Friday, February 22, 2013

Lunch Made Easy: 20 Non-Sandwich School Lunch Ideas for Kids!

Let's face it, we all know that {allergy friendly} and {gluten free} breads can be expensive. We also don't always have time to bake our own. Not only that, what if your kiddos don't even like sandwiches to begin with?!

We need some Non-Sandwich {Easy} School Lunch Box Ideas stat! Don't worry - I got you covered! 



This week Little Miss had four days of school. I'll be sharing below her four school lunches from this week - None of them using sandwiches! 

I'll also be sharing some additional ideas from past posts, giving you a nice "one-stop shop" for tons of inspiration and ideas.


On Tuesday, we packed MOMables Salmon Salad with Crunchmaster Sea Salt Crackers. Salmon Salad is similar to a chicken or tuna salad, and one of Little Miss' favorites. She loves being able to spread it on her crackers with her cute little fork giving her a fun change-up from a boring sammie.

The great thing about Crunchmaster Crackers are they're fairly inexpensive (they cost less than $3/bag at my local grocer and you can print a coupon right off their website), they're gluten free and also vegan

Also packed in her EasyLunchboxes container is a spinach side salad, grapes, and two HomeFree {Allergy Free} Mini Chocolate Chip cookies. 


On Wednesday, SunButter was the star of the show not a sandwich! SunButter is our favorite nut-free spread. (Make sure to also sign up on their website to get coupons emailed to you periodically.) Little Miss has apple slices and carrot coins for dipping and dunking into her SunButter Creamy. She also had chicken breast dices and grapes in this {allergy friendly} lunch box. 


Another fun alternative to a sandwich are muffins. We love baking big batches of gluten free muffins on the weekends so we can enjoy them for breakfast, snacks, or lunches. They freeze great so they won't go to waste! 

I recommend King Arthur Flour's Gluten Free Muffin Mix for my {Allergy Free} friends. KAF's GF mixes are made in a Top 8 Free facility. A box at my local grocer runs around $5 each. I can typically get 14 full-size muffins from one package. We fill them with blueberries, chocolate chips, apples & cinnamon, bananas, or zucchini. 

The muffin in this lunch box is an apricot jam stuffed muffin. Yumm-o! She also has gluten free beef stick bites, cheese bites, strawberries, sweet peppers, and peaches. 

PS: I also am singing the Beyonce song "Put a Ring on It" in my head but singing "Put a Muffin in It", hehehe


Salads are not only healthy, but a great alternative to packing a sandwich for lunch. Here I've packed Little Miss' favorite: Spinach! I topped it with cheese, grated carrot, and "ribbons" of ham to make it a little more fun! Party in a Lunch Box, whoop whoop! ;) 

She also has Ener-G Brand {Allergy Free} Pretzels and grapes in her EasyLunchboxes container for Friday.
. . . . . 

So there are four {easy} school lunches from just this week. Below are additional ideas from just some of our past posts for added inspiration! Click on the photo to see the original post and details from each lunch. {Enjoy!}





















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allthingsforsale.com Bento Products

    


79 comments:

  1. Incredible round up of great ideas Keeley! Thank you for this!!

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    1. These all look great but I'm not sure how to keep them from becoming a big mess by the time she makes it to the lunch table at school.

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    2. Amore - do you have a nice lunch bag to hold them flat? We use an embark cooler that holds our ELB's flat and so nothing is flipped around. There's also a great bag available at Costco by Arctic Zone that holds them flat and expands, as well. Hope this helps!

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    3. I was wondering if that Arctic Zone from Costco would hold the Easy lunch boxes. Do they? Measurement wise it looked a little tight fighting?

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    4. @Krystle P-- I have been using these type of lunches for my 5 kiddos since January. My favorite (and best value) containers are ziploc that look almost identical to the ones in this post. They are $2.99 for 2 sets at our local Target. To prevent the mess, I use small containers (Walmart brand baby food containers actually, that look much like individual fruit cups) with lids that work perfect. The ziploc containers seal around each compartment and then instead of the open cupcake liners I use my handy dandy baby food containers. They fit perfect! Then I put everything in a embark lunch sac ($4.99 at Target) standing upright with an ice pack and frozen gogurt

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    5. Ziplock's may look identical, but they are infact not. We use to use them too! Great price, yes. As good of quality? No.
      Here's an awesome write-up EasyLunchboxes actually featured regarding that: http://www.easylunchboxes.com/blog/bento-bloggers-dish-about-easylunchboxes/
      I share the article because I use to use the Ziplock's myself and the question that the article is based was actually posed by ME to other bloggers.
      I can tell you from my own experience, the lids are MUCH easier to open and close, they're MUCH more durable and solid, AND they don't get that nasty discoloration or staining that you get in your typical tupperware/ throw away containers.

