Back to School Sandwich-less Lunch Ideas

Back to School is coming!  If you need help organizing check out these two posts Back to School Organization and then this post My Back to School Organization. In the My Back to School Organization I share how I took the ideas from Back to School Organization and applied it to my home. Today I want to focus on Sandwich-less Lunch ideas.

In my Beach & Boating Snack Ideas post I shared how my family does not like sandwiches.  The school that my twins go to is a charter school and they do not have a hot lunch program, so every single school day we have to pack lunches.  Wait, one day a week they can buy pizza but for the other 144 days we have to pack lunches.  This causes a dilemma in our family since sandwiches aren’t an option. In the middle school/high school they do have microwaves that are available to use but nothing that takes over 3 min. to cook. The under 3 min. rule knocks out any tv dinners, etc. since they take more than 3 min. and they are so full of preservatives anyway.  I have been pinning away some recipes that I think would make some good lunch ideas and I will share them here with you.  I want somethings I can make ahead and freeze in portion sizes.  Here are some of my pinned ideas.  

Don’t these look good?  I think my sons would like them and they could be made ahead and frozen. 
The blog I found say these are better than Bagel Bites.  I bet!  These would be freezable as well.
One of my twins would love these, the other wouldn’t touch them.  But again they could be made ahead and froze.
My boys love corn dogs but I don’t buy them often because of all the fat.  These could also be made and froze.
These look good for some variety. I’d even love these for my lunch.
These look interesting. I haven’t had these but I have had the Lasagna Wontons.
I Love these!  Easy and good.
This has been a hit in our house!
Now this couldn’t be made and froze and you couldn’t use cups but could use Rubbermaid containers.  I think it would be a great variation and easy!
I’m going on a cooking spree next week. I want to make a batch of everything but the taco dip and get them in the freezer.  Schools a coming!  I want to be ready.

Do you have any sandwich-less lunch ideas?

I found a few more ideas I wanted to add that I think my boys would like.
Meatloaf in a Muffin Tin
My boys like meatloaf.  These would be great protein for them and you can cook ahead and freeze.
Pizza Crescent Rolls
Another variation on pizza, just to shake it up a bit.
 Pizza in a Crescent
Another version of the pizza idea.
These look really good!  I love BBQ Chicken pizza.

Tamale Cups

We love Mexican food so this will be a great addition to our rotation.

Macaroni & Cheese Muffins

Ingenious!  What a great idea.  Easy to make & freeze.

Cheese Quesadillas

You could add chicken if you kids like it.

Chick-fil-a Nuggets with Honey Mustard Sauce

OK, I’m not going to lie, these look like a lot of work to me but I love Chick-fil-a so I’m gonna give them a try.


Mini Spaghetti Cups


Just released Back to School Sandwich-less Lunches 2

Sandwich-less Lunches 2

I have had several questions on how to keep food hot if there is no microwave available. That isn’t an issue we have so I did a search on Google and came up with this: 
INSULATED THERMOS. An insulated thermos can easily keep foods, such as soups, stews, chili, and even pasta, warm for a few hours. Before placing the food in the thermos, it is best to fill the thermos with boiling water and let it stand for a few minutes. Then, drain it and put the food it. This will temper the thermos and help keep the food warm for a longer period of time. Once closed, the thermos should remain closed until lunchtime. This works very well. Check out the links below (in the additional resources section) for some excellent products designed to keep food warm.

INSULATED LUNCH BOX. Although typically not as good as an insulated thermos, an insulated lunch box (or bag) is another way to keep foods warm for a few hours. Unlike a thermos, larger foods, such as chicken nuggets, can fit in one of these. Wrapping the hot foods in tin foil inside of the insulated lunch box will provide some addition insulation. Check out the links below (in the additional resources section) for some excellent products designed to keep food warm.

Hope this helps some of you!


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  1. says

    As an educator can I ask you a favour? Please don't talk about back to school yet. Back to school is ages away. Ages!!Thanks!Sarah

  2. says

    These are great Barb – I'm so tired of catering to 3 different little palates and their likes and dislikes… so I'll def be giving a few of these ideas a try. I also like to make plain cupcakes (little mini ones ) without frosting – I put a handful of choc chips and a mashed up banana in the batter and then once cooked and cooled – I freeze them. In the morning I pop one into each lunch box and by lunch they are fresh and yummy ( i gave it a try just to make sure they didnt go mushy)And its a little "sweet" treat to enjoy.

  3. Leslie says

    Great for single guys/gals! Having "regular food" in smaller portions helps for serving individual meals and freezing them. Thank you!!!

  4. says

    These all look yummy, but my only concern is that they would probably taste better warm. And would probably not taste good by the time my kids would get to eat them. Too bad they can't warm their lunches at school.

