My kids aren’t very picky eaters, but that sandwich in the Ziploc bag with the soggy bread…I wouldn’t want that in my cold lunch either. Growing up, we didn’t have much cold lunch. My parents cooked meals everyday. Sandwiches were mostly special occasion foods made for a pool outing or a day where everyone was too busy to cook.
My husband and kids take a cold lunch everyday and they’re so over the sandwich. It’s time for a cold lunch makeover.
I’m all for keeping things as simple as possible. We use a basic insulated lunch bag and cold pack for storing cold lunch. My youngest forgets that certain items (like containers and the cold pack) need to be brought back home and not thrown in the trash, so he uses a lunch bag with built-in cold packs. For this same reason, I like to make meals that don’t require utensils. My husband and oldest son also like the ease of utensil-less lunches. To encourage more variety, I’m looking into getting the kids bento boxes. The compartments in these boxes also keep everything portioned and separate. My husband says it’s a hassle to dig into the compartments, so no bento box for him.
I’ve already tried switching things up a bit. I’m thankful for the Internet and my love of food for getting me through some tough lunch prep blocks. I’ll share a few things that I’ve tried and some that I want to try.
Wraps. By far, these have been a favorite. I sometimes make homemade flour tortillas, but store bought works too. You can even make or buy the spinach or sun dried to tomato kind for more variety. Really, you can put anything in these, just like a sandwich. Just wrap and slice into rounds. For a spicy wrap, we like to use beans, avocado, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and salsa. I love making a whole ham, then I can use it for ham and cheese or ham salad wraps. My favorite wrap is chicken with homemade honey mustard dressing.
Pita pockets. Just like a wrap, the possibilities are endless. We love a Greek chicken pita with cucumber, tomato, red onion, olives, feta, and tzatziki (cucumber and Greek yogurt) sauce. I’m going to try a pita pizza: pepperoni (or salami) slices, provolone, fresh spinach and tomato can go inside the pita or on top of sliced pitas; it’s like a Lunchables pizza but better.
Cheese and meat. In a pinch, I’ve combined cold leftover chicken or deli meat with cheese cubes with (or without) crackers. Leftover meatloaf or burger patties in bite sizes actually go over well here for cold lunch. I just add ketchup, guacamole or barbecue sauce to dip. My kids love hard boiled eggs with salt and pepper; we don’t do that one too often since the eggs can get kind of stinky. I recently saw pre-made salami and cheese stick roll-ups at the grocery store that I think will be easy to make at home.
Raw fruits and veggies. These are a must to round out the meal. Sometimes I serve fruits with yogurt dip and veggies with ranch or tzatziki dip. This is my favorite part of cold lunch because it’s easy, healthy, and there’s a lot to choose from. Fruits and veggies also make lunch colorful and pretty. I need all the appeal I can get as I’m not one to cut Mickey shapes out of cheese.
Mixed nuts. Walnuts, cashews, pistachios and pecans are our favorite nuts. We like to mix in dried fruit, coconut and dark chocolate chips for a somewhat healthy treat.
Most of these foods can be made in large portions ahead of time. I try not to use pre-made snacks but sometimes life needs shortcuts. If things get too busy, the boys will have to make or (most likely) buy their own lunch that day. And I’ll be honest, the sandwich will still sneak it’s way in to lunch here and there.