DIY Lunchables for Project Lunchbox: Salami & Cheese

Marla Meridith

January 5, 2012

Homemade lunchables on blog. Project Lunch Box.


Sometimes the most simple of things can be made even simpler when we take them into our own hands. All it takes is a quick glance at the ingredients of some popular food products to figure out that things might be not quite right.

I won’t get to heavy into the politics here but from my understanding our bodies can better utilize the energy from un-processed whole food ingredients. (Yes, there is salami in these bentos, but I am showing you how easy it is to source higher quality, lesser processed ingredients.) Here we pack our own lunches each day. We love our little Easy LunchBoxes bento style containers.

Let’s discuss a few positives about packing your own lunchable style lunch. For this bento we have your own little Charcuterie platter!

Come check out my 30 Days of Healthy Lunch Box Meals, a free downloadable PDF.


Homemade lunchables on blog. Project Lunch Box.


There has been a lot of focus on starting the new year off right with mindful eating. The great news is you have come to the right place. All year long we celebrate healthy, whole foods on Why not take a few small steps and start packing your own lunch each day? Back in October I launched Project Lunch Box and you guys have been very excited about it ever since. You keep asking for more and more. I love your enthusiasm and commitment to this project.



I love seeking out the best ingredients. These days you can find the finest of foods at stores like Trader Joe’s without putting a huge dent in your wallet. Farmer’s markets are always a great option for fresh, seasonal produce and artisan food vendors.

For ourselves and our kids we should treat ourselves daily to the best foods we can find.


Fresh Fruit on blog



No matter where you go and what you read you can figure out that foods that are closest to nature are the ones we should eat. Our bodies crave ingredients they can identify with. “Foods” that are pumped with hormones, antibiotics, preservatives and overly refined ingredients loose their vitality and become empty, useless calories. Not to mention toxic.

About a decade ago I saw the value of changing my diet for good. I cut out refined sugars and made every move possible to cleaner, more sustainable food choices. My skin cleared up, hair got shiner and it became easier to control my weight. My moods brightened and became more consistent too.

Without a doubt, our bodies and minds function much better with real food. Having trouble with your weight, hair, skin and moods? Try limiting those processed foods and hop over to the world of real food.


Sun dried tomato hummus and mustard dill sauce



Let’s face it we are no longer living in the early 90’s when pockets were overflowing with huge amounts of cash. (OK that is a bit extreme) Some peoples pockets were. 

These days it is in our best interest to spend money where it really counts. Places we can see great returns. Why not spend money on your greatest investment? Yourself and your loved ones. In our house a good part of the spending money goes into fueling our bodies with the healthiest, best tasting, high quality foods we can find. Organic, minimally processed foods are the ticket to happiness over here.

Purchasing bigger quantities of ingredients at the store you will not only save large amounts of money, but your body will thank you too.


Homemade lunchables on blog. Project Lunch Box.


Waste Not: Re-Use and Recycle

I cannot fathom dumping huge amounts of trash each day. We all ready make enough of an imprint. The least we can do is drink from re-usable containers (we like Sigg & Klean Kanteen) These  bottles and containers might cost a bit more up front, but after using them for a few weeks you will gladly watch your expenses drop at the grocery store. When I am at school for lunch I see the trash bins overflowing with juice boxes, take out containers and store bought packaged meals. That is not cool.

Together we can help re-use, recycle and breath better air.

Here is a glimpse of where all that extra waste is going. It changed my mind for good and might yours as well. It is called The Great Pacific Garbage Patch and it will freak you out. Big time.

To think there is at least two zones in the Pacific where trash floats and collects. Each 2X the size of Texas. I’ll think about that next time I float in the ocean…or drink a glass of water, or throw out a piece of trash.

Mindful guys, we all need to be a bit more mindful. Just saying.


Homemade tropical granola recipe in little Le Creuset silicone bowls



One Size Does Not Fit Most

As with everything in life you need to calculate your own budgets, taste preferences, time management and food choices. As a family of four we need to custom tailor foods to match our own needs and preferences. For example, my kids eat a heck of a lot more carbs then I do. They are little kids who burn through food at rapid speed.

