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School lunch: no sandwiches

No more sandwiches.

No more sandwiches.

School’s in. Time to resurrect the routine of simultaneously making daily breakfasts and brown-bag lunches.

Feeding a picky child can be tricky, but preparing a daily lunch that doesn’t require reheating and can survive on an ice pack for five hours can be a substantial challenge. And then, said child throws a curve ball: no more peanut butter sandwiches. Oy.

At the start of each school year, I’m always a little panicky when scanning the parent handbook, bracing myself for a new nut-free policy. Thankfully for my oldest child, whose main protein source is natural peanut butter, no such policy has been instated. (The school has nut-free tables instead.)

But the no-sandwich policy instated by my daughter throws me for a loop. So far, we’ve packed yogurt mixed with peanut butter, peanut butter balls (peanut butter mixed with coconut oil and rolled in Rice Krispies) and faux peanut butter sushi rolls (banana slices rolled in peanut butter and coated in Rice Krispies). Sense a theme?

Let’s commiserate. Anyone have brown-bag lunch ideas that don’t involve deli meat or sandwiches?

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–by Jenny Turknett, Food and More blog

27 comments Add your comment


August 21st, 2012
7:50 am

Do you have a thermos? We’ve had great success with packing leftovers from dinner in a wide mouth thermos.


August 21st, 2012
8:27 am

We do turkey and cheese slices with a side of club crackers. Also boiled eggs with a little salt packet. I thought about putting cols rice in her lunch last night, but Im not sure how well that will go over. Im with you- need lunch ideas!


August 21st, 2012
9:25 am

last night I baked a few sweet potatoes (actually indirect grilled them for around 80 minutes). Then we give our 6yo half of one in a small container, with spoon. She likes them cold, so it works well.

DJ Superstar

August 21st, 2012
9:28 am

Here are some lunch ideas -

1. Cheese quesadilla, baby carrots and/or celery.
2. Pasta w/ olive oil, tomatoes. Salt to taste.
3. Cheese rollup on tortilla and hard boiled egg.
4. PB&J with apple slices or a string cheese.


August 21st, 2012
9:33 am

What on earth is the sandwich ban for? Or is it just PB sandwiches?


August 21st, 2012
9:42 am

sorry, I dont believe in indulging in the whims of little dictators. give her the PB&J sandwich, if she’s hungry she’ll eat it if not she’ll get it again the next day.


August 21st, 2012
9:48 am

How about cold asian style nooldes with veg, or crackers with laughing cow creamy swiss cheese and turkey pepperoni.


August 21st, 2012
9:55 am

Trader Joe’s makes dry ravioli and tortellini that are great for kids, because they’re very clean, low fat, and tasty enough (though not that great by adult standards). They’re in a bag, maybe $2.99 or so I think. We’ve been buying these for years and the kids love them.


August 21st, 2012
10:22 am

Agree with Jere…policies are created by institutions not individuals, and especially a picky child. But get the child involved in the process, find out what she wants (as opposed to what she does not want) and have her be in charge of making and packing the lunch.


August 21st, 2012
10:45 am

Jere and Steveo: The problem isn’t the kid refusing PB&J, it’s the school saying don’t bring it — the kid’s just the messenger. (Common now because of peanut allergies) Sounds like the kid would eat peanut butter all day long.

Anyway, I’m in the same boat: lunches are a challenge but here are a few things I’ve packed for lunch/snack:
1) cream cheese and jelly sandwiches
2) cinnamon bagel — hey, it’s bread and somewhat filling
3) cheese sandwiches/wraps (wrapped in a tortilla if you can’t do bread)
4) carrots/celery and ranch dip (1-serving size available at Publix next to the carrots)
5) pudding that doesn’t have to be refrigerated
6) cheese cubes and crackers, sometimes with pepperoni slices (basically homemade Lunchables)
7) Any sort of fruit…apples, bananas, peaches, grapes. Apples and bananas especially are pretty filling so they’re great sides.

Of course I do the frozen juice box/water bottle trick in her insulated lunch box. So far so good, but I’m still kind of leery about deli meats.


August 21st, 2012
11:06 am

I can’t tell if the sandwich ban is instituted by the school or the child! (But even if it is the child, I guess there’s no use packing her a sandwich if she’s not going to eat it!)


August 21st, 2012
11:19 am

Individual hummus and pretzels, crackers, or fruit slices for dipping.


August 21st, 2012
11:21 am

“The problem isn’t the kid refusing PB&J, it’s the school saying don’t bring it — the kid’s just the messenger. (Common now because of peanut allergies)”

So kids are allergic to peanut butter in sandwiches but not faux peanut butter sushi rolls or peanut butter balls? Sorry, but the form of the food does not inform the allergy. (BTW – I’m glad these stupid allergies didn’t exist way back when.)

