school lunch

Pasta Lunchbox Ideas

I hadn’t realized how many ways there are to serve pasta in a lunchbox until I launched Pasta Week on Instagram. But wow! The ideas are limitless! Here’s a roundup of the ideas I’ve shared with links to recipes where applicable.

Beyond the traditional mac and cheese lunchbox, there’s a world of ideas using pasta to pack up for school lunch!

Do you have a favorite pasta lunchbox idea? Share it in the comments below!

school lunch roundup pasta

Pasta with Quick Meat Sauce

Here’s a meal that comes together in under 30 minutes, and works seamlessly from dinner to lunchbox leftovers. Score! The recipe has just 7 ingredients and is absolutely kid approved. It’s on steady rotation around here and is one of the few lunchbox ideas that I send in a thermos. I’ve used our Lunchbots thermos here.

Pasta with Quick Meat Sauce in a thermos

Pasta with Quick Meat Sauce in a thermos

Pesto Pasta

Pesto is something I didn’t eat for years. With nut allergies like mine, pesto is one of those things that can be dangerous. I love pasta. I love basil. It’s a natural flavor fit for me, so I developed a recipe that I’m absolutely crazy about, and so is my family! I love the simplicity of this recipe, and that I can freeze any unused pesto. This is a perfect example of “cook once, eat twice;” so make a big old batch for dinner and send it off in a lunchbox (assuming you have leftovers!) This is packed in our Monbento.

Nut Free Pesto Pasta Lunchbox

Nut Free Pesto Pasta Lunchbox

Tortellini Kebabs

This lunchbox idea doesn’t have a recipe, and it couldn’t be easier. Tortellini absolutely tastes more delicious on a stick, right? :) All you need are cooked tortellini, veggies of your choice and some lollipop sticks. Here I’ve used tomato and basil, but in the past we’ve used all different veggies (peppers, cucumbers, summer squash, cooked carrot, you name it!) This is packed in our Yumbox Panino.

tortellini kebab lunchbox

tortellini kebab lunchbox

Chicken & Veggie Lo Mein

I started making Lo Mein a few years ago after seeing it on my friend Karen’s feed and drooling over it. Karen runs the blog Healthy Gluten Free Family and has loads of great ideas to feed families. When I decided to give this one a go, it was an immediate hit with my crew. Now we’ve got it on repeat. I’ve modified Karen’s recipe slightly based on our preferences, and make this with either gluten free pasta or regular pasta. This is packed in our PlanetBox Rover.

Chicken and Veggie Lo Mein Lunchbox

Chicken and Veggie Lo Mein Lunchbox

Taco Pasta

We love tacos. We love pasta. It finally dawned on me to combine the two! The tricky part: coming up with a name for this! Is it Taco Pasta? Tacsta? Pasco? Something else?
Essentially it’s pasta with taco seasoning and veggies. For us, this is a fridge forage meal that uses up the odds and ends of the vegetables in the fridge. It also goes nicely with added grilled chicken. Here it’s packed in our Lunchbots Cinco.

Taco Pasta Lunchbox

Taco Pasta Lunchbox

*This page contains affiliate links. It will not change the price of the item for you, but if you make a purchase, I will get a small commission.

Easy Waffles for the Lunchbox

veggie waffles for a nut free lunchbox. Prep once eat twice, easy recipe.

Savory Waffles are one of my favorite things to pack in a lunchbox. They’re the delicious leftovers from a relaxing weekend breakfast. Lately I’ve been experimenting the some waffle variety and I’ve gone from sweet to salty thanks to a great recipe base.

The basic components are more or less the same for each recipe. There’s flour and cornstarch, plus raising agents like baking powder and baking soda, eggs to make them fluffy and buttermilk to give them that perfect acid balance.

From there, I’m free to customize the flavors however I’d like. Cinnamon + cardamom + turmeric make a delicious dairy free and nut free Golden Milk Waffle. Added cheese + paprika and garlic powder for a cheesy waffle. Depending on the additions, I can adjust the cornstarch and flour to get the right texture.