    • says

      You are correct they would taste better warm. My kids do have use of a microwave so that's not an issue for us. I'm sorry I couldn't help you. School lunches are a pain to figure out. Have a great day! Barb

    • mel says

      that's exactly what I was thinking! There aren't microwaves unti high school. I'd love to see some ideas for lunches that do NOT need to be heated up

  5. says

    I blog my packed lunch, and a lot of other people do, too–and I try to never pack a sandwich. (If I do eat a sandwich for lunch, I just don't tell the world.) It's sort of a fun little challenge for myself. One of my favorite sites for lunch packing ideas is, which sponsors "What's for Lunch Wednesday," a collection of weekly links to said lunch packer's blogs.Enough commercial.If you have the right supplies (and there are a lot of options out there–Laptop Lunches, Easy Lunchboxes, Planet Lunchbox, Lunchopolis, Rubbermaid Lunch Blox, ToGoWare Tiffins–but whatever works for you, no reason to have a whole collection), it makes it a lot easier.I really like pinwheels of various kinds. They can be mostly done the night before, although I don't know how they would freeze. Some pinwheel thoughts:Tortillas and cream cheese (with or without deli meat and/or veggies)Tortillas and hummus with veggiesSliced deli meat and cream cheeseOr do cheese and crackers (a la Lunchables, but cheaper and better if you just pack cheese and crackers) or peanut butter or any other kind of spread (olive tapenade, hummus, tuna salad, etc.)Salad is nice sometimes. As with thinking beyond sandwiches, think beyond leafy. Think cucumber, carrot, beet salad–there are lots of different options. Pasta salads can be made pretty hearty–I really like doing tortellini with some cubed cooked chicken and cherry tomato halves tossed with pesto, for example. And then there are rice salads, and quinoa salads, and tabouleh…I could go on and on. I love the things you've linked to here, and I bet you'll find a lot of inspiration the more you pack!

  6. says

    You just might have saved my life. Lunch is the most stressful meal for me, because my toddlers cannot eat sandwiches yet. I love that most of these can be frozen, and I'm going to try probably all of these.

  7. Rachel says

    These look like GREAT ideas…My only concern is how they keep? My sons' school doesn't allow for reheating or anything, so a few of these I would have questions about. Any ideas/help? Thanks! :)

  8. Anonymous says

    these are all great ideas, but if anyone lives in texas and has an HEB close by, they have the HEB seasoned frying flour, this is the best ever!you can make the chick ful a nuggetsvery easily just by marinating the chicken w the flour n buttermilk for 2 hrs in fridgethen frying in peanut oil… perfect! you can also make blooming onions with the same process!

  9. Kathie says

    These are such good ideas! I will have to try these out on my kids (they get so sick of sandwiches!). I'm hosting a back to school link party on Friday and would love for you to share these! It's called Gimme Five For Friday and there's a new fun theme each week! Hope to see you there!

  10. says

    These are all such neat little ideas for back to school lunches! Alot of these could be fun for a football party too, since they're smaller portion sizes:)

  11. says

    I made several of these and others for my husbands 50th birthday. We did a casino so finger food and small bites were perfect. For the wanton tacos I used tortillas instead. Just cut out a four inch round using a biscuit cutter or glass and pizza cutter. Wrap four or five rounds in a damp paper towel and microwave for 15 seconds to soften then put in muffin tins. Fill and bake.

  12. says

    All great lunch ideas!! I wish my daughter has access to something to warm up her lunch! LOVE the taco dip in a cup!Thanks so much for sharing this at The DIY Dreamer.. From Dream To Reality!!

  13. says

    Wow! I could actually get a head start on school lunches and at home snacks!! Laura from Real Momma stopping by to say thanks for linking up to the Best of your Best Blog Hop!

  14. says

    We homeschool but I like to plan our lunches for the week so I am not scrambling at lunch time and it makes our day go smoother. These look like excellant ideas as I am trying to get away from sandwiches (although my kids love them!). We have made the chicken nuggets and yes they are some work but my kids think they are the best thing ever!

  15. says

    Hey, I have a recipe blog ( where I made nuggets that taste like Chikfila too…one of my first posts. And I made those mini chicken pot pies recently too, and the recipe is on the blog! There's also philly cheese roll-ups, homemade granola bars, bbq chik pizza muffins, sausage balls, etc. I'll be pinning your ham and cheese pockets and meatloaf muffins too! Thanks for the post!

  16. says

    So I have a question It looks like most of these are meant to be eaten hot. How do you handle that since most schools don't have microwaves for kids to use. I know my kids would never eat a cold hot dog they would say it is gross.