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    6. I love the easy lunch boxes too! You can find them on amazon. Worth the price for the quality. They really last.

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    7. These are awesome, however once they make it to school I'm sure they won't look like they do in these pictures, especially the ones with faces and designs. Still, I love all these ideas!

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  2. I'm in LOOOOVE.. This is such a great and informative post.

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  3. These are great ideas, thanks so much! My this time of the year my 2 kids get sick of of sandwiches so this is really helpful. I do have a question though, how do you keep the apple slices from turning brown? Everything I've tried so far hasn't worked.

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    1. Hi Bobbie! Thank you!
      I soak mine in apple juice so it doesn't effect the flavor. Others I know have success with lemon juice, pineapple juice, or even just cold water. There is also a product called fruit fresh I hear is great, as well. Hope this helps!

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    2. If the lunch box is big enough, you can use an apple slicer and put a rubber band around the sliced apple and that should help.

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    3. My kids love their apple slices soaked in orange juice. Keeps them looking and tasting great!

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    4. I use unsweetened Pineapple juice and it works great!!! I usually slice up 6 or 7 on Sunday put them in a gallon size bag with enough pinapple Juice to cover them and by Saturday my bag is empty. I pour the bag out and start all over. It works great for use.

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    5. Sprite or any other lemonlime drink works too-my sweet boy is diabetic so we sometimes use diet sprite/sierra mist.

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    6. Just soak it in salt water. It will be just fine.

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  4. I just found your site and I have to say this is wonderful. Not just for families with allergies but for kids who are also bored with sandwiches!
    Great ideas really! I also soak toss my apples with apple juice. I used orange juice once - I say once because my son told me the apples I sent tasted like oranges!

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    1. Thank you Lisa! Yes, that's why we prefer using apple juice too. :) Easy and always on hand!

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  5. I love your suggestions! Thank you for sharing them. My concern is keeping the food cold until lunch time...do you put the containers in a lunch box with ice?

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    1. Hi Emily! Yes, most of these containers pictures are EasyLunchboxes. You can use an EasyLunchboxes cooler OR we use the Embark cooler from Target. It holds her ELB, Camelbak water bottle, and morning snack perfectly.
      You can add an ice pack, but since we pack ice water almost daily in her Camelbak, it keeps everything chilled perfectly. Thanks for your question & nice comments! {If you want to see the items we use, click on the "Lunchbox Goodies" tab on the top of the page}

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    2. That is my biggest concern...how do I keep it cold? I'm trying to visualize your packing technique, can you post a picture? My d on loves cheese sticks, yogurt, AND salads; but, I just don't know how to keep it cool!!

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    3. Absolutely - I have posted a few photos on our Instagram pages before of her packed up lunch cooler (@keeleymcguireblog on IG). She uses a lunch cooler that carries her EasyLunchboxes flat. I include with it either an ice pack or her CamelBak Water Bottle filled with ice water (mostly ice) acts as a cold pack within her lunch box, as well. Hope this helps!
      Also, MOMables has great tips for keeping dairy cold. Check out this link http://bit.ly/19vjnEV for additional tips/ tricks!

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  6. A lot of the things inside the boxes don't look like they have lids, how do they not get spilled? What if their box doesn't stay upright, won't everything get all mixed up by lunch time?

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    1. Hi! It all depends - my daughter uses an Embark lunch cooler which carries her EasyLunchboxes container flat and tight. She's also seven and very responsible to not throw it around or upsidown. So it depends on the kiddo too.
      That being said, if you're afraid you child is prone to that, EasyLunchboxes makes these awesome containers called "MiniDippers" which fit inside the containers that have lids. We use them frequently, as well, and are great for such a reason as you've mentioned above. Thanks for your comment & visiting our page!!

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  7. Can you tell me where to find the more rectangular bento accessories? Are they baking cups? Thank you!

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    1. Hi Tracey!
      Yes! You can purchase them all on AllThingsforSale (bentousa.com) I have a link at the bottom of the post or you can find them by going here: http://www.allthingsforsale.com/117-bento-cup-mold?aff=KeeleyMcGuire

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  8. Love this site!