Veggie Waffle for a healthy nut free lunchbox.

Pack these up in a lunchbox as a sandwich base or just by themselves, and your kids will celebrate. My kids eat these cold. Happily. And they love to pack them in their lunchboxes using the LaLa Lunchbox app. Of course you can warm them and place them in foil in that lunchbox, if your kids like things warm. You can pack my Grilled Cheese Wafflewiches or these Veggie Waffles and either way, you’re good.

veggie waffles

VEGGIE WAFFLES

INGREDIENTS
1 cup + 3 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup finely chopped veggies (such as broccoli, carrots, spinach)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons of neutral oil or unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the waffle iron and the oven to 200 degrees F. In a medium sized bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients.

  2. Heat a small saucepan to medium high heat, add the butter and melt slowly. In a separate bowl, add the chopped veggies, apple cider vinegar, eggs and buttermilk and whisk together until just combined. Whisk in the melted (and cooled) butter and grated parmesan.

  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, making sure that everything is fully incorporated.

  4. When the waffle iron is hot, pour about 1/4 cup of batter to create each waffle (may change depending on your waffle iron). Close the waffle iron and cook for approximately 3 minutes, or until the steam stops spraying out of the sides.

  5. Use a spatula or your fingers to remove the waffle and repeat until the batter is finished.

  6. Place the waffles on a rack and place that rack in the oven to stay warm and crispy.

veggie waffle in a nut free lunchbox. Easy recipe, fun for kids.





Nut Free Lunchbox Ideas

If your child’s school has a no nut policy, or if you’re navigating tree nut or peanut allergies, this one is for you!

My home is always nut free because of my allergies, and here’s a roundup of some of my favorite no-nut lunches. You’ll see that some of these lunchboxes have sunflower seed butter. We usually use a store bought variety for that, but I’ve also made my own. Patience is key with that, but the reward is great.

Don’t forget that the LaLa Lunchbox app has a special Nut Free Bundle available for download to provide you with some lunch packing inspiration. Let’s get to it…

Nut free granola, grapes, carrots, banana, dates with sunflower seed butter

Nut free granola, grapes, carrots, banana, dates with sunflower seed butter

There’s a lot to love about this lunchbox.

It’s got my favorite homemade granola - which is usually hard to find without nuts. If you’re nut free, trust me, you’re going to want this recipe. It’s perfect for snacking, breakfast or lunch, filled with a variety of wonderful textures and flavors, with exactly the right sweet/salt balance.

Here we’ve also got carrots, grapes, a tuxedo banana, a couple of strawberries and some dates filled with sunflower seed butter. I eat that regularly as a hearty, delicious snack and it always hits the spot.

Lunchbox with prosciutto, peppers, grapefruit, pomegranate, dates with sunflower seed butter and chocolate chips.

Lunchbox with prosciutto, peppers, grapefruit, pomegranate, dates with sunflower seed butter and chocolate chips.

I like to think about this lunchbox as a cold busting-lunchbox. Here we’ve got vitamin C from both the citrus and the peppers, with fiber and magnesium from the dates, protein from the sunflower seed butter, and vitamins B and C from the pomegranate. 💪🏻 As for that prosciutto and the chocolate chips? Well, that’s for added deliciousness. 

In the lunchbox: Turkey BLT with guacamole and peppers, grapes and orange.

In the lunchbox: Turkey BLT with guacamole and peppers, grapes and orange.

How about a turkey BLT for that lunchbox? We make ours with mustard instead of mayo, but you can customize yours however you’d like! The key is to toast the bread first, so that this sandwich stays crispy for lunchtime. This lunchbox features turkey bacon, but any bacon will do. My tomato-hating kid gets a BL sandwich with no T, occasionally with a scrambled egg. Make sure not to place the lettuce next to your condiment, or you’ll end up with limp soggy lettuce!

In the lunchbox: pizza rollups, banana with chocolate chips, cucumber and baby carrots, strawberries.

