More Than Twenty No Sandwich Packed Lunch Ideas
Do you need packed lunch inspiration? Are you bored of sandwiches? Then read on as I list more than twenty no sandwich packed lunch ideas and tips and tricks to get organised.
(NB: This post has been recently updated in February 2017 with some new packed lunch ideas added to the list)
Usually by the end of the first few weeks of the long Summer holidays I’m counting down the days for the return to school. However, with the gained “me” time comes the dreaded daily packed lunch box! I hate the monotony of packed lunches, the limitations it imposes and the guilt it brings when I send my kids off to school with yet another, boring, cheese or ham sandwich.
As with most things we can break this monotonous cycle by preparing ahead, and if you’re like me, and like the idea of the kids eating something tasty and enjoyable at lunch time then you may find this the below list of No Sandwich Packed Lunches a useful point of reference.
Thinking of imaginative, inspiring packed lunches that can be made the night before (I’m not a morning person!) can be rather challenging. It wouldn’t be so bad if my lot would eat salads and lots of other healthy stuff, the options would be endless. Sadly this is not the case, so I try to find a happy medium.
I’ve ditched the regular packed lunch boxes this year and gone for space saving storage containers instead. I’m using containers from lakeland UK (they deliver to HK) which are both squishy and squashy. The lovely colourful containers, from the Taste and Living squish collection, are sturdy yet squishable and the cute snack caddies are great for keeping those cookies from crumbling in your bag. Check out the Taste and Living website to see their full range of handy and colourful kitchenware. I’m also loving the sistema snack-to-go containers (pictured above top left) where you can keep snacks like granola and yoghurt, cheese and crackers or hummus and veggie sticks separate for handy snacking. As well as these I invested in a couple of sistema soup/noodle containers, ideal for soup and noodles.
More Than Twenty No Sandwich Packed Lunch Ideas
Update: Have more recently started using these simple and budget friendly bento box style lunch boxes, EasyLunchboxes 3-Compartment Bento Lunch Box Containers, (pictured below) and am really loving them. They ship to Hong Kong.
I try to follow the general rule of five:
- CARB 1: Bread, Rice, Pasta, Noodles, Couscous, Quinoa, Potato, Wraps & Tortillas.
- PROTEIN 1: Meat, Nuts, Egg, Beans, Fish, Tofu, Eggs.
- DAIRY 1: Cheese or Yoghurt, Milk drinks.
- VEGGIES / FRUIT 2: Carrot & Dip, Olives, Cucumber and Pepper slices, Celery, Peas or Corn, Edamame, Lettuce or Greens, Sliced Fruit, Fruit Pouches, Dried Fruit, Fruit Juice,
- SWEET TREAT 1: Granola bar, Brownies, Cookies, Crisps, Pretzels, Muffins, Puddings.
Tried & Tested No Sandwich Packed Lunch Ideas
The Carb & Protein:
- Chicken Pesto Pasta – This link is for a simple pesto sauce to do with as you please. Works great mixed into pasta twirls or butterfly pasta. Or, simply buy a jar if you don’t have time or the inclination to make your own! Have it for dinner the night before and just make extra for next day’s packed lunches. For those wishing to keep things meat free just add broccoli and other veggies of your choice to the pasta instead of the chicken.
- Crispy bacon & Kale pesto pasta – Supercharge that pasta by using a kale pesto instead. Add a few strips of crispy bacon if you want some added taste & protein. Marks & Spencer’s sell a lovely pre-packed crispy bacon if you don’t want to be bothered cooking some up yourself and happily there are more and more M&S food branches opening all over HK, lucky us!
- Healthy Greek Freekeh Salad – Not had change to try this recipe yet, but it sure looks interesting. I like the sound of a alternative grain to quinoa and rice and will start to look around for Freekeh. Will save it for a Freekeh Friday maybe!
- Roasted vegetable couscous salad – I’ve been making this Delia Smith recipe for a long time now. I would just omit the harissa dressing for the younger ones unless your kids like a little kick!
- Chicken Caesar Salad – keep dressing on the side in a pot, or make these gorgeous chicken caesar salad wraps instead to keep it all contained.
- Tex Mex black bean & corn quinoa salad – Quinoa need not be tasteless. It’s all down to what you put with it. This recipe is tasty and you could also wrap it in a tortilla wrap. Have you check out Kinoa Shop’s organic quinoa range yet?
- Pot Noodle lunches – You can prepare these the night before, in fact you can prepare several for the whole week ahead. Click this link for lots of inspirational ideas from thekitchn. I bought these noodle/soup containers from CitySuper IFC , you can also get them on amazon. If there is no hot water available at school then I pack a small thermos flask of hot water for the kids to take with them and add to to noodle pot at lunchtime.
- Pad Thai noodles – Or just buy a jar or pad thai sauce from Marks & Spencers. Prepare the noodles by cooking them the night before, add in some sauce and let cool, top with some protein, I added some pieces of chicken from a chicken & rice one pot dish, thinly sliced veggies (carrot, mangetout) and some fresh leaves of coriander and a wedge of lime on top. It got the thumbs up by my eldest daughter.
- Vietnamese Chicken noodle bowls – Make this in a mason jar or in sistema plastic noodle container (available from Amazon or Citysuper) the night before and take a flask of hot water to pour over when ready to eat.
- Sticky chicken wings – Make these for dinner the night before but be sure to make extra then just pop them into the packed lunch either the next day or the day after.
- Chinese spring Rolls – Have you mastered the skill of making springs rolls yet? Such a great party,picnic or packed lunch food.