    I'm wondering with foods normally served warm or hot (like tacos) does ghetto school warm them or are they cold?

    Thanks

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    1. I'm going to assume the "ghetto" part was a typo... My daughter will actually eat cold tacos, BUT she is fortunate to have a mircowave that she's allowed to use to warm up items. ELB's are microwaveable or I pack them in separate silicone cups that she can remove and heat up, as well. Thanks!

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    2. ....... that's auto-correct, at its best! "ghetto school" = get - to - school.... SMH.....

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  9. I'm bookmarking this post! My Little Miss starts school this fall and I have already been wondering what I could pack. These are great ideas! Thank you.

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  10. I just wanted to say thanks so much for these ideas! our oldest is on the spectrum and is really picky. He starts kindergarten and i am worried about his lunches..this gives me a lot of ideas and things we can work on this summer. thanks :)

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  11. This is super cute, but I'm wondering how you keep them looking so cute. We use these containers, and by the time my son gets them home, they're a MESS. How does the marinara stay in? How does the open face peanut butter (or sun butter?) not stick to the lid?

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    1. Hi Cathy, great questions! A few I've answered in the comments section already. Do you have a nice lunch bag to hold them flat? We use an embark cooler that holds our ELB's flat and so nothing is flipped around. There's also a great bag available at Costco by Arctic Zone that holds them flat and expands, as well. We just got it too, it's great!
      As far as the marinara, for example, that is a Mini Dipper container made by EasyLunchboxes. They have lids (not pictured in that lunch you're referencing but) shown in some photos, like my Ortiental Pork & Rice lunch pictured above. They're FANTASTIC for dips & sauces! You can see them here: http://amzn.to/1bWPwrb . Hope that helps!!

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    2. thanks for the great idea. im 11 and i think its awesome!

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    3. Hi Cathy - I put together a blog post that has some additional ideas that may help you and your child keep the lunches neat till lunchtime:http://www.easylunchboxes.com/blog/how-to-keep-bento-and-cute-lunches-neat-until-lunchtime/

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  12. I love your ideas and am incorporating them into MY diet. I am diabetic, so have to have carb friendly meals. Some of the lunches have a few too many fruits for me, but I just substitute it out with a protein (like yogurt, cheese, Jerky...etc) or a veggie (so many to choose from). I also love your divided dish presentations.

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  13. Thanks for this post. My son starts kindergarten this year and is only in half day so he will be home for lunch, but I have been wanting to get in the habit of packing lunches so that I'm ready for next year...and every year after that. I'm thinking about packing lunches for him, me, and the little brother so that it will become second nature.

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  14. wow what a great idea i'd love that for my kids they'd actually wanna eat their lunch's if it was packaged like that and so healthy and still tasty thanks for all the great tips & idea's cuz sandwich's are so boring this would actually brighten their little faces when they see it with a little note from me at lunch time............thanks again love them all.

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  15. This made me teary - you are obviously a great Mom!

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  16. To answer the question about keeping things from browning, try using powdered vitamin C.I stir in a couple of teaspoons to about a cup of water and give my fruits of veggies a quick rinse before I pack them. Apples will hold a day or two this way with no browning.

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  17. I just saw this post in pinterest and clicked on over to your blog. Thank you for the inspiration!!! Such great ideas. I can only hope my son would eat everything when I pack it. A mom can hope right? Great job mom!!!!

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  18. This is awesome! Thanks for the great ideas! :)

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  19. Is there a difference between the easy lunch box and the Ziplock boxes that look the same, other than the color of the tops?

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    1. Great question, Karin! Here's an awesome write-up EasyLunchboxes actually featured regarding that same question: http://www.easylunchboxes.com/blog/bento-bloggers-dish-about-easylunchboxes/
      I share the article because I use to use the Ziplock's myself and the question that the article is based was actually posed by ME to other bloggers because I wondered the EXACT same thing!
      I can tell you from my own experience, the lids are MUCH easier to open and close, they're MUCH more durable and solid, AND they don't get that nasty discoloration or staining that you get in your typical tupperware/ throw away containers - think pasta sauce! Hope this helps!

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    2. I also love the Easylunchboxes! The price is worth the quality. They really last.

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  20. What an amazing list of lunch ideas! Thank you so so much. Also, thanks for mentioning what containers you use.

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  21. So many great ideas! I wanted to let you know that I featured this in my "What I Bookmarked This Week" post - stop by and see.