We are not gluten free, nut free, grain free, carb free, vegan, vegetarian or fat free. I am pretty much sugar-free & my kids are a bit more tolerant of sugars than I am. We seek balance and it is that easy.

I do however embrace all kinds of lifestyles, food allergies and such. That is why you will find recipes that cross the spectrum of diet preferences. You will find recipes that are tagged: gluten free, nut free, grain free, carb free, vegan, vegetarian or fat free. A very good thing for those needing the choices.


Homemade lunchables on blog. Project Lunch Box.


Portion Control & Balance

Making your own lunch box and carefully selecting the ingredients encourages portion control. The size of the lunch you pack depends upon your daily caloric needs based on your age, fitness and dietary needs. You can ask your doctor or a registered dietician about all that stuff. I cannot provide that info here.

Do we eat salami every day? No. Occasionally sure. (I know that question will come up….)

We balance fat & carbs. We also eat lots of fresh organic fruits and vegetables. If salami is not your thing then use any other meat, poultry, tofu. Anything.


Fresh apples on a white cutting board for Project Lunch Box


Eating great food fuels the soul, body and mind. It taps into joy whether we realize it or not. Selecting your own ingredients and letting your kids help too will encourage the consumption of foods that you never thought possible. When my kids have access to cleaned & cut veggies and homemade meals they eat it. When is the last time you put a tray of cut veggies on the table? Do it. You will see how quickly it is devoured.

Add a dip or dressing to the mix and it gets eaten even quicker. My Sun-dried Tomato Hummus and Mustard Dill Sauce are popular over here.

Eating right is part of our very own Happiness Project. By the way, have you read that book by Gretchen Rubin? If so then you know how much the smaller things in life can impact the BIG picture. If you have not read it then you must. My Happy Posts derive from this concept. This sums it up in a nutshell (on the book cover) “Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun”

Finding happy in everything.

I am giving away a copy on my Facebook fan page. Head over there to enter.


Homemade lunchables on blog. Project Lunch Box.


In this Lunch Box

Well you might be wondering what is in this lunch box…I thought you’d never ask! We love great cheese, artisan salami and fresh fruits & veggies. We also include some snacks in our lunch boxes because we like to keep energy levels big by eating every few hours. In these photos I have my recipe for homemade granola which I will be sharing shortly. It a great way to get some quick energy and it has no processed sugar in it.

Generally I purchase our food at Trader Joe’s, they have a big selection of natural foods at great prices. The companies listed below have large product lines, browse around their websites for offerings.


Click HERE for recipe details!


Related Links

This post is linked up to TidyMom’s I’m Lovin It Fridays mindful disclosure: None of the products mentioned have endorsed in this post to do so. These are my own thoughts, experiences and decisions. Do what works best for yourselves and your families. Nothing here is meant to be a debate, just good old life experience & realizations. If you have comments and concerns about mindful eating behaviors or health and diet questions please seek the help & guidance of a qualified professional. 

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Share your thoughts

  • Rosa
    Posted at 06:54h, 05 January

    What a lovely lunchbox! So pretty and appetizing.



  • A Southern Bee Diary
    Posted at 06:56h, 05 January

    My mouth is watering for that grapefruit right now… And these lunches look great. Definitely inspired now to “spice up” my lunch box now. Thanks for sharing all of your neat ideas!

    xo. A Southern Bee Diary


  • Cookbook Queen
    Posted at 06:57h, 05 January

    Marla I love all the points you touched on here. My son is crazy about Lunchables, but they’re expensive and not so healthy. This is a fabulous alternative!! I love Project Lunchbox 🙂

  • Laura @MOMables
    Posted at 07:16h, 05 January

    Marla, I’m thrilled you are continuing the project lunch box! This “re-do” of a typical store bought and overly processed lunch clearly shows how easy it is to make what everyone else is eating much healthier! By selecting higher quality ingredients like the ones you mentioned at the bottom we can provide out families the familiarity, convenience, and nutrition they need! Thanks for keeping it going!

  • Sommer@ASpicyPerspective
    Posted at 07:17h, 05 January

    I would feel so much better about giving my children this lunch, than the pre-packaged variety. Plus, you get to sneak in all that GREEN!

