I put in front of them, and even if they don’t like it they’ll eat a polite amount and thank me for the meal. They were used to sandwiches for lunch and never complained. But here’s the truth: ever since that trip, my kids are not the biggest fans of sandwiches – especially packed in their lunches *every single day.*
That’s where my search for non-sandwich lunches began, and I have been amazed with the adventure. Packing lunches has always just been another chore that needed to be done, but as I’ve looked for ways to make lunches more interesting, packing lunches has actually become fun! I guess it makes sense. When I get tired of cooking, I look for new recipes to try to spice it up. Trying new things for lunch spices that up, too! Don’t get me wrong, we still have sandwiches for lunch, but it’s not every day and the days in between are full of fun alternatives.
So without further delay, here are 12 fun lunch ideas that we have enjoyed so far this school year.
Chicken Taco Pasta Salad w/Town House flatbread crisps, grapes & gogurt – I’m a soccer mom and needed a meal to take to a dinner-time soccer game. I found this recipe for a fun chicken pasta salad, adapted it a bit, and it was a HIT! We all loved it for dinner and then packed it in lunches the next day.
Meatballs & Muffins w/grapes, carrots, cheese chunks, & applesauce – I always have frozen meatballs in the freezer, so I will heat up a few in the morning and gather random sides to toss in. This day we had leftover muffins from dinner the night before. The kids loved slurping up the applesauce out of the container since I didn’t put spoons in their lunches that day.
Sandwich Shapes – We still have sandwiches sometimes. This lunch was simple with a sandwich cut with cookie cutters, (dried out) carrots, cookies, and string cheese.
Peanut Butter Crackers – Of course this wouldn’t work for a nut-free school, but my kids love these. Gogurt, grapes, carrots, and chocolate chips round out this meal.
Pulled Pork Sandwiches – We love the pulled pork and buns at Costco. The buns are big, so 1/2 sandwich is plenty for my kiddos. I left the meat plain this time, so I gave them a side of BBQ sauce for dipping along with watermelon, cantaloupe, and some cookies.
Salad – Honestly, my kids really don’t love salad when I serve it with dinner, but this is one of their favorite lunches. Crazy? Maybe, but I love that I can stuff the salad full of veggies and they gobble up every bite. They have a little container of salad dressing, fruit, and cookies to make the meal complete.
Hidden Shape Sandwiches – Sometimes when I cut out sandwiches, I leave them in the crusts. The kids love pulling the shapes out and eating the crust first while they play with the shapes. This one is served with fruit & a cookie.
Snack Tray – Meatballs with sauce (leftover from our meatball subs the night before), cheese, fruit, veggies, peanut butter pretzels, & crackers. The trick with this kind of lunch is to make sure they have enough variety to get a lot of food groups in there and fill them up. This particular lunch should have been packed a little smarter. Next time I would switch the meatballs & peanut butter pretzels because the pretzels ended up soggy and not edible by lunch time.
Puzzle Sandwiches – It was the first day of school and I wasn’t really ready for packing lunches yet, but I wanted to find a way to make a boring lunch fun. These are just peanut butter sandwiches, but I made half on wheat and half on white and switched up the shapes. Fruit and Disney animal crackers added to the fun.
Salad & Donuts – Nothing says “healthy lunch” quite like donuts, right? We had a few left over from our family night treat, so I added a few pieces in with the lunches. The salad was full of veggies (and ham), so I feel good about it. Don’t forget the salad dressing and flatbread crisps.
Basic Sandwiches – Boring old tuna sandwiches, but these had spinach and arugula on them – which made them so yummy. Served with grapes, a mini candy bar, and a love note from Mom.
Lunch Kabobs – the all-time favorite lunch in this house is this kabob. Here’s the funny thing… it’s just a ham sandwich! But I cut everything into chunks and arrange them on a skewer, and suddenly it’s the best lunch ever. Love it! Sometimes I add grapes or cherry tomatoes, but only one of my kids really loves them, so this time I added a slice of cucumber and served with a fruit and veggie.
What do you pack for lunch?