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  22. Do you make your own diced Chicken breast if so what kind of chicken and how do you cook it? It looks so yummy!

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    1. Thank you! Sometimes we'll buy the Perdue brand Chicken Breast "Short Cuts" which are their cooked & grilled chicken breast strips they sell. Other times, we just throw a few chicken breasts on the grill over the weekend when we're cooking up another meal and I use them during the week!

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  23. Awesome thanks so much! Love your lunch ideas!!

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  24. I cannot wait to try some of your ideas. Although my son doesn't have any allergies, his school is nut free. He is going into 5th grade and has eaten school lunches most of the time. Unfortunately he is getting a little heavy in the belly area and I really want to send a lunch from home every day. I have started this now for his summer program and am so grateful for ideas for when school starts. Thank you so much for sharing.

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  25. I know that all says allergy free, but is that pertaining to everything. At our old school, they would not even allow peanut butter. Now they do, but the poor kids with food allergies have to sit at another table. I could not bare to do that. Since none of my kids have food allergies, I don't know much about them. Will the children be safe to sit with them with these items?

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    1. Hi! I'm sorry - I'm a little confused by your comment. None of these lunches contain nuts or peanut butter. My daughter is anaphylactic. So, these are all safe for schools or kids with peanut allergies. Thanks!

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  27. My daughter is on a gf/cf diet to help control the symptoms of her ADHD. She was on the diet all of last year and we used sandwiches constantly. At $6/per loaf the expense just became ridiculous and this year I'm determined that sandwiches will be a last resort.
    We've found that "meat roll-ups" are great and we can add in extra veggies that way too. I often put a lettuce leaf and a jicama/apple/carrot slaw inside our roll-ups and keep it closed with a toothpick. We also live in the south and one of my little one's favorite foods is pulled pork with "ketchup sauce." I usually use a lot of small containers and ziplock bags, but love your easy lunchbox containers. My little one is a bit rambunctious though so I worry about foods without lids.

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    1. Does the gf/cf work to help her symptoms? I would love to do that kind of diet for my son. I also have an Autistic daughter that would benefit from that.. it just seems soo expensive to go all the way gf/cf. I do what I can, but i also have a very limited budget and can't afford to make gf/cf for them and regular for my husband and I.

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  28. Love these ideas. Thanks so much. My little miss doesn't do sandwiches well so these helped me a lot. Needed more ideas.

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  29. Great ideas, hope to share this post on my parenting page at www.facebook.com/ConsciousParentingApproach - inviting you to come check us out too! See you there!!

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  30. in a couple of pictures you have the little cup things that are flowery shaped and look plastic....what are those and where did you get them. like in picture 3rd down and the bottom one with mandarin oranges in it.....
    Great idea!!

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  31. Great ideas and so well put together! Very cute AND helpful! Thanks, Gioia

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  32. Great ideas and so well put together! Very cute AND helpful! Thanks, Gioia

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  33. I love these bread free lunch ideas! I think with a few modifications I could make a lot of these for my kiddoos. I had never heard of Crunchmaster Crackers before but now that I know about them I'll be trying them soon.

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  34. Hi! Curious if your child eats their salads plain? And if not what type of dressing do you send / and or make?

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    1. Hi Misty! My daughter actually prefers Italian dressing. She use to be big on ranch when she first started eating salads, but now all she wants is Italian or Balsamics. :)

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  35. this is great blog. But for me I usually gave her raisins cos its her favorite, apple,grapes and carrots.


    Good Recipes For Kids

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  36. Where did you find those little picks with the animals?

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    1. Hi Liz! Check out AllThingsForSale - they have everything!! http://bit.ly/18vzRQ2 (#affiliate)

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  37. I really love these lunch ideas. There's so much inspiration. I hope it's ok that I linked to this from my blog.
    http://sparkofchatter.blogspot.com/

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  38. Love these lunch ideas - and so do my fans on my parenting page www.facebook.com/ConsciousParentingApproach when I put this up today! Thank you!!

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  39. Very nice ideas. Just try avoid cold meats, not healthy at all. All artificial! !!!!

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  40. Love all these ideas gathered up and will bookmark. We have a different allergen set (no dairy, eggs, nuts, sesame or mustard) but bread is also almost impossible to find due to the sesame allergy, so it's nice to have good ideas for non-sandwich lunches.

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  41. What an amazing list of lunch ideas! Thank you so so much! hope it's ok that I linked to this from my blog here.

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