In the lunchbox: pizza rollups, banana with chocolate chips, cucumber and baby carrots, strawberries.

Here’s a lunchbox that is sure to make the kids smile. These pizza rollups are made with naan, but you can make them with any bread. Here’s how:
Spread marinara sauce on top of the bread. Add shredded mozzarella and fresh basil and place under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese has melted. When cool enough to touch, roll the bread up, and slice to make these bite sized roll ups. The process is very similar to rolling sushi. Want a tutorial? Right this way.

To make that spotted banana, use the pointy tip of a chocolate chip and spear into the banana.

Grilled cheese wafflewich in the lunchbox with strawberries, grapes, tomatoes, cucumber and chocolate.

Grilled cheese wafflewich in the lunchbox with strawberries, grapes, tomatoes, cucumber and chocolate.

When I made grilled cheese wafflewiches for the first time, my kids celebrated! What a fun mash up of breakfast and lunch! They're easy to eat, delicious and my kids dig them hot and melty, or cold from the fridge. It’s a serious win in my book! Hop on over to find that recipe, and be sure to stash some in the freezer!

Our Favorite Lunchboxes

When I was a kid, my mom sent us off to school with lunch packed in brown bags. Between the weight of the apple and the constant shuffling of stuff against the bag in my backpack, sandwiches never stood a chance. It was a good day when the cookie wasn't crumbled. The earth shifted on the day that my mom decided to pack tortellini for me in a plastic container. 

PlanetBox Rover

PlanetBox Rover

Today's kids are so much luckier. There's no shortage of amazing lunchbox options out there and thankfully, they don't necessarily involve smushed sandwiches or bruised fruit.

We have six lunchboxes that we have been happily relying on for the last several years (PlanetBoxYumbox, Lunch Buddy OfficialOmiebox, Monbento and Lunchbots)  

Planetbox Launch

Planetbox Launch

Each option has pros and cons. I love that the PlanetBox is stainless steel with perfectly sized compartments and a small area for a treat (available in the Rover). We have the carrying bag that has a perfect space for a bus snack and a water bottle. The PlanetBox is expensive, but we've been using ours for over 5 years without any issues so I view it as an investment. There are also stainless steel containers that fit inside so you can pack liquids or things like yogurt and not worry about leakage. We have the Shuttle, the Rover, and the Launch which all fit a great amount of food for lunch. The Launch fits a ton of food - it's great for growth spurts! 

Yumbox

Yumbox

We have two versions of the Yumbox – one with three compartments and one with five. Both are easy to open, a great size and leakproof so I can pack things like hummus without concern that it'll be all over the apple slices. I wish it were easier to clean the skinny grooves on the underside of the tray, but these boxes have been in our arsenal for years and are still going strong. 

Lunch Buddy Official 3-in-1

Lunch Buddy Official 3-in-1

Thanks to our friends at Kivanta, we now have a great new Lunch Buddy Official lunchbox. It has been a wonderful new addition to our lunchbox collection!

This is a stainless steel 3-in-1 two tiered box (second tier not shown here). You don't need to use both levels every time, so it's got built in flexibility for lunch packers. It's easy to clean and I love the simple design, but if you're outside of the EU (like I am), this might be pricey to ship. 

Omiebox

Omiebox

The Omiebox has a neat design that makes it possible to pack both hot and cold foods for school. Score! Here's a tip to keep hot foods hot: fill the thermos part with boiling water and let it sit for one minute. Pour out the water and fill with hot food. That'll extend the amount of time that hot food stays hot. Similarly, pop the thermos into the freezer for a few minutes before filling it with cold food (like yogurt). This box is heavier than other lunchboxes and the top of the thermos is sometimes a challenge for my kids to open, but their teachers have been helpful in those situations. 