  • Allison [Girl's Guide to Social Media]
    Posted at 07:21h, 05 January

    I love the idea of homemade lunchables. I am such an advocate for homemade lunches and wholesome foods. Thanks for posting this, Marla!

  • Alex@Spoonful of Sugar Free
    Posted at 07:49h, 05 January

    You can make any lunchbox look adorable and yummy! You have some very lucky children 😀

    • Marla
      Posted at 06:32h, 06 January

      Alex, you are too kind! Thank you 🙂 They might need reminders of that from time to time though 😉

  • MikeVFMK
    Posted at 07:57h, 05 January

    That’s a pretty appetizing lunchbox. I’d gladly take that to work. Nothing surprises me with you though. I can tell your kids have the best lunches at school.

    • Marla
      Posted at 10:06h, 05 January

      Mike, for work, travel & school. All great reasons to pack an awesome homemade lunchbox! Glad you like it 🙂

  • Marina {}
    Posted at 08:07h, 05 January

    Love this! I used to be a teacher and the “lunches” that came out of backpacks horrified me. Think coke, chips, and cookies. Seriously.

    Pinning this!

  • Kelly Senyei
    Posted at 08:59h, 05 January

    These are all such fantastic ideas, Marla! You have some seriously lucky kids 🙂

  • susan
    Posted at 09:24h, 05 January

    Lunch can become daunting, but when you have good, whole ingredients on hand, it makes life so much easier and “happier”!

    • Marla
      Posted at 06:19h, 06 January

      Susan, yes it sure does! I bet your kiddos get some AWESOME homemade lunches!

  • Courtney
    Posted at 09:26h, 05 January

    gorgeous lunchbox! i love homemade lunches much better than the other stuff.

  • Maria
    Posted at 10:14h, 05 January

    I can’t wait until I can pack Caleb a lunch! Love your ideas!

    • Marla
      Posted at 06:19h, 06 January

      Maria, you will have such a great time packing lunch boxes & I am sure Caleb will get awesome ones!

  • Cookin' Canuck
    Posted at 10:52h, 05 January

    This is a lunchbox my kids would want to dive into! I send lunch everyday for the exact reasons you mentioned in this posts – health, cost and environmental friendliness. One of my kids’ favorite lunches is what they call “Michalski lunchables” – Wasa crackers spread with hummus, turkey meat, cheese slices, cucumber slices and some carrot sticks. They love to put it all together their own way once lunchtime rolls around.

    • Marla
      Posted at 06:18h, 06 January

      Dara, I LOVE the “Michalski Lunchables” I will do the same for my kids. Kids love to take part in the preparation of their food. When they have the chance to assemble their own little sandwiches it makes “playing with your food” even more fun! Now let me grab those was a crackers!

  • Tiff
    Posted at 11:22h, 05 January

    Yum! It’s like a grownup lunchable. 🙂 The hubs would love this. Maybe I’ll pack it for his lunch next week.

    • Marla
      Posted at 06:07h, 06 January

      Hi Tiff, you should totally pack this for your hubs. What a nice treat for him to open at work 🙂

  • Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga
    Posted at 11:26h, 05 January

    Great pics and Skylar just started a new school so now I am packing lunches for her AND Scott every day…can never have too many ideas for lunches. And we reduce/reuse everything as much as possible. Containers, not baggies. Klean Kanteens, etc. Totally on board with that as well as your message…portion control, balance, etc.

    Can’t wait to see you!

    • Marla
      Posted at 06:06h, 06 January

      Averie, lucky you! As if you all ready don’t have enough to do in that busy life of yours! Lunches can be tricky…especially since my kids school is a nut free zone. Arghhhhh. You and I love our nuts! All about finding the options out there and mixing things up from time to time. See you next week!

  • Angie
    Posted at 11:27h, 05 January

    Love love love the charcuterie bento box! I want one! You must be using your new lens Santa brought, those pictures are beautiful. Love the fresh juicy apples.

