A Week of Sandwich-Free EASY School Lunch Ideas

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back-to-school lunch ideas in meal prep boxes

Need some simple yet tasty lunchbox inspiration for the kiddos?

If you’re like me, you can sometimes get into a sandwich lunch packing rut! Exciting lunches that your kids will actually eat can be super simple. Read how to prepare for a week of easy and cold school lunches that are sandwich free!

5 lunchbox meals on the counter

The key is to include a variety of foods you know they’ll love….then present them in a way that’s fun, colorful, and appealing.

I like no-fuss ideas that help chaotic weekdays run smoother, so here are some easy-to-make lunches that are both tasty and simple enough to throw together in a rush.

good cooks meal prep lunch containers with lids

Hip Tips:

  • Find a good lunch container. I’m using these Good Cook food prep containers, and they work perfectly for school lunches. The lids secure nicely, and they wash up great in the dishwasher.
  • Get your kids involved by giving them meal options for the week. Then have them pick items that sound yummy.
  • Use up odds and ends in the fridge/pantry. Having lunch with small amounts of foods (bento box style), allows you to use up miscellaneous items in the fridge, like a few remaining grapes and strawberries.

1. Mini bagel with cream cheese and cranberry

mini bagel lunch for school with fresh fruit in a container

Bagels aren’t just for breakfast! Here I’ve jazzed up a plain mini bagel with cream cheese and a few dried cranberries for added flavor. I’ve also cut up watermelon, a strawberry, kiwi, and added a few pretzels.

2. Turkey and cheese roll-ups

turkey and cheese roll-up wrap in a lunch container

Instead of a sandwich, create a quick wrap and then cut into slices for a fun pinwheel effect. In this wrap, I added a little ranch dressing, sliced deli turkey meat, provolone cheese, and lettuce. Included on the side are a cheese stick, mini carrots, almonds, and pretzels.

3. Zesty pasta salad

pasta salad lunch for kids in a lunch container

Cold pasta salads are an easy and yummy make-ahead lunch option! My kids enjoy this Zesty Italian Pasta Salad that’s delicious and easy to prepare. I’ve also packed some oranges and strawberries on the side.

4. Mini hummus pizzas

mini hummus pizzas as a kids lunch

My kids are obsessed with hummus and naan flatbread! Here are some mini naan dippers topped with diced turkey and bell peppers. I’ve also included some grapes and skewers with cheese cubes and cherry tomatoes.

5. DIY Lunchables

DIY lunchable with crackers in a lunch container

Do your kids also beg for the pre-packaged Lunchables at the store? It’s so much less expensive to make your own using fresh ingredients. Plus, it’s fun and easy to come up with lunch meat and cheese combos. Here, I have some turkey, cheese, pepperoni, and crackers. I’ve also added grapes and oranges on the side.

Hip Tip: Using paper or silicone muffin liners is a great way to separate lunch foods.

Do you have any favorite cold lunches to add? If so comment with your ideas, and let’s help each other out!

Check out these lunchbox hacks to make mornings even smoother! 

About the writer:

Lina has a Bachelor's Degree from Northern Arizona University with 11 years of blogging and photography experience having work featured in Today.com, Martha Stewart, Country Living, Fox News, Buzzfeed, and HGTV.

Join The Discussion

Comments 28

  1. Kitty

    I like the containers! Then you can make 5 at a time for the whole week

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Yes! Things like the pasta salad did well – but my daughter said the bagel got soggy the next day, so be careful with bread and fruits mixed maybe 👍

      • Sam

        I got small condiment cups to hold the cream cheese. Then my kids could dip the bagel or spread it on themselves.

  2. Nicole

    Oooh! Thanks for this post! Keep the lunch ideas coming! I planned on having my daughter buy school lunches every day then found out she was just dumping them in the trash. We have gone to packing every day and now she groans at pb&j!

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Oh thanks for the feedback! We’re all in this lunch struggle together! Ha

  3. Lana

    I wedge up apples and put them in a quart of water with a tsp of salt. Drain and store for up to a week and they stay perfectly fresh. Pack with peanut butter for dipping along with cheese and crackers. I love this lunch too.

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Thanks so much Lana!

    • Susan

      I’m interested in your sliced apple preservation method. Am I understanding correctly that you drain the water after initially soaking the slices in the water with the salt? That keeps them from turning brown up to a week?

      • Lana


      • Cheryl

        I’ve been using salt and water for over a year now! It really works! My kids complain when I use lemon water. Found out about the salt and it’s been great!

  4. Tam

    I love these containers. I checked and my local Smith’s has them for $3.99 this week!

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Oh nice! Thanks for sharing Tam!

  5. Renee

    Yes keep the lunch posts coming! My kids are so picky 😭 but I’m going to keep trying different things and hope it doesn’t end up in the trash.

    • Candy

      My children love breakfast for lunch, so some days I send dry cereal cups with the milk stored separately in a thermos. They don’t mind waffles at room temperature too, so I’ll pack those with the syrup in a condiment container.

    • sheri charboneau

      I used to make peanut butter creamy crackers on saltines and then put in a ziplock bag, loved these when I was little.

      • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

        Oh that’s a fun idea too! Thanks Sheri!

  6. Cassie

    Pizza non-Lunchables: cut out rounds of Boboli pizza crust, small container or those reusable squeezy pack of pizza sauce, shredded mozzarella, slices of pepperoni.

    • Susan

      Great idea! Thanks for sharing!

  7. patricialavenz-goff

    I just use all my vintage Tupperware containers. The kids love the colors and they come in all sizes. They are split bowls and small bowls etc too. The kids love wraps so we make a lot of wraps and they love packing their own lunches.

  8. amanda

    Dollar tree has a re-usable container like the ones pictured that include a spot on the lid for a fork and butter knife. I just bought these for myself for my lunches.

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Oh nice 👍 thanks for the suggestion Amanda!

    • Amymae1100

      Are they bpa free? Thanks!

  9. Chrissy

    Loving these containers! Does anyone have a lunch bag that they know fits this container laying flat? I like to put the container in the bottom and then drink goes on top and stuff.

  10. Kristen

    We make Rhodes rolls into mini pizzas. My kids love them at room temp or cold! I make ahead and they are a real treat.

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Oh yum that sounds great 👍

  11. Candace

    Chrissy, the lunch boxes from Costco are the kind that can hold these containers lying flat. Hope that helps.

  12. SueJo

    These lunches are beautiful!!!

    • Lina D (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Oh thanks so much!

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