Sounds like Jenny’s picky kid is tired of peanut butter in sandwich form — too declasse I guess.

mystery poster

August 21st, 2012
11:34 am

I read the article to mean that the student is tired of sandwiches, which I can certainly understand. Since peanuts were in some of the other dishes mentioned, I don’t think it’s a school initiated ban on peanuts.

How about pasta salad? Cooked pasta w/veggies and a slight amount of Italian dressing.
Mine sits in my office lunch box until it’s time to eat and it’s always fine, I don’t even use an ice pack.


August 21st, 2012
12:42 pm

Exactly what BRC said. That way they get an actual warm lunch daily instead of a sorry excuse for it. Plus some fruit for desert. Sandwich and similar is a snack at best, and even for that a banana is far better. The only time thermos is not used here is when there’s a day trip and so the container needs to be discarded after use.


August 21st, 2012
12:44 pm

I think that several of you have bought into too much of the spoiled food propaganda. I took sandwiches to work for 30 years and kept them in a locker because anything left in the break room refrigerator was fair game for the lunch thieves. Pack your kid a ham and cheese sandwich and tell them not to put it out in the sun or on the classroom heat vent and it will be fine.


August 21st, 2012
12:59 pm

My kid likes Asian dumplings. Microwave them in the morning and then I put them in a soup thermos so they stay warm until lunch time.

We also do veggie sushi.

A soup thermos is very useful for other things like meatballs, macaroni and cheese, and oatmeal.


August 21st, 2012
1:04 pm

I have a child who likes variety in his lunch, too. One combo he likes is several slices of deli meat, two Laughing Cow cheese wedges, and wheat thins. He also likes leftovers, especially meatballs or pasta, in a Thermos container. I have sent a hot dog, in bun, wrapped in foil. Sometimes I’ll do frozen Amy’s or Trader Joe’s burritos (I thaw them overnight, then cook in the oven – they taste better several hours later than if I microwave them). My oldest child cares not what he eats for lunch. PB&J on whole wheat, fruit cup (the kind from the produce dept), Sun Chips, Clif Bar. Day after day after day……

Jenny Turknett

August 21st, 2012
1:37 pm

Sandwich ban instituted by child. She’s got a little of her mom’s stubborn streak, so that sandwich will come right back home if I pack it. So, now on to alternatives.
Good call on the boiled eggs and hummus — I forget about those.
Jere, I didn’t believe in them either… and then I had a child!


August 21st, 2012
5:19 pm

Definitely hummus and veggies or pita or whatever else they might eat with hummus. I have left hummus in my car in a parking garage for many hours and it was always fine. Plus they have the single serving packages made by Sabra if you don’t make your own (which is really easy and cheap to do using Nicola’s Restaurant’s recipe). Plus you can change up the flavors with hummus. I LOVE HUMMUS. Can you tell?


August 21st, 2012
8:03 pm

My kids like ramen in a thermos; but I refuse to let them use the whole sodium, err seasoning, pack. You may want to check the momania blog, she covered something similar the other day. I had a coworker that would pack cut up hot dogs & mac & cheese for lunch….or rather, his mom would. :o )


August 22nd, 2012
9:09 am

you should also check out the Lunch Box Blues blog by J.M. Hirsch for ideas


August 22nd, 2012
12:36 pm

Hey, Jenn — some of my break-up-the-monotony lunches include asian noodles cooked in veggie broth and seasoned with a little sesame oil with whatever shredded/chopped veggies I have on hand and shelled edamame for protein; leftover risotto shaped fast into little balls and then breaded and pan-fried and cooled; mini meatballs in red sauce with parker house rolls on the side to make sliders; pimento cheese and little rounds of French bread (packed separately); granola, Greek yogurt with a little pack of honey or jam, and some fruit that pairs well with it (apricots/peaches are excellent.) And before you fall out of your chair, NO, the picky kid did not eat much of this (he liked the meatball sliders) but he could eat cheese and crackers 8 days a week. C is a foodie in the making, though, and that’s where this list comes from. Also, I do something like this maybe once a week, and am very basic the rest of the time (we also have a couple of thermoses and there are generally pasta and soups/stews and leftovers going in a couple times each week.)


August 22nd, 2012
1:10 pm

Do kids never eat school lunches any more? Or are they too gross?


August 22nd, 2012
3:02 pm

@Grasshopper..Yep, school lunches are pretty gross..


August 23rd, 2012
9:20 am

There are some really great Bento box ideas out there for kids, all over Pinterest, etc. Also if you have a good thermos, you can keep food warm or cold, depending on what you need. I dread making school lunches, but fresh fruit, and veggies, with some crackers and yogurt works too.

Mom in Need

August 27th, 2012
1:17 pm

I have a small child allergic to peanuts, milk and eggs. Although his school offers lunch, there are many days when the lunch served contains one or more of these items, so I need to bring lunch from home. In addition, he is only 18 months old, so raw veggies are too difficult to manage. Any ideas would be greately appreciated.