Since the 17th century Earl of Sandwich asked for a piece of meat between two slices of bread and called it a meal, its namesake has been the staple of easy lunches throughout the world. Its convenience, coupled with the sheer range of breads and fillings available nowadays, has established the humble sandwich as the central attraction of the school lunchbox.
Despite my best attempts at creativity and variety, however, my kids have reached sandwich saturation point. Bored of bread and fussy over fillings, they return from school with their barely-nibbled wraps and rolls squished apologetically into a corner of their lunchbox. My youngest, who’s four, complains that his sandwiches are too big and contain “too much bread” (even when I cut them into tiny weeny mini-sandwiches). My eldest is plain “fed up of gluten” (he has no allergies; he’s just learnt the word).
Spoilt? Yes, quite probably. But I do have a little sympathy for them (or is that weakness?); I’ve never thrilled to the thought of a sandwich for lunch. I’m more of a grazer and a nibbler, like my youngest. I’d rather have a bento box of snacky things. My husband would prefer something that resembled a three course dinner (and good luck to him with that one), while my eldest child would like anything that can be consumed quickly while chasing a soccer ball.
So here is my hit list of sandwich alternatives. Some are more time-consuming than others, although many can be pre-prepared and frozen in advance.
Note: None of my family have the means of warming food up at school or work (ie no microwave or sandwich toaster) nor any way of refrigerating items during the day, so these are all things that can be eaten straight from the lunch box.
- Chicken drumsticks/wings
- Marinated chicken strips
- Hard boiled eggs
- Scotch eggs
- Omelette roll
- Smoked salmon and cream cheese pinwheels
- Turkey and Swiss cheese roll-ups
- Cooked sausages
- Cheese triangles or cubes
Finger Food & Dippy Things
- Sushi – agreed, this can be fiddly and time-consuming. I don’t even have one of those nifty bamboo rolling mats. The only time I make my kids sushi for lunch is when I’ve made Teriyaki Chicken (with sushi rice) for dinner the night before. Then it’s just a case of throwing the left-overs with some avocado and a dash of sushi seasoning into a nori strip.
- Rice-paper rolls
- Crackers or rice cakes
- Chicken balls or meatballs
- Risotto balls
- Pork noodle balls
- Dip ideas: Hummus, tzatziki, mayonnaise, aioli, baba ganoush (eggplant dip), tahini, sweet chilli sauce, guacamole, soft cheeses.
- Spinach/vegetable/cheese pastries
- Pikelets/mini-pancakes with honey or sliced strawberries
- Cornish pasties
- Quiches and mini-pies
- Savoury muffins
- Variations on the good ol’ sausage roll. This chicken, chickpea and mango sausage roll is a good one
- Slices of cold (leftover) pizza or pizza scrolls
- Fruit loaf slices
Don't forget to pack a fork!
- Rice, pasta or couscous salads – use up leftovers from last night’s dinner
- Greek salad - cubes of cucumber, tomato, red onion, feta cheese and black olives
- Coleslaw, potato salad, carrot remoulade
- Salade niçoise – tuna, green beans, cos lettuce, sliced baby potatoes, black olives
- Cucumber cups – cut a large chunk of cucumber, scoop out most of inside (leaving a ‘bottom’ to make a small cup shape) and fill with chicken or tuna salad
So your kids can’t heat their lunch up at school but you can warm up a small flask and fill with last night’s leftovers (Bolognese, chilli, noodles etc) or soup. The small, squat flasks are better for lunch than the tall drink ones. Kmart does some great dinky ones for kids.
Don’t forget a fork/spoon!
Are your kids sick of sandwiches? What do you pack in your lunchboxes?