    • Marla
      Posted at 06:03h, 06 January

      Angie, these were actually taken with my Canon 50mm 1.4. The new lens made it’s debut in the Cayman’s. We shall se how those turned out. Will take me ages to download…as always! Glad you like the bento 🙂

  • Jen at The Three Little Piglets
    Posted at 11:52h, 05 January

    Food is the key to everything else in our lives – if we don’t feed our bodies first then nothing else falls into place either! It seems as a society we’ve come to eat to live and not the other way around. We’ve lost the joy and sense of community that meal time brings. Bringing your own lunch, especially one that you put a little bit of time and love into, is a great way to slow down for a few minutes and remind yourself how great it is to be alive!

    • Marla
      Posted at 05:58h, 06 January

      Jen. you are so right “eat to live” + empty calories do nothing but make cranky people. Your comment is so alive and filled with inspiration. I always giggle that my daughter is usually the last one to leave the school lunch table because she actually takes the time to chew and enjoy her food. She loves to discuss what is in her lunch box and listen to all of her friends chit chat around her. When we take time for all of the little things throughout the day it really does make for a much happier life! I feel truly blessed that I have reached to point in my life to understand these things.

  • Lucy
    Posted at 11:54h, 05 January

    You make me so so HAPPY! And this is going to be my mantra for a healthier me in 2012 “Mindful guys, we all need to be a bit more mindful. Just saying.” You are the Queen of Healthy Real Foods – your blog should be called Keeping it Real! x

    • Marla
      Posted at 05:54h, 06 January

      Lucy, perhaps it is time for a blog name change & a whole lot of re-directs on Google 😉 Glad you like the post and my direction. Together we can be sisters in a mindful & HAPPY life. Love you girl!

  • Kelley
    Posted at 13:56h, 05 January

    Once again, your photos are magnificent. I pack lunches for my kids three days a week. They are starting to help me and we try to make it as “colorful” as we can. I wish more parents put as much energy and thought into what they are sending their kids for lunch. We’d live in a much healthier world!

    • Marla
      Posted at 05:53h, 06 January

      Kelley, we would live in a much happier and healthier world if more folks took meal planning and their lunch boxes into their own hands. When we involve the kids in food choices they are more likely to eat the healthy stuff. When my kids pick out their own veggies at the store they get so excited for me to serve them – much more so then when I do all the shopping.

  • Cassie
    Posted at 15:37h, 05 January

    This is such a great thing that you are doing Marla! I don’t have kids yet but I am storing this idea in the back of my mind. I love it!

    • Marla
      Posted at 05:38h, 06 January

      Thanks Cassie, even if it is for yourself – there is nothing like a meal that you packed yourself from home. Glad that you are storing up the inspiration 🙂

  • Jennifer @ Peanut Butter and Peppers
    Posted at 17:43h, 05 January

    What a great post! The lunch box looks so good, appetizing and healthy! Looking at the cheese and crackers makes me crave it! I’m glad December is behind us and now we can get a fresh start! Lately I have been craving fresh fruits and vegetables! I myself am limiting sugar. I won’t cut it out completely but I am definitely going to cut back! The lunch box is a wonderful idea and it’s really good to for people who like to snack throughout there day. Fill it in the morning with healthy goodies and nibble on that! You inspired me! This weekend, I am going to pick up a lunch box and fill it next week with wholesome foods to take to work! Thanks Marla!

    • Marla
      Posted at 05:38h, 06 January

      Jennifer, sounds like some great awareness and changes for 2012! It’s all about taking a look at what you want to change and making baby steps to get there. Awareness and action are the first steps to success not matter what you are striving for. Best of luck making your awesome lunch box for work. I am sure it will be filled with great nibbles! xo

  • Elle
    Posted at 04:46h, 06 January

    Funny, my daughter just asked if she could have a lunchable for lunch the other day. I looked her like she had two heads because she knows better, but the kids are attracted to those silly things. My family eats like yours and I just bought some artisanal salami for holiday snacking I never opened. So I’m going to pack them a “lunchable” today. Typically I pack either ham/cheese sandwiches or organic peanut butter with TJ’s organic grape jelly sandwhiches with fruit/veggies and z- bars. It’s hard getting variety in there. Cute lunch boxes, gotta find some of those too! Gonna search your site for some more great choices, thanks!

