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Back to School: 10 sandwich-free lunches to send your kids to school with this year

Posted August 21

My kids don't love finding a sandwich in their lunch box at school most days. They're OK with an occasional turkey and cheese or PB&J, but it's not a main entree I fall back on often when I'm packing lunches for them - or when I'm showing them what they can pack for themselves.

In the past couple of years, I've had to up my sandwich-free lunch game, which is fine with me. There are plenty of other healthier ways to fill them up during the school day. The lunches that I pack are never as beautiful as the neat Bento box combos that you see on countless Pinterest pages. But, they get the job done.

So ... here are 10 favorite sandwich-free lunches that I stick in my kids' lunch boxes. I always include cut up vegetables and fruit with these entrees. Sometimes I'll add in a granola bar, yogurt tube, a little dark chocolate, a box of chocolate milk or some crackers to the mix. And there's always a bottle filled with water.

Meatballs with tomato sauce

I always have a bag of turkey meatballs from Trader Joe's in my freezer. Spaghetti and meatballs is a go-to dinner at my house on busy nights. When I make it, I make a few extra meatballs to stick in lunches in thermoses so they are still warm at lunchtime.

Macaroni and cheese

Here's another thermos favorite. And, while you can fill up the thermos with boxed mac and cheese, I like to make this super easy three-ingredient macaroni and cheese.

Three ingredient macaroni and cheese

Deli meat and cheese roll ups

I'm mindful of the additives in deli meat so I don't try to pack these everyday, but they are clear favorites with my kids. Just roll together a slice of deli meat and a slice of thin sliced deli cheese. Provolone with turkey, salami or ham is a big hit at my house. I usually stick in some crackers, most often Triscuits.

Pasta salad

I'll make big batches of pasta salad on a weekend to serve up with a dinner and then fill up lunch boxes during the week. This lemon basil pasta salad, pesto pasta salad and cilantro lime orzo salad are yummy.

Chef Hannah from Flour Power Kids Cooking Studio makes lemon basil pasta salad

Hardboiled eggs and cottage cheese

This one is preferred by my younger daughter, who gobbles up this protein-packed duo.

Hummus, pretzels and cheese cubes

This one is great with lots of cut up veggies for dipping. You can make your own hummus with this recipe for homemade hummus with avocado oil.

Homemade Avocado Hummus

Diced chicken and edamame

I always make sure we stick an extra chicken breast on the grill when we're getting dinner together so that I have leftovers for lunches. And edamame, sprinkled with a little salt, always gets gobbled up at my house.

Homemade soup

Once the weather cools down, I start packing the thermoses with hearty soups that keep them full until they're home. These recipes for Italian wedding soup, slow cooker bean chili and easy tortellini soup are favorites.

Italian Wedding Soup

Green salad with chickpeas and feta

This one is preferred by my older daughter, who loves making her own salads, full of fresh spinach and veggies, and finding new ways to top it with protein. But, she always comes back to her favorite - chickpeas and feta.

Yogurt, granola and nuts

I'll pack a favorite Greek yogurt, along with a separate container of granola and nuts. With this one, I include a bunch of fruit, often strawberries and blueberries. During the winter, when berries are more expensive, I'll throw in a frozen berry mix, which is thawed by lunch time.

Sarah is a mom of two and Go Ask Mom's editor.

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