brown bag lunch ideas

Healthy Bag Lunch Ideas

I’ve had quite a few request for some quick, easy and inexpensive ways to pack lunches for the kiddos, or for grown-ups!

brown bag lunch ideas

I pack my kids’ lunches every day – and for the most part, I think they eat them.  We do have runs of peanut butter & jelly – or cup o noodles – I’m not superwoman, but I do try to mix things up a lot for them.  I am a firm believer in packing a lunch for my kids.  School lunches are carb and fat loaded messes – and in most cases, the kids don’t really like them.  They even think their PIZZA is disgusting – and my son will eat anything that remotely masquerades as pizza.

I only pack bottles of water in the kids lunches.  No juice or soda. Once upon a time I bought capri sun packets for lunches – but they’re empty calories and the kids weren’t drinking enough water as it is, so water it is.  Every once in awhile I’ll put in a crystal light mix-in for some extra flavor.

Here are some snack and main “entree” ideas for lunches!


  1. Popcorn – pop your own with a little bit of oil on Sunday night and pack a baggie every day.  This is filling and you can keep it interesting by changing up toppings.  Butter and salt, throw a 1/2 cup of sugar in with the kernels for kettle corn.  1/2 C sugar mixed with 1 Tbsp cinnamon for cinnamon sugar corn.  1 Tbsp chili powder mixed with the popping oil for chili popcorn.
  2. Sliced Oranges
  3. Sliced Apples with Walnut or Almond Butter – squeeze a generous amount of lemon juice on these – FRESH is best.  I save lemons I zest for recipes just for this purpose!
  4. Applesauce – buy it in cups or make your own
  5. Grapes
  6. GORP – lots of nuts – make your own so its chock-full of things YOUR kids like
  7. Fruit Chews – Maddie likes these natural chews called Stretch Island.  I buy them at WalMart.

With entrees I try to focus on tasty protein.  Protein is what will help the kids feel full, and will fuel their brains through school.  No protein means they’re hungry and distracted by an hour or two after lunch.


  1. Salad in a Jar – this is a really clever way to pack a salad, it stays crunchy, and if you get a BNTO you can use the same jar for salad and dressing.  Layer the salad stuffs half-to-three-quarters of the way up the quart jar.  You can put anything in here you or your kids like.  Beans, corn, chopped chicken, lettuce, carrots, peas, bacon bits…. etcetera, etcetera, etcetera…….
  2. You can also do a rice or noodle bowl in a jar.  Here’s an example for inspiration.  Use noodles from a packet of ramen noodles and dress them up with some veggies and a tasty quick sauce.  Cold sesame noodles would work this way as well!
  3. Leftovers are a natural – and the easiest thing to pack
  4. I always keep some frozen mini pizzas or hot pockets (store bought or homemade) in the freezer for mornings I don’t roll my fanny out of bed
  5. Make a big batch of soup or green chile and freeze small containers. I buy freezer to microwave deli containers on Ebay – this works amazingly well for lunches as well.
  6. cheese and cracker squares – with pepperoni, summer sausage or ham slices.  pack up in a little container with the crackers in a separate baggie.  Works great!
  7. Breakfast Burritos.  These are great lunches or breakfasts.  I make up a big batch and freeze them.  They’re nearly fully thawed by lunch time and heat up fast in the school microwave.  Be sure to rewrap these if you freeze them in foil so the kids don’t blow up the school microwave.
  8. Peanut Butter and Jelly – but make it interesting.  STOP BUYING WHITE BREAD for your kids!  I have and they’ve adjusted just fine.  I like 12-grain bread with really good natural peanut butter and some low-sugar or homemade jelly.  Put a nice thick layer of PB & J on there – don’t be stingy.  Pack these in plastic ware instead of a baggie so they don’t get mushed.
  9. Wraps are easy and tasty – but my kids complain they get soggy.  I have a strategy for rolling these w/o the sog.  First – put the cheese on the outside, next to the wrap, then meat, then veggies.  Do not put any sauce or dressing on the wrap, send that in a container on the side.  My kids are perfectly happy with a little ranch dressing.  They hate mayo and miracle whip
  10. Quesadillas – cheese quesadillas are easy to cook up the night before – cool and then wrap in parchment.  They’re easy to heat in the microwave and you can pack whatever condiments you like in separate containers.
  11. Ham Roll Ups – these are a great low-carb treat that the kids love.  Take thin sliced deli ham and roll it around a string cheese stick.  You can cut them in half and stand them up in a round container for packing – or just put them in a baggie.  If your ham is extra….moist…then put a little paper towel in the bottom of the container.  This works really well to absorb sog from grapes, cheese, sandwich meat, or whatever.
  12. Potstickers – I’m actually trying a recipe for these this week and I’ll post it here when I’m done.  I think the leftovers would be great in lunches – we could also make up a batch and freeze them so we could throw 3 or 4 in a container for lunch.