    • Marla
      Posted at 05:32h, 06 January

      Hi Elle, thanks for stopping by. I know that story well. It is not often that we are in “traditional” grocery stores. When we are my kids will find things like the lunchables and ask all about them. They tell me exactly who eats them in school & then want to know why we don’t buy them. My daughter is 8 now so she kinda understands. Thankfully! Whenever she has had access to that kind of thing she can’t stand it anyway.
      I wish we could bring PB & nuts to school. We live on them in the house. School is a nut-free zone. It would make packing lunch a heck of a lot easier if it wasn’t. I hope you kids enjoy that artisanal salami…sounds wonderful!

  • Kitchen Belleicious
    Posted at 07:39h, 06 January

    this looks easy and delicious for the kids and myself! Great idea

  • Tickled Red
    Posted at 08:02h, 06 January

    What a great post Marla!! I love all of your points darlin 😀

  • Marie
    Posted at 08:48h, 06 January

    I so agree, Marla! This is the very same reason why I chose to pack home-made school lunches for my son. That way we get to choose what goes inside his lunchboxes. Ever since Sept 2011, he had his goodbyes on store-bought Lunchables, and embraced my home-made/home-packed school bentos.

  • Joanne
    Posted at 05:41h, 07 January

    My mom used to give us lunchables when we were kids but my kids are going NOWHERE near them! I love the idea of homemade though! These look great!

    • Marla
      Posted at 16:06h, 07 January

      Ha! Joanne, I am sure your kids will get the BEST lunch boxes at school. One day….when you have them! I would love for you to pack my lunches in the mean time. xo

  • Natalie @ Cooking for My Kids
    Posted at 06:20h, 07 January

    As always, I love your beautiful photos. If that and all of your amazing points cannot encourage people to pack their own lunches, I am not sure what will. 🙂 Thank you for always leading the way to health by being such a positive example.

    • Marla
      Posted at 16:05h, 07 January

      Thanks sweet Natalie, glad I can offer such inspiration – and you offer me it back as well 🙂

  • Angela
    Posted at 09:10h, 07 January

    This is a beautiful post, Marla–right on target on all points. We use waxed paper or washable wraps for our lunches, but seeing all of your beautiful bentos has me wanting to buy my own. There is far too much plastic in the world.

    • Marla
      Posted at 16:04h, 07 January

      Angela, I know there is way too much plastic in the world. A pity 🙁 As much as we can do to prevent more landfill & ocean dumping is a great thing indeed!

  • Krista {Budget Gourmet Mom}
    Posted at 10:41h, 07 January

    Delish! I take great comfort in knowing what I’m feeding my family is not over processed food. Putting together our own lunches has always been a way of life and it makes me happy knowing my kids are learning to eat healthy. Another great lunchbox post, Marla!!!

    • Marla
      Posted at 16:03h, 07 January

      Thanks Krista. I know how hands on you are with the food you serve your kids. We have so much in common when it comes to that…and when it comes to Tiffany blue farm tables 😉

  • Alison @ Ingredients, Inc.
    Posted at 12:14h, 07 January

    great post with amazing photos as always! Sorry I missed your call yesterday but i’ll try you back this weekend! Thanks for the message

  • Jeanette
    Posted at 14:27h, 07 January

    Marla – I am on the same page as you. As you know, I’m all about fresh, whole, unprocessed foods. Although we do have food intolerances/allergies in our house (wheat/dairy), I always try to substitute with healthy, whole food choices. We’re off to a good start so far this year…just made some green smoothies for my kids and served them in shot glasses…and they slurped them up 😉 Happy New Year!

    • Marla
      Posted at 15:51h, 07 January

      Jeanette, I like the idea of the green smoothies in little shot glasses. There is something about teeny tiny glasses that make the normal extra special!

  • Lauren at Keep It Sweet
    Posted at 15:00h, 07 January

    I agree with you that a balance of different types of foods that cater to different diets is a great way to eat and feed children. These lunch ideas for kids are great, I’m pretty sure I’d eat them myself:-)

    • Marla
      Posted at 16:02h, 07 January

      Lauren, I am just so in love with everything in balance. As often as we can manage that! My recipes are for everyone…certainly not just for kids. These lunch boxes are perfect for school, work & travel – so glad you like them.