Monbento

Monbento

The Monbento is my oldest child's favorite box. She likes that it has two tiers, and says that it feels like a lunchbox designed for older kids. I like that it makes her happy! The box is plastic and comes in many colors. You can pack just one layer or two, and I like having that flexibility. This box also fits in a wide range of insulated lunch bags. I use silicone cupcake liners to separate items in this box. My favorite part about this Monbento is that it is super easy to clean. Really, you can't go wrong with that. p.s. here's the link to that cute panda salad dressing container.

Lunchbots

Lunchbots

The Lunchbots container is great because it's compact and fits into a variety of lunch bags. It's also super easy to clean and fits a surprisingly large amount of food. I wish that it were leakproof and I wish that the top had a sturdy clasp to stay put, but we have had no problem keeping it closed with a rubber band.

Lunch quantity sometimes is a difficult thing... there are days that my kids are super hungry and days that they seem to exist on fumes.  It's comforting to know that some of these boxes have room to accommodate an extra large lunch, for those days when the lunches that my kids pick in advance are on the large side. 

While there's never a shortage of information out there about what to pack, it's also fun to think about where to pack lunch. Check out more of our favorite lunch accessories here. For lunch packing ideas and inspiration, be sure to check out our Instagram where we post daily pics. 

 

* note: This page contains affiliate links. While I am not paid to provide these reviews, I will receive a tiny commission if you make purchases from here. These purchases will help to keep this blog going, so thank you in advance! 

The Lunchbox Homestretch

Packing lunchboxes at the end of the school year sometimes feels like the worst. chore. ever. Am I right? Unfortunately those lunchboxes can't pack themselves, so here are some recent lunchboxes that I hope will give you some inspiration to help you through the lunchbox homestretch. If you're looking for more frequent ideas, be sure to follow along on Instagram. And of course, if you want to take the guesswork out of packing lunch, download the LaLa Lunchbox app (free on iOS), hand the phone over to your kids and empower them to make choices -- all within a list of available options that you control. 

Anyway, below are 5 lunchboxes, all with a slightly different approach, but with a common theme: they all have an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, they're all nut free and they all took less than 10 minutes to put together. 

1. Leftovers! My kids had tortellini one night recently for dinner and I made much more than I needed for dinner so that I could pack it in the lunchboxes. Easy peasy. Toss that in the bento with some fruit and a veggie and you're good to go. This lunch is nut free and vegetarian. 

leftovers

2. The Big Dipper. This lunchbox has two dipping options: sunflower seed butter and hummus. There are veggies, corn chips and apple slices for dipping and a fun little polka dotted banana with the sweet treat of mini chocolate chips. It's a finger-friendly lunchbox. This lunch is dairy free, nut free, gluten free and vegetarian. 

Big Dipper

3. The New Outfit. I don't know about you, but I've packed pretty much this same lunch a thousand times. Look closely and let's break it down: it's a cheese sandwich, with fruit, carrots, lettuce and a brownie. But here I've used a different bread (these are bistro buns) and I popped the raspberries on top of the baby carrots. It's old familiar foods, dressed up in a new outfit, and sometimes that's all the jazzing up that's needed. This lunch is nut free, gluten free, dairy free and vegan. 
 

The New Outfit

4. The Crunchy Bruncher. This lunch is half brunch, half crunch. There are wafflewiches with sunflower seed butter (aka: frozen mini waffles made into sandwiches with sunflower seed butter - and any nut butter will do here), and dates for that creamy sweet appeal, plus pretzels, crunchy veggies and guacamole for dipping. There's a sunflower seed butter and chocolate cup for a treat. A fun lunch to eat! This lunch is nut free and vegetarian. 

The Crunchy Bruncher

5. The DIY. Do you have Taco Tuesday at your house? We frequently do, and my kids love to make their own tacos for lunch the next day with leftovers. Here we've got corn tortillas with chicken (seasoned with my homemade taco seasoning) with lettuce and peppers. Kids can put their fixins on at lunch and gobble it up. On the sweet side, we've got watermelon with mint and some dye free gummy bears. This lunch is nut free, dairy free, gluten free and vegan. 

The DIY

What's your lunchbox homestretch strategy? Email me, I'd love to hear it!