  17. Anonymous says

    I've made the pizza balls at the top of the post for my boys' lunches. They loved them, and they are good cold! I love the thought of the mini meatloaves. Going to try those this year!

  18. Lynn says

    Thank you for the great ideas! I am new to packing lunches and freezer cooking. Sorry for the redundancy but I just want to make sure I understand this correctly. If you freeze ahead, you'll pack an item frozen then the kids can heat up in a microwave? Since the portions are small, I assume it would only take 1-2 minutes to heat up since there would be thaw time too. Thanks for helping a new mom!

  19. says

    Thank you so much for these ideas, i will be useing them for when our kids go back to school!!!!This my second time stopping by, i think I found you through pinterest? Thanks for sharing!!!

  20. Anonymous says

    I see an awful lot of heavy meat, cheese and bread snacks. Sure it's not a sandwhich, but sounds like more calories and fat per snack. (not to mention nitrates and pigs butts in the weiners) I'm sure there are ways to make them lighter, but it's a good start for something different in kids lunches.

  21. Anonymous says

    I was thinking the same thing. We don't eat food like that for dinner very often and probably wouldn't serve for lunch either. I saw the cute picture and thought it would be healthier lunches. I do really like the taco cup idea….but my kids wouldn't eat it…kinda picky 😉

  22. Anonymous says

    I am honestly really surprised that no one else has is mentioning this. I know kids can be picky eaters but really? Half the things on this list are another take on pizza and not even healthy pizza with some veggies. No wonder there is an obesity epidemic in our country.

  23. Lauras Crafty Life says

    Thank you for sharing these. My son just started kindergarten last week. He wanted to eat lunch at school, but has decided he doesn't like the school lunches and wants me to make him lunch. These will really help me to be able to vary what I send with him! :)

  24. Patti says

    Based on the photos, it seems like there are some good ideas here. Unfortunately I can't read a thing on the page because of the font. I had to zoom my screen to 300%. :-/

    • Patti says

      Uh, strangely, as soon as I posted this comment, the font changed! Crazy. Anyhow .. I can read it all now and appreciate all the great ideas. I love making school lunches creative!

  25. Anonymous says

    She's trying to appeal to the kids and their palates. Generally, most kids don't want to eat vegetables, so that's probably why she didn't include them.

  26. says

    My son eats the tray lunches at school… He likes them and we get breakfast and lunch for $0.70 on the reduced rate plan. However, he is 12, taller than me and has been wearing men's clothes for over a year! He's high energy and therefore, high appetite. These make great snacks and mini meals for him that he can heat up in the afternoons and will tide him over until I get home from work. Thanks so much for sharing!

  27. Anonymous says

    Well that's just not true. It has a lot to do with the parents and if they don't eat vegetables, why would the kids? I grew up eating vegetables because my parents didn't make a different dinner then what they were having, and I wasn't allowed to leave the table until I at least tried some of everything on my plate. If it was spinach salad (which I thought I hated) that night, it didn't matter how much I bitched/cried about it, I wasn't getting something else for dinner and I wasn't getting anything later that night if I didn't eat dinner. Your kids are only picky if you let them be and they'll grow up being picky eaters and not getting the proper nutritions they need.

  28. mom2manytracys says

    be sure that you actually fit the meat loaf to the cupcake tin hole. they don't expand to fit it… and wind up looking like rocks. not that I know this from experience or anything…

  29. mom2manytracys says

    when you make the cupcake meat loaves be sure to fill the entire cupcake tin section with meat… it won't spread to fill the area… and it will end up looking like, oh, rocks. not that I would know or anything…

  30. Sharri says

    Thank you do much for these ideas-my sister jus forwarded me the site because I had posted the same dilemma, and asked for suggestions… My daughter will not touch a sandwich, and she has previously gone to a pre-school that provided lunch. Now that she is starting Kindergarten, I had a little panic attack when I realized I had no idea what I was going to feed her! I looked everywhere on the Internet and could find nothing very good-this has been the best site yet. Thanks again!

  31. Jay Jameson says

    I make cresent roll hot pockets with all kinds of ingredients: I use 2 (triangular rolls which make a rectangle for each hot pocket). I personally use the low fat rolls. I grill chicken breast (cut into small bite size pieces), red peppers and onion on my George Foreman Grill. I add this into the center of the rectangle and add a little petite diced tomotatoes and motzarella cheese, and bake according to cresent roll time. Sort of like a calzone.You can also do this with taco stuff,ham and cheese etc.