  • Great Ideas: recipes crafts diy | TidyMom
    Posted at 06:38h, 08 January

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  • TidyMom
    Posted at 06:55h, 08 January

    look delicious Marla!

    Thanks for linking up to I’m Lovin’ It! I featured your post in my wrap up Have a great weekend!

  • eila / full plate
    Posted at 08:22h, 08 January

    LOVE your ideas and the thoughtful explanation + your site, in general. so glad to have come across it via Tidy Mom!! I, too, try to snap photos of the lunchboxes I prepare for my kids (when I remember to photograph them in the rush of morning routines!). I’m posting my link to these lunchbox ideas here ( I garner so much inspiration from other mom’s ideas, and thought you might enjoy mine as we all pack up! Can’t wait to spend more time poking around your site and trying your recipes!!

  • Scott at Real Epicurean
    Posted at 14:26h, 08 January

    Why does my lunchbox never look like this? Damnit!

    • Marla
      Posted at 15:22h, 08 January

      Hey Scott, it’s all in the lighting & camera angle 😉

  • Alyssa (Down To Earth)
    Posted at 16:12h, 08 January

    Great post, Marla. The part about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch just breaks my heart. It’s so easy to live minimally and to recycle a majority of what we’ve finished using.
    I posted a little ditty about recycling a while back; Just because it’s trucked away from the house every week doesn’t mean it’s actually gone. I hope more people realize the impact they truly have on the environment around them.

  • Lorilee
    Posted at 19:47h, 08 January

    I found your Sun-dried tomato hummus recipe via Pinterest. I was wondering what kind of food processor you have, and do you recommend any particular brand or model?

    • Marla
      Posted at 20:24h, 08 January

      Hi Lorilee, thanks for stopping by 🙂 I have a Cusinart that I love. I am also very fond of KitchenAid products. Good luck with the hummus!

  • aida mollenkamp
    Posted at 13:53h, 09 January

    A great post on healthy eating, Marla!

  • danielle
    Posted at 19:39h, 11 January

    I am curious..when you say you don’t eat sugar, do you mean all forms of carbohydrates? Or just refined sugar, found in sweets/white carbohydrates?
    I love your blog:)

  • Aggie
    Posted at 20:25h, 20 January

    I love your post & approach on BALANCE.

    I pack my kids & husbands lunches every day…my son tells me he never wants to buy school lunch bc they don’t serve healthy foods, this is all in his own words & it thrills me that he realizes the importance of good eating.

    I love your lunchbox ideas! Need to get these bentos!

  • Kelly
    Posted at 18:00h, 28 February

    Where do you get the actual container for that lovely divided lunch? They seem just about impossible to find!

    • Marla
      Posted at 05:28h, 29 February

      Hi Kelly! The container is actually my favorite bento by Easy LunchBoxes.

  • Lori
    Posted at 17:46h, 25 April


    I LOVE this idea! Im going to try and buy the ingredients when I go to trader joes this weekend, but i have one question. Im not a salami fan, do you know of any other good meats? I LOVE cheese, and adding a nice meat sounds good and yummy!, but honest to goodness, I have no idea what other kinds of meats i should try… :/

    thanks for the reply!!

    • Marla
      Posted at 08:39h, 26 April

      Lori, I am a fan of minimally processed, nitrate free lunch meats. Smoked turkey, ham, pastrami, chicken breast. The sky is the limit really 🙂

  • Anne
    Posted at 06:03h, 18 June

    I love this (I came here through pinterest). One tip I’d like to add from my own lunchbox packing experience: add a soft cloth napkin printed with your child’s favorite things. You can find all kinds of great things on etsy. We have napkins with flowers, fairies, and superheroes!

    • Marla
      Posted at 08:29h, 18 June

      Anne, I am soooooo in love with this idea. I am gonna dash over to Etsy now (my favorite!!) Do you have any favorite vendors for these cloth napkins?

  • Libby
    Posted at 02:09h, 08 July

    Love this, thank you.

    Question? where do you find the 3 compartment containers…been looking everywhere.


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