Thinking Outside the Sandwich for School Lunch Solutions

Throughout my 20+ years of sending kids off to school, packing lunches has never been my favorite thing to do. Truth is, I hate it! I started making my kids pack their own lunches at a very early age. Even buying the ingredients for school lunches made me grumpy. My kids were pretty easy to please but keeping it fresh and interesting proved to be impossible. We found ourselves in some pretty deep ruts with peanut butter and jelly, goldfish and grapes. Kids claiming there was nothing to eat while looking into my pantry that was so full it couldn’t shut would send me over the edge. I desperately wanted to send my kids to school with a healthy lunch that they would eat. Invariably lunch boxes would return home half-eaten and warm. Wasted food! What about the hungry children?  I could hear my own Mother in my head.

So when Heinen’s asked me to write a post about back to school lunches and “thinking outside the sandwich” while including ideas for those who eat meat, those following a gluten free diet and vegans I said, ‘Sure, no problem,” while secretly wanting to jump from a ledge. How could I advise anyone on something I have struggled with for so long? I can’t possibly be alone in this. Can I? Does anyone else struggle for ideas or stress out over the lack of nutritional value in the stuff the kids would like to take for lunch? Hat’s off to the moms who love packing lunches.

I turned to the experts, my kids, who have been packing their own lunches for years. I think these ideas turned out to be good ones. They are all kid approved! I would also enjoy taking any one of these ideas as my work day lunch. I hope this gives you a bit of inspiration for your lunch prep. Most of it can be found in Heinen’s deli and produce departments. Couldn’t be easier!

I created these menus to fit into a Bento box. Smaller portions seem to work great for little ones but I find it’s enough even for adults. You can find Bento boxes anywhere these days. They are a nice alternative to the prepackaged snacks or Ziplock bags. This one is actually really good about not letting any of the foods mingle in transport. Look for Bento boxes with tight fitting lids that connect with the section dividers so liquids don’t run.

For the meat eater or anyone with no special diet choices:

  • kielbasa quickly grilled
  • fresh pineapple
  • sugar snap peas
  • fresh Barley Lime Fiesta Salad from the salad bar
  • cheese quesadilla

For the gluten-free way of life:

  • fresh strawberries
  • cheese
  • Mary’s Gone Seed crackers (we love them)
  • turkey, lettuce roll ups
  • sliced bell peppers

Don’t worry a bit if you don’t have a bento box and don’t want to buy yet another school supply! You can easily put any of these items into snack sized or sandwich sized zip bags.

For the vegan:

  • assorted berries
  • tart cherry Figgy Pops
  • edemame
  • dates with fresh ground peanut butter
  • Asian wrap filled with peppers, cucumber, carrots, red cabbage, spinach and humus

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