- Quiche Lorraine – This is my kids favourite quiche, you could also try salmon and asparagus as an alternative.
- Pizza – Leftover pizza from the night before, make plenty so you have some leftover and you’ve a ready made packed lunch. Link to dough recipe here. Or, you can make the pizza into pin wheel pizza instead for a fun variation.
- Quick & easy homemade sausage rolls – These are the simplest thing ever and all you need is a pack of ready rolled puff pastry and sausage meat, the rest is just 30 minutes away.
- Arancini – You are meant to make these with leftover risotto, however we don’t make risotto very often but we do often have lots of left-over white rice. As long as you add some interesting flavours to the mix. Try chopped ham, mozzarella cheese, peas or sweetcorn, season, roll in breadcrumbs and fry. Serve alongside a leafy salad.
- Mediterranean Chicken & wild rice cups – Here is yet another great use of rice in packed lunches. This one I have not tried yet, but will do soon.
- Spanish Tortilla / omelette – add a simple green salad and cured hams alongside for a true authentic tapas style Spanish lunch.
- Vegetable frittata (courgette) – Along the same lines as the Spanish tortilla but add in any vegetables you have leftover from previous dinners, such as peppers, broccoli, courgette, and feta cheese works well too.
- White Bean & Tuna salad – served with a hunk of crusty baguette!
- Ploughman’s lunch – For those warmer days. This is a simple selection of cheese and crackers, celery sticks, grapes, an apple cut into wedges (soak the apple in lemon water to stop it going brown). Turn 2 Baby Gem leaves into a salad container, spoon 2 tbsp chutney into one leaf and use the other leaf to hold grated carrot, cherry tomatoes and cress.
- Chicken & Avocado Tortilla wraps – Squish half an avocado with back of a fork onto a flat tortilla wrap, add a tbsp of sour cream, a few coriander leaves, a squeeze of lime, lay some shredded chicken breast and grilled sliced red peppers on top. Sprinkle with 30g grated cheddar and roll up tightly. Wrap in baking parchment and tie with string, or roll tightly in cling film.
- Fish Finger Tacos – and why not? Dead easy, cook the fish fingers and pop into tacos or pitta breads with a little salad if you like.
- Soup & roll – Put their favourite soup in a thermos and serve with a nice buttered crusty roll, choose from: Tomato soup, chicken noodle soup, minestrone, etc.
- Pastini Soup – Turn your favourite leftover pasta sauce into a soup based pasta for lunch the next day.
- Italian Fried Chicken (IFC) – Similar to the JFC but instead of the soy, ginger and sake marinade it’s a garlic, olive oil & lemon base.
- Onigiri – Japanese Rice Balls. Use up your leftover rice (this really needs to be Japanese rice) and shape into balls or triangles, fill with your choice of filling and seasoning and wrap around a strip of seaweed. Also check out this recipe by Pickled Plum. Flaked tuna or salmon would work great in these or edamame like I have done below.
- Chicken Karaage (Japanese Fried Chicken) – This a great dinner idea and just make extra to go in the next day’s packed lunches. Along with sushi this is my kid’s favourite Japanese food. I’ve found this to be the most authentic recipe on the web so far.
- Ramen Noodle Soup to Go – My favourite and my kids favourite soup noodle of all time. Ramen! To keep everything fresh and tasty. Follow Pickled Plum’s instructions on how to pack your own Ramen to go.
The Dairy (choose 1) :
- Cheese & Crackers
- Granola & yoghurt pots – make a large batch of granola and use if for a super healthy breakfast or snacks. Chia puddings make a great dairy free alternative.
- Carton of milk – it doesn’t have to be cow’s milk, try soya or nut milks instead.
- Fromage frais or Yoghurt tubes – these are great if kept in the freezer which helps them remain chilled till lunchtime.
The Veggie/Fruit (can choose 2)
- Fresh fruit (bananas, berries, grapes, apples, cherries etc )
- Crudités (cucumber, carrot & pepper sticks with hummus)
- Pitta chips and hummus
- Apple wedges with cheese
- Apple nut butter sandwiches (if school doesn’t allow nuts then save this one for home!)
- Nutella and banana sushi – think this one counts as the fruit and the sweet treat all in one!
- Fruit Pouches like these from Kinoa Shop Hong Kong, much better value than in the supermarket and organic too.
- Dried Fruit (only 1 dried fruit per day counts as your 1 out of 5 fruit & veg)
The Sweet Treat (choose 1):
- Flapjack – healthy oat & seed goodness.
- Nigella’s Chocolate Brownies – make a batch of these and freeze. Pop into lunch boxes straight from freezer and they will be perfectly edible by lunch time.
- Banana bread – This is a Jamie Oliver Everyday Superfood recipe.
- Apple Crumble Muffin Tray Bake – packed full of homemade apple puree with a sweet crumble topping.
- Muffins – morning glory – A great breakfast and afternoon treat which tend to be lower in sugar than a cupcake.
- Chunky Monkey Cookie Dough bites
- Pancakes with jam or nut butter
- Raisin Scones with jam & butter
- Savoury cheddar cheese scones
- Chia puddings – If you’ve not tried these yet, do give these a go you may even find you like them. Last week I made The Health Journey’s matcha chia pudding which my daughter took to school for a snack, and I had one for breakfast!
- Oatmeal and Raisin Biscuits – These cute snack caddies are available online from Taste & Living.
Hope this helps you kick start the whole back to school packed lunch routine!
I would love to hear your tips and tricks to packing school lunches. Please leave a comment with your special trick or secret below.