Delicious lunch ideas to get out of the sandwich rut

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As I told you in my 8 tips to reduce the stress of packing lunches, I try to do as much lunch packing the night before as I can. I also try to stick with a same general theme for my two kiddos and switch things up so that they don’t have the same thing every day.

While we do have lunches like peanut butter plain or with jelly or honey on sandwich bread with a side of potato chips and fresh fruit, that isn’t our everyday fare.

I decided to put together a few examples of some of our more creative lunches that aren’t any more difficult than PBJ sandwiches and don’t take any longer to make.

For more information on my lunch packing system and all our favorite lunchbox essentials, check out this post:

Get creative with your bread

One way I’ve learned to break up the lunchbox sandwich monotony is with different bread. Some of my kids’ favorite alternatives to bread are flour tortillas, Hawaiian rolls and Bagel Thins.

I have one kiddo who will eat pretty much whatever I make for her and another who wouldn’t have any protein in his diet if it weren’t for nuts and dairy.

My son has been recently obsessed with bagels. He would eat a toasted bagel with peanut butter pretty much every meal if I’d agree to it. But, a toasted bagel doesn’t pack well for lunch, so we go with Bagel Thins. They’re lower calorie and taste great not toasted.

My kids also love applesauce. The Go Go SqueeZ pouches work well for their lunches because they have no added sugar and the twist top is super easy for the kids to open.

My son’s lunch: A Bagel Thin with peanut butter, an applesauce pouch, baby carrots with Ranch chip dip (lower calorie with some protein and less messy than Ranch dressing) and Goldfish crackers.
My daughter’s lunch on the same day: A Bagel Thin with peanut butter and strawberry jelly, an applesauce pouch, grape tomatoes and Goldfish crackers.

Another favorite of my kiddos is Hawaiian rolls. I use them both to make sandwiches and served solo with peanut butter on the side. We don’t do these quite as often because they are a bit higher calorie and such, but they are a nice every so often to shake up lunches.

My daughter’s lunch: thin-shaved turkey breast with shredded cheese, mayo and honey mustard on a Hawaiian roll, grape tomatoes, strawberries and raspberries and sour cream and onion potato chips
My daughter’s lunch another day: Thin-shaved turkey breast with shredded cheese, mayo and honey mustard on a Hawaiian roll, baby carrots with ranch dip, Jif power-ups and fresh pineapple chunks
My son’s lunch: a Hawaiian roll, peanut butter in a dip cup with a plastic spoon to eat it, Cheez-Its, frosted animal crackers and grapes

Tortilla shells also make another great alternative for sandwich lunches. My daughter, in particular really likes wraps. I also sometimes buy a package of individual baked sides to make packing lunches even easier.

My daughter’s lunch: Baked potato chips, grapes, a wrap with thin-sliced turkey, shredded cheese, mayo and honey mustard and grape tomatoes
My daughter’s lunch: White cheddar popcorn, a fruit and veggie pouch, frosted animal crackers, a wrap with sliced salami, provolone cheese and a bit of mayo and raisins

Think outside of sandwiches

One of both kids’ favorite lunch days is what we call a “snacky lunch.” I usually send a snacky lunch on Tuesdays and sometimes Thursdays. Granola bars work well on these days. My son especially LOVES sweet and salty peanut bars. He would eat them each meal and for snacks, too!

My son’s lunch: Peanut butter in a dip cup, Ritz crackers, a sweet and salty peanut bar, blueberries and a homemade cookie.
My daughter’s lunch: Fruit and grain bar, teriyaki beef jerky, Ritz crackers, grapes and grape tomatoes

Snacky lunch options for my daughter can also be a sliced boiled egg. I put it in a silicone cupcake holder. Sometimes I include crackers on the side, but lately I’ve been including croutons, because she loves them so much. I usually include a dip cup of ranch dressing for her as well.

Another option I’ve sent for my daughter is salads. I fill her large container with lettuce and top it with things like shredded cheese, boiled egg, onion and tomatoes. Then I add bacon bits and croutons in a separate container and a dip cup of salad dressing she can pour on as well. I usually send along some peanut butter crackers and fruit to complete her lunch.

Get creative with hot lunches

Hot lunches take more time on the morning of in order to heat the food and make them. But I do usually get the sides put together and in lunchboxes the night before.

My kiddos like breaking up the lunch monotony with hot lunches. I usually do a hot lunch for them on Wednesdays. I love the Thermos Funtainer food jars.

You can find more details on how I use them by warming them with hot water for 15-20 minutes in my post on how to make packing lunches easier. While I sometimes use leftovers for hot lunches, most often I use other options like the ones below that I took a few different days.

My daughter’s lunch: An applesauce pouch, Lean Cuisine Swedish meatballs, peanut butter crackers and frosted animal crackers
Part of my son’s lunch: frozen pancakes, cut up into quarters (This is a favorite for both of my kids! My daughter dips hers in applesauce, so I send an applesauce cup with hers. My son just likes the applesauce on the side, so he gets a pouch.)
My son’s entire lunch: An applesauce pouch, frozen pancakes cut into quarters, peanut butter crackers and frosted animal crackers
My daughter’s lunch: Smart Ones tuna casserole, an applesauce pouch, a granola bar and raisins

More lunch ideas

These are just a few days’ worth of lunches I’ve packed for my kiddos lately. Just a bit of creativity can shake things up and get them from getting bored. Here are a few grocery ideas to add into your lunch rotation:

About the Author: Stacey A. Shannon

Stacey A. Shannon is a freelance journalist and blogger who has been published internationally. She's also a Christian, a wife and a mom of two school-aged children. She started Families with Grace in 2019 to encourage Christian moms as they create homes filled with grace, love and faith.

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School lunch ideas even your pickiest eater will loveSchool lunch ideas even your pickiest eater will loveSchool lunch ideas even your pickiest eater will loveSchool lunch ideas even your pickiest eater will love