  32. Jay Jameson says

    One more cresent roll suggestion. When I have left over pot roast, I cut it up into bite size pieces.I also chop up the left over carrots and potatoes and onion from the pot roast. I add a bit of garlic, and rosemary. Then I mix it all up with a can of Tomatoe soup and add a bit of flour to thicken it. You can add this mixture to the center of the cresent roll rectangle and top with shedded sharp cheddar cheese. Pull the roll over and pinch sides and bake according to cresent roll directions.

  33. SarahJ says

    This is brilliant! My kids cannot reheat lunch items, but your tips for keeping food warm are so helpful that I'm going to give some of these a shot. And to be able to freeze ahead of time is just phenomenal! If they don't work for lunches I'll be making them for after school snacks! Thanks so much for sharing!!!

  34. Anonymous says

    Great ideas! I make a Mexican version of mini meat loaves and they're amazing!!! 1 lb of ground beef, 12 crushed saltine crackers, 1 egg, 1 cup of shredded cheese, 1/2 cup of salsa. Mix all together. Spray muffin tin with cooking spray. Cook at 425 for about 25 min. Top each with a little salsa and shredded cheese and put back in the oven for about 5 min or until cheese is melted. My kids and husband devour these!!!

  35. Anonymous says

    Love this post! I am a homeschool mom of 2 and my kids hate sandwiches, I am always trying to find new recipes to make for them for lunch 7 days a week. Great ideas!!

  36. Anonymous says

    Cant wait to try these. Although I have been making stuffed mini meatloafs for years (which we all love here) I add stuffing in them (so good). Anyways, my kids dont like sandwiches at all. And pb is banned here in ontario (due to allergies) so it gets so hard. My littles will love these warm or cold.Thanks so much

  37. Amisy Food Machine says

    This is actually amazing! I really can’t handle it. It looks SO GOOD. AHHH.And, click on my name, you will find a fresh food domain. Thanks for sharing!

  38. Anonymous says

    One way to keep food hot for hours…. Get a small cooler. Pour boiling hot water in it, close and let sit for 20 minutes. Empty, and immediately fill with food. Close. This will keep things hot for ages. I use this method when doing huge dinners with only one oven or stove.

  39. says

    I have used Hot packs to keep food warm. Just make a "bean bag" but fill with Rice. heat in the Micro wave for 30sec-1min and add to an insulated lunch box. works really well. (I use these at night in the winter when I can't get my feet warm as well-not the SAME ones though lol)

  40. says

    I'm new to the cooking ahead and freezing game. When making these items, do I cook them fully, cool and then freeze? What is the best way to freeze – in a container or a bag? Also, when reheating them, how do I go about that, as my kids do not have access to a microwave at school. Thanks for any help I can get. We've always just done sandwiches for lunches and I really want to get away from that.

  41. says

    Thermos works well for me. I have a small kid-sized thermos I got at Target on sale 2 years ago. I send fish sticks, chicken nuggets, pizza puffs, soup, chili, meatloaf muffins, pizza muffins, etc…in the Thermos. Just boil some water and pour it in the Thermos and leave it in there for a few minutes to warm up. Once your food is ready to be put in, toss the water, very quickly wipe the inside dry, put the food in, and close it. I always do this as quickly as possible to retain as much heat in there as I can. My son said it is a good temp when he gets to eat lunch. I make the lunch as we are about to leave the house at 7:15. He starts at 7:45 and has lunch at 11:30. Hope that helps.

  42. says

    The thing is, its just some sort of MYTH that kids don't eat veggies… We have never told my son that kids don't like veggies. We just serve them to him with a happy attitude and no anxiety about 'will he like them or not' and he LOVES them. Now he goes to a nature preschool where there are eight gardens and we often 'catch him' sitting in the middle of one of the gardens eating radishes or some other such veggie raw and unwashed!!! We literally have to scold him and remind him to NOT eat his veggies (at least until they are washed). The other kids at his school take pride in having planted the veggies and too so they have a positive attitude about veggies as well so I don't know how old my son will be when he hears ever hears, for the first time, that 'kids don't like veggies'. I will be interested to see his reaction. I suspect he will be both surprised and confused!

  43. says

    I like to make meatloaf in muffin tins, flash freezing them raw, then thawing and cooking when I'm ready. I will definitely give cooking them first a try, to save prep time when it's time for dinner!Thanks for all the ideas – we eat TOO MANY sandwiches in our home, so I am really greatful for some new ideas. Thank you!

  44. says

    I homeschool, but I'm always on the lookout for easy snacks to do – because the minions are always hungry! I love the pizza quesadillas idea. I think my girls would gobble those up. And I've always wanted to try the mini chicken pot pie! Thanks for the ideas!

  45. Tiffany says

    These ALL look awesome! Thanks for sharing. So often the ideas are repetitive, but these are very original!!!


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